OPINION

Defeating the purpose

The waves of illegal migrants that sneak into the more developed Western societies is reminiscent of the barbarians’ invasion of ancient and medieval empires. Then it was the raids of wild horsemen in search of more fertile ground and suitable environment. Now, it is downtrodden people cramming into leaky boats or the back of trucks in the hope of a better life. The reasons are the same. Big discrepancies in living standards are driving people away from the underdeveloped parts of the world to more developed ones. It is the social equivalent of communicating vessels. Inequality of wealth, the demographic boom in the Third World, and the waning populations in developed states are all fueling the migration wave. Western governments are responding with half-measures. They supposedly ban illegal entry but in practice they turn a blind eye to those who manage to settle. But their stance defeats the purpose. The fact that so many manage to reach the promised land swells the ranks of would-be immigrants. Europe must first of all discriminate political refugees from economic migrants. Any EU states that deem they need extra workers or more people may as well implement a policy of controlled immigration that will avert overexploitation and clandestine labor inside their territory. Criticizing the anti-immigration measures is also hypocritical for ideological reasons because it shuns the fact that the open-border policy would destroy the social equilibrium. The best solution would be to repatriate illegal migrants, while putting pressure on transit countries (like Turkey) to take them back and do their own part in repatriation. But even such preventive policies would be futile without measures to narrow the huge development gap. It’s not just a question of humanitarian values but of self-interest as well.