THE Migrant Issue in Europe has been in the news for years. Many countries of Western Europe feel they are under siege from the relentless pressure of migrants fleeing war, persecution, famine and political repression trying to come into their countries. Italy has been under particular pressure since the Arab Spring erupted and sadly did not bring better times to the countries involved but instead civil war affecting everyone. Before that Spain was the country under most pressure with immigrants from the Sahel (Africa) taking rubber dinghies from Morocco to southern Spain. Despite pleas from these two countries and others the European Union gave only what is now seen as inadequate support.
There is a Dublin Accord but it is more like a bureaucratic approach that seems to be more concerned with formalities like documents that are difficult for migrants on the run to produce or refugees to acquire. This latter is what caused the unconscionable delay in getting the Syrian family that lost its mother, and two toddlers in a sea journey an immigrant visa. If their papers had been processed quickly enough they would have been able to arrive in Canada in the proper immigrant entry way as they had family there that guaranteed taking care of them including a bank account deposit. But for lack of one document supposedly from the Turkish government where they were given refuge, they were turned down. A document which apparently does not exist or is not issued by the Turkish government anyway. Here is where bureaucratic delay caused the tragedy that the world has shuddered to see in the photograph of the drowned Syrian 3-year-old boy.
When the Jews had to leave Germany and other countries of Europe during their time of persecution, there were a few consuls and others (like Schindler) who knew enough facts about what was going on as well as had enough courage and compassion to dispense with bureaucratic procedures and red tape delays to help people needing to escape their persecutors.
What is historical fact is that from time immemorial there have been migrants. In Asia from the main continent to the outlying islands and from there to other places. Europe has for centuries had migrant populations fleeing war, religious persecution, unbearable living conditions and other natural or historical pressures that cause a people to move away.
In prehistoric times waves of migrants (invaders?) went from North to South and settled along the way. Didn’t the native Indians cross the Bering Sea and settle in America?
Think of countries like the United States, Canada, Australia which in recent times (relatively speaking just the last few centuries ago) migrants joined their native populations in such numbers that they took over. What were the Puritans on the Mayflower if not migrants? And before that they were refugees fleeing England and staying in Holland. In those days they were not treated like criminals as some governments of Europe are wont to do to today’s migrants.
And let us not be holier-than-thou, right here in this country we have evacuees, refugees, migrants, mostly coming to Luzon (Mindanao displaced people, economic migrants) just as in an earlier time Luzon and Visayas settlers went to Mindanao. I hear there are 6,000 Badjaos living in the Malate area with just a few social workers from NGO’s toiling away to help them. Most are homeless, penniless, jobless.
There must be government attention and concern to address this problem and others like those of ethnic minorities leaving their homes to come to the city thinking of bettering their economic conditions. We have our own migrant problem to address.
Yes, times have changed and there is need for control, management and formalities in the case of migration. There is also a need to reflect on why they have become so huge in numbers through the reasons why they have felt the need to move. Is it not that their countries have become unlivable through surrogate wars, some of which can be traced to the First World that from far away tries to perpetrate its interests, ideologies and pursue the power rivalry with other competitors in small or helpless countries usually of the Third World? Isn’t it for the use of violence to settle issues as in Mindanao?
The migrant problem is now seemingly unmanageable in the countries where it is now exists along with climate change, modern social problems like unequal societies, economic depression, human rights violations, religious persecution, slavery and trafficking, famines and epidemics. The additional question that has to be answered by the world not excluding us with our own migrant problem, is can we react in a just and compassionate way to handle them? In particular, can developed countries that had so much to do with why migrants have to flee in the first place review their actions in those countries where they come from and those countries they want to enter? Looking the other way, neglect, rationalization, finger-pointing, bureaucratic solutions have not worked and are obviously not the answer.
This is a human problem like all the others. It must be solved in a humanitarian way, by a caring, concerned, unselfish sharing of what can be set aside from the resources of those who have them.