Published on open Democracy, by Brian K Murphy, June 4, 2008.
At least 200 million of the world’s people – between 3% and 5% of its total population – are currently on the move outside their country of origin. Many of these would have preferred to stay where they were if they could. Another untold number would move if they could, but can’t. Many simply are looking for better opportunities, as human beings have done for millennia. The realities of globalisation – economic, environmental, familial – mean that these numbers are bound to increase. Migration is perhaps the major issue of our times. It is an issue that dominates the daily lives of people around the world – those who are in transit, and those they leave behind – and preoccupies governments everywhere …
… At the same time, this dialogue will need to be rooted in a frank analysis of the economic benefits that migrants bring to host countries, along with the costs incurred, both by the receiving country and the country of emigration. But there can no longer be any doubt that in general migrants are an economic and social boon, and that the exception is largely in those places where – and to the extent which – movement is forced or restricted, and rights curtailed.
It is also clear that all countries in the global north (and many in the south) absolutely depend upon migrant workers and permanent immigrants, a dependency that will only increase; the viability of many of these countries will be determined by the extent to which they can effect radical changes in migration policy (and social attitudes). This is doubly so for those several nations that have already passed the threshold of negative population growth, a trend that cannot be reversed, and is not sustainable.
A transition to global open migration is not a modest proposition and making it happen will be an intricate political process. The policy is not a panacea for all issues of global justice and equality. However, any movement towards open migration policies and the decriminalisation and regularisation of migration will make conditions very much more equitable for those migrants already in place, and for those on the move, and will make it even more so for those who follow.
It will also mark an important step in beginning to reform the foundations of our societies in a way that anticipates the future and prepares for it, rather than fearing the future and trying stubbornly, and to our detriment, to delay or even prevent its inevitable arrival.
(full long text).