Migration has become a phenomenon of our time, and according to an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) source it is expected to increase. The history of humanity is the history of migration and since the beginning of mankind, migration has been a global phenomenon.

The IOM defines a migrant as “a person who moves away from their place of usual residence within a country, or across the international border, temporarily or permanently.” Of course, people migrate for many reasons: economic (moving to find work), political (moving to escape political persecution or war), social (for a better quality of life and/or family reunification), natural disasters or the desire to change one's surroundings. In addition, people move from a place with fewer opportunities and low safety, to a place with more opportunities and a higher level of safety.

Migration is the movement from one region to another within a country, or across national borders, and it is a temporary movement. Whereas, emigration is the act of leaving a resident country with the intent to settle elsewhere. Immigration is the movement of people into one country from another for permanent residency.

Explanations of mass migration rest on economic and social premises, and give greater attention to cultural factors. Migration is a positive global phenomenon; it powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and labour shortages (migrants accept low-skilled and low-paid jobs) and connects diverse cultures and nations. Countries also benefit from immigration because immigrants as a labour force increase the productive capacity of an economy as well as raise incomes and the gross domestic product. However, the consequences of migration include disagreements between different religions and cultures, and increasing costs of services, health care and education in the new country. Migrants may face harassment and negative reactions from the local community because of perceived loss of wages and the fear of spreading infections and diseases. These fears perhaps exist because of the perceptions of losing national identities and jobs.

There are four types of migration:

  • labour migration (164 million people migrated worldwide in 2017);
  • forced migrations, including refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war, political repression or certain natural disasters (70.8 million people were displaced in 2018);
  • international retirement migration, a phenomenon characterised by the residential mobility of retired people for favourable economic conditions;
  • internal migration, which occurs inside a particular country and between regions.

Sadly, human trafficking and modern slavery also exist.

The current humanitarian situation is one of the worst in the world, with over sixty million people forced to migrate. We are witnessing the largest forced migration since World War II, but also the biggest anti-immigrant sentiment seen in the last decades. We are aware of the current dramatic situation of some thousand migrants on the border area between Belarus and Poland. Poland has declared a state of emergency without the consent of the European Union. However, it seems that a good percentage of the European leaders are not against Poland’s declaration. Instead of showing humanity and offering people food, medicine, blankets and other aid, Poland brought in armed soldiers, dogs and water cannons. They acted violently towards the refugees and heartlessly threatened them, preventing them from entering their territory. They left them to freeze, and many fell sick and died. The government of Poland did not even allow humanitarian aid organisations, associations and local groups specifically set up to give legal and practical support, to help migrants. Lukashenko, on the other hand, released refugees freely and said that Belarus was weakened by the EU sanctions and not able to take care of refugees. Lukashenko proposed that Germany should accept at least 2,000 migrants, but Germany refused. Whilst the EU takes advantage of the refugee crisis to introduce new sanctions for Belarus, at the same time it does not find a solution for the worst migrant crisis on Europe's border.

Twenty seven people, including a pregnant woman and children, lost their lives near Calais on the 24th November 2021, while trying to reach the United Kingdom in a flimsy, inflatable boat. People onboard this sinking dinghy tried to contact the UK and French authorities, to no avail. Are deaths in the Channel a price worth paying? Why was the migrant boat tragedy an accident waiting to happen? There have been almost three thousand migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea since 2015. Migrants face enormous obstacles, including long, dangerous and expensive passages by land and sea in order to find a sanctuary, but instead of salvation and a better life thousands of them die. The Mediterranean Sea has become a tomb for refugees from Africa and the Middle East. Governments need to urgently address this crisis and these issues. Instead of vain attempts to save them on the Mediterranean, migrant processing centres could be formed on North African shores. It is here that they could be qualified for refugee protection, or identified as economic migrants, or perhaps be authorised to join their families already in Europe. Of course, some people may be sent home. Doing this may help to convince people to delay their sea crossing and instead find this a more realistic way of reaching Europe through legal means.

Walls are back. A fortified Europe is formed with razor walls on its borders. What is happening and what is Europe actually afraid of? A fear of the other, different coloured skin, religion, language, political beliefs, or social position? The policy of European rights is based on that very fear — fear of the unknown, which is the classic basis of xenophobia.

Since the end of the Cold War, Europe has invested approximately €1 billion euro in walls and borders. The EU Commission has even set aside €9 billion euro for the period 2021—2027, to pay for an integrated border management system. In 2018 alone, the world has invested $18 billion dollars globally in border protection. The EU directly paid Turkey to keep over three million migrants within its borders.

Walls are everywhere, barriers made of razor wire: Spain strengthened the wall near Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa when it joined the EU, to prevent the entry of Moroccans and migrants from Africa. However, even the reinforced extra wall with razor blades along the top could not prevent 6,000 refugees being smuggled in May this year. After this, Spain deployed its military forces.

