There is a sound economic case for accepting higher levels of immigrationby George Magnus / September 7, 2015 / Leave a comment
On Wednesday this week, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the EU Commission, is scheduled to unveil the EU’s latest proposals to address the migration crisis. Previous initiatives have not been up to the task, and as recent developments have shown, the urgency and scale of the challenge are rising all the time. Juncker’s task is to “Europeanise” a problem for which national, rather than European, institutions bear responsibility, and to which some countries, especially in Eastern Europe, have shown resistance, and others have demonstrated a less-than-generous spirit. He may make some progress but is unlikely to “crack the code” for effective action.
The EU response and that of most member states have been put in the shade by Germany’s welcoming and compassionate approach. Today it was reported that the German government will provide up to €6bn to help accommodate up to 800,000 asylum-seekers which it expects to register this year. “In a crisis where Europe has little to be proud of, Mrs. Merkel’s leadership is a shining exception,” The Economist said this week. Indeed it is, confounding some of the more mindless criticism of the country earlier this year that it was hell-bent on the destruction of Europe.
Merkel’s leadership qualities need to be broadened because we are facing probably one of the largest displacements of people ever recorded. The biggest migration in recent history has been the 160m or so people leaving China’s rural areas for the cities since the late 1970s. The largest cross-border migrations included the more than 50m Europeans who moved to the Americas between 1820-1914, about 16m Germans who fled to the West at the end of the Second World War, and nearly as many who fled India for Pakistan and vice versa in the Partition of 1947. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) then, the roughly 59.5m who were forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 amounted to the largest ever recorded. It represented an increase of 17m since 2011, before which the number had been relatively stable for about six years. The war in Syria has been the biggest contributor to the rise, along with 14 other conflicts mostly in Africa, but also elsewhere in the Middle East, parts of Asia, and Ukraine.