Fences and walls: we are taking a short-sighted response to fears of migration?
This is an opinion of José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Andrew Macmillan, former director of the Investment Centre of FAO.
ROME, June 21, 2016 (IPS) – European nations which millions of people escaped hardship and hunger Greece, Ireland, Italy – are today the fate of those who do exactly the same.
There are many people on the move. The most striking data are those of rural migration to cities in developing countries. In 1950, 746 million people lived in cities, 30 percent of the world population. In 2014, the urban population reached 3.9 billion (54 percent).
In comparison, about 4 million migrants have moved to OECD ( Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ) every year since 2007. And 60 percent of the 3.4 million immigrants from Europe in 2013 came from other member states of the European Union (EU) or already owned European citizenship. People from abroad accounted for less than 0.3 percent of the EU population.
The conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, in addition to the collapse of law or freedom in Eritrea, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan have triggered an increase in asylum seekers, whose numbers rose to 800,000 in OECD countries only in 2014 and, under international law, it must be protected.
A growing apprehension by some receiving countries has led to calls to set up fences and walls to reduce migration flows. The barriers, however, are expensive, can be circumvented, and, above all, are too strongly reminiscent of restrictions on freedom of many migrants seeking refuge.
The yearning for a better life is the main driving force for migration, both locally and internationally. The belief that there are better prospects elsewhere exerts a powerful attraction. Now that mobile phones and Internet access have reached the most remote corners of the world, such beliefs have proliferated.
For those countries wishing to reduce transboundary migratory pressures, the best option is probably to address their root causes. This involves carrying out actions to promote peace and security where there is conflict and oppression. It also means close the growing gaps in living standards, both between nations and between rich and poor, in countries where economic migrants leave.
Some destination countries have cut social security benefits for newcomers in a bid to reduce its attraction. But we need more fundamental policy changes in the richest societies aimed at deterring behavior most conspicuous consumption of their own people. And it will not be easy. It could mean that consumers asumiesen costs of environmental and social damage caused by the production and use of what they buy.
Extreme poverty is found mainly in rural communities, where most of internal migration starts. Poverty is not simply a matter of low income, but also limited access to adequate housing, potable water, energy, education and decent health services.
In almost all these areas, the rural population is worse than the inhabitants of the city and are also more vulnerable to shocks. Paradoxically, the incidence of hunger and malnutrition is higher in the same communities that produce much of the world’s food.
It seems that urbanization will further expand these gaps. The remittances sent by immigrants from local and international first generation to help his family home help, but are usually modest.
Policies to eliminate rural poverty must respond to the priorities of local communities manifest to improve access to infrastructure and public services, which should include institutions honest and competent local management.
They should also include social protection programs, ideally based on money transfers and predictable–regulares the poorest households, ensuring that all people are least able to eat healthily and to cope with periods of shortages .
The European Union has supported the principle of addressing the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe and, at the summit of November 2015 Malta said that investment in rural development is a priority.
However, nearly 30 EU members only approved 1.800 billion in additional resources. Given the magnitude of poverty, it is an insignificant figure. It is a quarter of what was offered to Turkey to stop the flow of migrants to Europe.
Much more funding is needed. This need was explicitly acknowledged last September with the unanimous support of all governments to Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the UN ( United Nations ), including the eradication of poverty and hunger by 2030. Apart from being morally correct, this will reduce the conflicts that often drive international migration at source.
The link between reducing extreme deprivation and peace was recognized by the founding of FAO in 1945 when they wrote:
“Progress toward freedom from want is essential to lasting peace, because it is a condition to release the tensions arising from economic maladjustment, deep discontent and sense of injustice, how dangerous they are in this community of modern nations. ”
Today FAO ( Food and Agriculture Organization ) is guided by these principles in its work of rebuilding food security and creating greater resilience in countries devastated by conflict.
Remittances and aid can help reduce inequalities, but fair trade food, the main outlet of rural communities, is a more sustainable way of bridging the gap between rural communities and urban areas.
When consumers start paying prices for food, that reward fairly producers for their investments, skills, risk exposure and labor, and their responsible use of natural resources management, the market could become the main vehicle for the eradication of extreme deprivation and hunger that “promotes” migration.
A shift towards fairer food prices would be a first step towards harnessing the great power offered by the processes of globalization to create a world in which all people know they can make a decent living through their work even if They choose to live where they were born.
Reviewed by Estrella Gutiérrez
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