Tag Archives: migration

Migration: the issue that goes away and doesn’t come back

4 Jun

Migration issues are rarely far below the surface in the current neverendum debate. Overcrowding is cited as an inevitable consequence of the migrant influx but no one questions the underlying causes of congestion.

Beautiful country area with small town and brightly colored fields

To what extent are overcrowded cities and the pressures on services and infrastructure the result of our own homegrown policies over which we have complete control?

Parag Khanna in his new book ‘Connectography[1]’ observes the growth of megacities – increasingly coastal megacities – and, like the UK’s Centre for Cities and the RSA’s City Growth Commission, regards that growth as inevitable – a long-term trend towards the supposed richness of culture and economic efficiencies of scale.  The drift within England from North to South and the consequential pressure on London and the South East has at least been recognized as in need of remediation – hence the Northern Powerhouse concept – but the remedy proposes further growth of great cities from Manchester to Newcastle via Leeds, and HS3 must go to the back of queue behind HS 2 nowhere near as important. The 2007 Treasury White Paper on subnational growth pointed in sensible directions but fell amongst the chaos of global economic calamity (and bonkers bankers) in subsequent years.

But what if our smaller towns and communities in the vastly greater hinterland were better enabled to be economically thriving without driving their citizens away to distant cities never to return? While we bemoan the pressure of overcrowded capitals do we spare any thought for the depopulation of vast tracts of land and market towns or the demands on road and rail travel for commuters who cannot find work near home?

This is our internal migration issue, the imbalance of rural and urban economies. It affects many countries – which is why you can buy a second home for next to nothing in rural Northern Spain or the middle of France. We read of massive effort and creativity being poured into solving the challenges of making megacities habitable. That’s no bad thing but let’s not kid ourselves; we choose to huddle together. That internal migration towards ever-more complex cities (mostly internally-displaced economic migrants) far exceeds any issue of a few hundred thousand refugees arriving from elsewhere.

Local Authorities can and should rise to the challenge. They may not have mayors like megacities have mayors but they surely know what is needed to bring the children (and jobs for the children) home. They understand the consequences of neglect.  It is time for Municipal Enterprise.  The issue that went away but now needs to come back requires a multi-year round of rural renewal.  The investment will pay dividends – not least in the greater resilience of cities!

Discuss.

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[1] Connectography: Mapping the Global Network Revolution, Parag Khanna, pub: Weindenfeld & Nicolson, 2016, ISBN 978-1-474-80423-9

 

 

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Letting go of hopes not fully grasped?

5 Mar

Greek FlagIn March 2015 at the height of the Greek financial crisis I wrote of the great brain drain (‘Grexodus’) that would do lasting damage to that country’s future fortunes.  Little did anyone realise that within the year that brain drain would be replaced by a massive potential brain gain as thousands of migrants flock to its shores.

Most of those now escaping from the horrors of war-torn Syria, Afghanistan or North Africa are hoping to make their way beyond Greece to settle in the supposedly stable havens of Northern Europe – but their passage is now blocked as EU States shrug off Schengen and shrink back into populist isolationisms as if folk have forgotten the point of being ‘better together’.

We may despair of the lack of pan-European political mettle, the failure of long-term leadership and the collapse of collective moral decency, but amongst these dark clouds is a potential silver lining for that woefully disregarded Greek State. The question now is whether the Greek government and the people can rise to the opportunity.

Amongst the weary but determined families trekking north are many professional families well qualified to fill the gaps left by the earlier flight of the disenchanted – the loss of thousands of doctors, researchers, students, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, teachers, technicians and nurses.  The lucky recipients of that talented brain drain were Germany, Canada, USA and Australia.  In that 2015 fallout, few came to the UK (further diminishing our global growth prospects) but that was hardly surprising given the prevailing attitudes of extreme right & left-wing politics and media meeting themselves on the far side of the circle.

So, the question is: What is Greece doing to encourage those who could be tempted to stay – to learn Greek – to assimilate into local culture – to rebuild their lives and contribute to economic and societal growth?   Germany, initially at least, set a fine example. But will Greece be able to muster the enterprise?

We must hope so – for surely the rest of Europe must learn, and learn in time, that global mass migrations are the unintended consequences of disastrous failures of political leadership and disunity.

Learn in time’, I wrote. In time to stave of the tide of human misery and suffering that now besets us, or, in time to equip our leaderships with the intellectual and moral strength to deal with the next flood?  How will attitudes change when we Europeans must cope with thousands fleeing the USA in the event of a Trump presidency?

It is surely not beyond the wit of humankind to get a grip – to better imagine and manage the more easily foreseen consequences, particularly as the supposedly unforeseen lessons are being played out before our unastonished, but tearful, eyes.