The subject of migration has been difficult to avoid in recent weeks. The debate on the scale and extent of the present movements and their effects has been a muddle of thinking, largely because so many in power are in a state of denial about the nature of it.
I am the child of many migrations. In the generation in which there are 32 ancestors only two are from the vicinity of the city where I was born and from which my parents took their identity. As we moved soon after in the next city there were none. Further back in ancestry there are others from beyond the Atlantic Isles and let us leave out all the DNA considerations.
This is mentioned, yet again, because too often even to discuss issues of migration is often decried as racism. Similarly to raise questions of population growth and impact invites the same reaction. For some reason "sustainability" became a dirty word in the early years of this century.
The present situation may not have been possible to predict in detail a decade or so ago but the risks of a major movement from one part of the world to another was certainly there. It was always a question of what, which, who, where and when the first mass movements would occur. What was a higher degree of risk was that Western Europe would be a destination.
Sixty odd years ago I was a younger person with progressive ideas about the peoples of the world and internationalism etc. in that period after World War 2 when in Western Europe many ideas about the relationships between states, beliefs and peoples were formed. But the world has changed.
One change is that world population has tripled and the demands on resources have more than tripled. Another is that the expectations of what is basic are far greater, notably in Western Europe and so in the poorer and more unstable parts of the world there is the desire to at least share them. If that cannot be done in many places the logic is for some people to move to Western Europe.
What follows is that if small minorities from states with large populations move out together with larger minorities from others the result is that in the richer states of Western Europe the inward migration is relatively large for those countries.
Moreover, because of the patterns of tribal and extended families cultures once a few arrive and settle the long run effect is to generate increasing levels of related migration.
In the early 1970's when Idi Amin of Uganda expelled the Indians, one reason was that they had become a growing foreign element that was increasing in this way. In the UK where many arrived, once established those links to Asia continued and have contributed to later migration.
In the UK there was already a debate about the impact of migration at the time and reservations about such a level. Edward Heath explained that it was only one family per parish so the effect would be small. The Indian families did not disperse; in fact they were mostly concentrated into a small number of urban areas as is common with much migration both before and since.
With the present crisis in Syria unfolding, it seems that Yvette Cooper is a devoted follower of Edward Heath in declaring that a quota for the UK means only ten people a town. If, however, several thousand decided that the attractions of Pontefract and Castleford were preferred, I think she would become aware that it is not as simple as that especially if the racecourse became a tented suburb.
This from Naked Capitalism by Raul Ilargi Meijer titled "The Real Refugee Crisis Is In The Future" linked from Automatic Earth suggests that there is a lot more to come:
Europe needs to look at the future of this crisis in very different ways than it is doing now. Or it will face far bigger problems than it does now.
Italy’s Corriere della Sera lifted part of the veil when it said last week (Google translation):
The desperation of millions of human beings, manipulated by traffickers and by terrorist groups is also an instrument of disintegration of the countries of origin and of destabilization of the host countries.
It is estimated that sub-Saharan Africa will have 900 million more inhabitants in the next twenty years. Of these, at least 200 million are young people looking for work. The chaos of their countries of origin will push them further north.
That is the future. It will no more go away by itself, and by ignoring it, than the present crisis, which, devastating as it may be, pales in comparison. Europe risks being overrun in the next two decades.
And as things stand, it has no plans whatsoever to deal with this, other than the military, and police dogs, barbed wire, tear gas, fences and stun grenades.
This lack of realism on both the political and the humane level will backfire on Europe and turn it into a very unpleasant place to be, both for Europeans and for refugees. Most likely it will turn the entire continent into a warzone.
One aspect that does worry me is that in all the discussion and debate both now and in the recent past there has been almost complete ignorance of the history of population movement and forms of migration.
If my male Y Chromosome DNA is correct I might go back to the depths of Saxony or if a period long before somewhere in mid Africa. But I fear I would not be welcome.
The present crisis is just the beginning.