Reconceptualizing the migrant crisis
The current migrant crisis, arguably the largest in scale since World War II, is increasingly influencing public and foreign policy of the global north.
Recent developments in response to mass migration from mainly the troubled Middle East and North Africa countries have included the erection of impermeable walls between countries that previously had removed their physical borders, speculations about the end of the border free Schengen space, and accusations about failure to uphold fundamental principles of the European Union on human rights.
To date, policies of most European states have focused on curtailing flows of migrants through largely unsuccessful attempts of separating political refugees from economic migrants.
International development policies of Western states are focused mainly on addressing “root causes of migration” in countries of departure as a means to reduce the outflow. At best, the progress has been slow in this regard.
The question of the settlement of migrants within host European societies, let alone their integration, appears to have remained largely ad hoc and very likely unsustainable in the longer term.
The ongoing political, social and economic crises in the Middle East, South Mediterranean, Sub-Sahel region and Central Asia, however, indicate that outflows are unlikely to slow down, given the impasse faced by many of the countries in these regions.
Development actors have pointed to the need to rethink humanitarian and development approaches (see, for example: http://ideas4development.org/en/migration-crisis-synthesis/).The Increasingly untenable situation in Greece and the evacuation of the “jungle” of Calais, among others, point to the need for concerted regional, national and sub-national policies and plans based on a reconceptualization of conflict-related displacement.
The new conceptualization must take, as its point of departure, that it will ne difficult, at best, to stem the in-flow of migration to Europe in the immediate and perhaps the medium term.
A the same time, a key focus of the new conceptualization will need to be systemic integration of the newcomers using multi-faceted programs that facilitate cultural awareness and mutual respect particularly with in gender and ethnic relations and the rights and wellbeing of children.
A third main element in the new conceptualization of migration is the formal recognition of the value of social research as an integrated component and evidence base of policy making on migration issues.