Sunday, November 05, 2017

Not my future

During my seminars with the social work students, questions about global migration almost always come up. In these discussions I tend to feel very torn. On one hand, I genuinely believe in a world of open borders. On the other hand, a large majority of the people in Sweden does not and wants to regulate migration, one way or the other. What the students quickly discover is that it is not easy to reconcile respect for this widely shared democratic opinion with basic human rights and a sense of dignity.

Part of this of course has to do with the time perspectives involved. Given the prevailing global disparities in wealth and income, I would not suggest that Sweden unilaterally ends all border controls today. But I would suggest that Sweden should work to overcome these disparities and, at least ideologically, strive for making possible global economic convergence and universal freedom. Instead, as we all know, we are doing pretty much the opposite, especially when it comes to energy and agricultural policy.

Tonight, our 4,000 miles flight from Dar es Salaam to Zürich will take us across the African continent and high above those deadly shores of the Mediterranean. For the last decade, a key EU strategy has been to prevent people from boarding boats on the African side. As this has proven increasingly difficult, centrist policy-makers have found themselves in the crossfire between activists demanding an end to the endless human tragedies at sea and growing xenophobic parties at home. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the front in the war on “illegal migration” has now moved to the far side of the Sahara desert. Right now, the US is busy setting up drone bases in Niger while the EU is working to “help Niger’s security forces achieve interoperability and developing their operating strategies” to better “control migration flows and to combat irregular migration and associated criminal activity effectively”. Terminator much?

This is not the future anyone should want. Drones firing missiles on young kids trying to pass through one of the most barren and inhospitable tracts of the planet. For what? So that we never have to have an honest conversation about the future? 

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