‘Wars, persecution fuelling mass migration’

Published November 28, 2019
Additional Foreign Secretary Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui speaks at the conference on Wednesday.—White Star
Additional Foreign Secretary Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui speaks at the conference on Wednesday.—White Star

KARACHI: Speakers at a one-day conference titled ‘Inter and Intra Migration in Europe and Pakistan: Challenges and Difficulties’ organised by the Area Study Centre for Europe (ASCE), University of Karachi in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Islamabad on Wednesday at a local club made some thought-provoking arguments on the subject.

Additional Foreign Secretary Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui was the keynote speaker of the inaugural session. He said the conference was well-timed because it focused on the burning problem of migration that the world faces. The current crisis is caused by ongoing conflicts, wars and persecution along with inter and intra-state conflicts. Natural disasters and labour migration have increased its intensity. It’s in human nature that people rarely leave their homeland unless compelled by the environment. If the migration is voluntary then the migrant chooses to go to a place where he or she feels comfortable; and if one is forced out of his habitat, then it becomes a matter of survival.

Mr Siddiqui said whenever there’s a large influx of refugees, it initiates a debate about economic, demographic, political and social impacts on the host societies. Compared to the past migration in Europe, recent flow is different. In the past, migration into Europe was orderly; recent migration is chaotic and massive centred on the management of migrants and their integration into the host societies. Syria, Libya, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Ukraine and Pakistan are the most suffering states. Pakistan since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union had to bear a massive burden of migration from across the border; and since 9/11 it is facing a huge challenge of internal migration, too.

Mr Siddiqui said the EU hosts a high number of migrants from within the bloc thanks to its rules guaranteeing the right to work anywhere within its boundaries.

The diplomat said many migrant workers’ policies are focused on attracting highly skilled or educated people. Although the definition of the target groups of migrants differed for countries, this approach has been seen in several national programmes. Students’ migration has become particularly important in some parts of the EU. The student migration may be seen as temporary in nature, but significant numbers remain within the destination country after the end of their studies.

Mr Siddiqui said by their very nature the complex dynamics of migration can never be fully measured or understood. However, there’s a continuously improving body of data that can help make better sense of the basic features of migration in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.

Steffen Kudella, resident representative of Hanns Seidel Foundation, said migrants that move from lower to higher-income countries typically earn three to six times more than they did at home –– the act of moving simply makes them more productive. According to the United Nations, 270 million people live outside the country where they were born. Around 10 per cent of them are mostly refugees, that is, 3.5pc of humanity. Interestingly, it has become physically much easier to move, but bureaucratically it has become much harder.

Mr Kudella said the young history of Pakistan is closely linked to migration. After partition of British India in 1947, millions of Muslims left India and millions of Hindus left today’s Pakistan. Furthermore, Pakistan is one of the main host countries for refugees from Afghanistan. Since the 1970s, millions of Afghans have migrated to Pakistan; many of them have either returned to their country or have migrated to other countries. More than one million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015. The European countries struggled to cope with this influx. It created a division within the EU over how to deal best with the situation which became known as the European migrant crisis. Nonetheless, in March, a new law will be enacted in Germany to ease immigration into the country.

Prof Dr Uzma Shujaat of the ASCE earlier talked about the objective of the conference. She also spoke on the topic, arguing that the theme of the moot is relevant and timely. An exchange of views on the subject can contribute to the opening of minds and some practical solutions. “The mass movement of people is the biggest story of our time,” she remarked.

Prof Dr Tasneem Sultana delivered the vote of thanks.

Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Karachi Prof Dr Khalid Mehmood Iraqi and acting director ASCE Prof Dr Nasreen Aslam Shah were also supposed to be part of the opening session, but couldn’t come.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019

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