3rd place at Edubirdie essay writing contest
Author: Anthony Chebe Kang’ara
The immigrant issue is a hot issue in the world today. It is an issue that is affecting all peoples of the world. Today like no other time in history people are moving from their homes for a myriad of reasons that include but not limited to wars, famine and hunger, economic and health problems and other related reasons linked with the human spirit of survival and need to improve their lot. It is a historical issue too whereby the early Europeans especially the Portuguese and Spaniards were known for their navigation skills as they searched for the new world. Continents like the Americas and Australasia were discovered as a result. The resultant effect of this discovery was the immigration of many Europeans to this new lands and consequent prosperity for their home countries and the exploitation of the new lands of their natural resources and labor. Countries like England also forcefully relocated their criminals to outback lands like Australia thereby creating a thriving economy in the world due to trade between the continents.
Many more Europeans also left the old continent as Europe was referred to then due to poverty, religious persecution and to escape from diseases like the Black Death which plagued much of Europe in the 18th century. They immigrated and flourished in the new lands. Of course this immigration had its dark side whereby the visitors had to conquer and subdue the local inhabitants like it happened to the Africans, Red Indians in America and the Aborigines in Australia. The legacies of this immigration form the basis of the immigration issue today.
As the Europeans moved they took with them their cultures and religions which in most cases were forcibly introduced to the natives of the new lands. As the local natives took up these new traits, assimilation became a fact of life and the reason that it is possible today for immigrants from the south to easily immigrate and settle in the north. It is equally true that the contact through trade like the famous Silk Road with Asia also contributed to cultures meeting, familiarizing and eventually living together albeit uneasily and not always on equal footing as the stronger cultures superseded the weaker ones.
Therefore the immigrant phenomenon that we are experiencing today is not in any way new in the history of man and we are not seeing the last of it. It is only more pronounced today due to the ease of travel and conflict in the world so that instead of a trickle of people, it is happening en masse especially and raising attention. It is also happening in reverse whereby the world is migrating to Europe and the prosperous north. It is reverse migration and the Europeans are complaining loudest. Two hundred years ago it had happened and it was seen as a noble thing.
I am of the opinion that the noble reasons then are still valid today. When man is cornered by circumstances and is at risk of death, the most natural reaction is to escape and survive. This is an innate reaction found in man; if you cannot fight you will naturally flee. This fact should be clearly understood as we look into the immigration issue today. Whether it’s good or bad, moving to survive is a constant. If this is so, the world should then deal with the root causes of this immigration like war and peace, famine, hunger and consumerism, prosperity, wealth and poverty, climate change and environmental conservation, and development partnering as opposed to foreign aid among other like issues.
Every coin has two sides. For the country receiving immigrants like Europe today, it is not necessarily a bad thing as these people will provide labour to this aging continent. Most of the immigrants are young and if properly assimilated they will provide a backbone to the future prosperity of Europe. The future of Europe will not and cannot be all white. This is a fallacy for Europe as it is for the whole world. Today the world is a global village and the earlier we accept this the better the world will be, devoid of racism and other negative ‘isms. It is also what I would call ‘selective amnesia’ on the part of the anti immigrant groups who are largely guided by negative racist ideologies that become manifest in many aspects of social life that include xenophobia, otherness, segregation, and supremacism. They forget the innumerable advantages the immigrants bring to their countries. The immigrants also create a market for products they consume in their new communities. Surely this cannot be a bad thing. However for others it is true that the immigrants take up then scarce jobs available and therefore are seen as competitors and a threat to the social fabric. A spot check on the ground however shows that immigrants usually take the unwanted menial jobs and the people who propagate this argument of scarce jobs are usually good for nothing layabouts who find foreigners a threat. Governments are also not keen to extend their social welfare benefits to the new immigrants. They are therefore vigorously resisting the immigrants stay. This work is left to a large extent to charities, informal social and religious groups, and inter and non-governmental organizations.
The other side of the coin is that for the immigrant’s home country, a void is left behind especially for the trained, experienced and skilled manpower. Due to the lure of the almighty pound or dollar, doctors, engineers, researchers and teachers will flock to the west leaving behind countries with nobody to lift them out of poverty and disease. This brain drain has major negative effects for the third world economies whereby they spend a lot of money to train these people only for them to immigrate and work in first world countries. Today the same countries that suffered from the brain drain are now prospering from the money that the immigrants send back home. This is the irony of immigration. In countries like Kenya, foreign remittances from immigrants make a big percentage of foreign currency earnings, almost equal to the top earning tourism sector. Immigration also helps the world to be a better place whereby peoples are ‘forced’ to appreciate and live with other cultures. Where this is difficult, laws and regulations are put in place to ensure basic human rights are protected. No community can say it is progressive if it cannot protect the weak, disadvantaged and different. This includes the children and the old. As long as there is unequal distribution of resources in the world then man will move in search of better lives like he has done since time immemorial.
Today the world finds itself in a difficult position with the rise of conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. The ‘good’ fight against despots and to curb the growth of extremist terrorists has created a lot of hot spots in the world. This has been contributed also by no small chance by the West’s support for Israel and its right to exist and the Palestine question. All this issues have their pros and cons depending from whom you hear the story. In Africa failed states like Somali have contributed to many refugees moving into neighboring Kenya to escape the al shabaab terrorists who are running large swathes of their country. This has created a security nightmare for Kenya. Kenya is now threatening to kick out the over 1 million refugees it hosts due to limited resources to host them. In Libya the fall of strongman Muammar Ghaddafi led to a power vacuum that has been filled by terrorist groups who are fuelling the immigration crisis in Europe. The general poverty and lack of opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe fuel the search for greener pastures in the West. For the Middle East, the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS terrorist group has led to an unprecedented flow of people to Europe. This has become a big issue in Europe that to a large extent led to the British exiting from the European Union otherwise known as ‘Brexit’.
Brexit has come about with British citizens rising against the accommodation of immigrants in Europe. It is a sad day for the world when we cease to become our brother’s keeper. Efforts to stabilize the source of refugees and immigrants should be increased so that all can prosper and thrive in there motherlands in harmony. This is the ideal that we all wish for, however utopian. It’s an ideal that the United Nations Organization cherishes and strives for. Member nations should support the UN in achieving this noble mandate. In the meantime we should be more tolerant of each other and remember that less than 200 years ago the tide was going in a different direction, south and this can happen again, what with climate change! Also color is only skin deep.
Original of this essay you can find at edubirdie.com/blog/pros-and-cons-of-immigrant-issue
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