Migration in an Uncertain and Challenging World
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the term migration is understood as “the movement of a person or a group of persons, either across an international border, or within a State”; as such, this definition encompasses the internal, regional, and international dimension of migration. Strikingly, however, while internal and regional migrations are the largest by far and the fastest growing trend, international migration, which, according to IOM, remained constant in the past decades at about 3%, has disproportionately gained more political salience.
Undoubtedly, the causes for migration are diverse and constantly vary from one individual migrant to another. Yet to better understand the phenomenon, two factors are generally analyzed in migration studies: push and pull factors. While the former refers to negative developments in a given place such as economic hardships, wars, political persecutions, arbitrary arrests, natural catastrophes, etc. inducing people to move away from, the latter refers to positive and attractive developments in a particular place that motivate people to move to. Moreover, it is worth noting that the causes for migration, although they are, more often than not, overlapping and inextricably interwoven, help characterize and categorize migrants—for instance—into asylum seekers, migration of refugees, displaced persons, economic migrants, and so on.
Nonetheless, notwithstanding the fact that it is as old as human existence, migration has become ever more politically salient in recent decades. More specifically, international migration of individuals has a triad-effect on the relations between and amongst sending, transit-, and receiving states; even more remarkable is that cross borders movements of people often dramatically affect the internal political dynamics of the states concerned (James F. Hollifield 1992). This is particularly true for Western liberal democracies, which saw a remarkable surge of populist leaders in the political scenes. Indeed, since the outbreak of refugee crises in Europe in 2015 and the ongoing migration crisis in the Mediterranean, the European Union has been confronted with an existential crisis that constantly and intermittently threatens to break it up. Also, migration is widely believed to have played a major role in the Brexit referendum, and politicians like Donald Trump have succeeded in playing the migration card to get elected. Beyond the internal political dynamics of states, however, scholars such as Peter Katzenstein (2018) have emphasized the increasingly leading role migration is set to play in the contemporary international affairs. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the concept of migration is worryingly increasingly perceived as an existential threat, prompting radically unprecedented measures to slash human flow across borders.
Although often overdramatized, it is fair to acknowledge that migration poses many daunting challenges to countries, namely brain drain, social problems, cultural ‘degradation’, economic pressures, and security challenges (due to terrorists’ infiltration, cross border crimes, and drugs and human trafficking, etc.).
In a nutshell, though alarmist it may sound, it is fair to assert that we are witnessing an era where migration is a ‘threatening’ concept in this overwhelmingly turbulent world.
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