Greece built a wall on the border with Turkey in 2012 when it joined the EU, extending it later and installing high-tech protection to prevent migrants from war-torn zones from entering its territory. Yet, we were still witnessing a dramatic influx of migrants on its islands, with consequent horrific images of bodies in the sea and the corpses of children spewed onto beaches by the sea. During this time, Greek naval guards relentlessly used long poles to push helpless migrants from the boats into the sea.

Bulgaria erected a wire wall on the border with Turkey, as an emergency. Hungary, which violently prevented migrants from entering its territory, has raised a wall on the border with Serbia. This one, plus the border between Croatia and Bosnia, are considered to be the most cruel barriers on the migrant route. It is here that the Croatian police officers use batons to beat the poor migrants who managed to get through the wire wall. The wall near the French port of Calais was built to prevent the illegal entry of migrants into the UK and the migrant camp in that port was demolished. Yet, even this wall did not prevent migrants attempting to cross the Channel. When the migrant crisis accelerated the Baltic and Scandinavian countries also began to erect walls.

The American's hugely expensive wall between the United States and Mexico was not able to stop migrants from entering the US. People believe that the walls will protect them, but erecting walls does not change anything. Many states have shown enormous inhumanity and cruelty and force to prevent migrants from entering their territories.

The wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have created millions of refugees. The highest increase in the number of internally displaced people has occurred in Africa. It started because of the lethal combination of armed conflicts and humanitarian disasters. More than a million Ethiopian people had to leave their homes last year. Despite an urgent appeal from the United Nation’s Secretary-General for a global ceasefire in order to enable an appropriate response to the pandemic, people were still forced to flee their homes. At the end of 2020 there were eighty-two million people in the world forcibly displaced. Almost half of these were refugees.

The conflict in Afghanistan, and the consequent withdrawal of American troops, as well as the take-over of power by the Taliban, has forced more than 570, 000 people to flee their homes. There are over 750,000 undocumented Afghans who have been deported. Now the people of Afghanistan are facing an even worse humanitarian crisis, a harsh winter and the Covid-19 pandemic. The IOM Action Plan calls for $159 million dollars to support these Afghani people. Sixty-eight percent of all refugees displaced abroad are from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Venezuela. And the five main host countries for these populations are Turkey, Colombia, Pakistan, Uganda and Germany. Solidarity and co-operation to support these communities and refugee populations, and the countries that support them is urgently needed.

The people most deprived of their rights are thirty-five million Kurds. Eighteen million of whom live in Turkey and are under constant repression. The Rohingya refugees are persecuted, expelled from their homes and killed by Myanmar police, only because of their religion. Then there is the extremely difficult situation of the Haitian migrants; the list goes on.

In reality the suffering and traumatic, often dangerous, lives of refugees is so tragic that it cannot be described in words. The world must demonstrate more humanity and solidarity with the suffering people of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Yemen, and many other nations devastated by long wars.

The NATO-led wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and also ISIS, Jihadists, and the Taliban have forced most refugees to flee their devastated homes. Neo-colonialism, severe poverty, corruption, military regimes and religious repression all provoke a migratory flow towards Europe. In Africa, the continent that is so rich in resources such as gold, platinum, diamonds, uranium, copper, oil, precious woods, coffee, cocoa and many others, the migratory flow is driven by the absence of any economic and professional prospects in their own, essentially very rich continent. Their resources are ruthlessly exploited by multinational corporations and investment under new-colonialism is increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. Foreign capital is used for exploitation, rather than for development. The world’s economic system enables a restricted minority to accumulate vast wealth at the expense of a growing majority by impoverishing them and therefore inciting forced migration.

More than one hundred British companies exploit the mineral resources of thirty-seven sub-Saharan countries for a value of more than one thousand billion dollars. French companies control the greater part of the commercialisation of cocoa. France controls the monetary system of fourteen ex-colonies and these countries are obliged to pay the French treasury half of their monetary resources. More than four hundred million people in Africa live in conditions of extreme poverty and the social consequences have been, and continue to be, devastating. Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain have all had extensive control of lands in Africa for centuries.

Millions of agricultural workers in Mexico found themselves without jobs, and yet the agricultural production of Mexico collapsed because the USA and Canada, with the North American Political Agreement (NAFTA), flooded the Mexican market with low-cost agricultural products. Now, thousands of industrial establishments in Mexican territory are controlled and possessed by American companies. In Mexico half of the population live in extreme poverty - a situation that has increased the mass of people who want to enter the US. In response, America has built a 3,000 km long wall along the Mexico/US border.

Neo-colonialism is exploiting and causing restrictions on developing nations with their economic imperialism. It is these new-colonial exploitations that have provoked the largest migration crises ever seen. If the industrialised countries would invest in African and South American countries, stop their exploitation and direct control of puppet governments, the economic systems of these countries would change drastically. Also, countries of the European Union need to build a common migration strategy as a way to find solutions to curtail and ultimately stop migration. Rich countries have to invest in poor countries, create jobs, help them to build infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and most importantly of all, stop selling weapons in these war-torn countries. We cannot and must not continue to let people die on the borders of Europe.