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Coming and Going - Migration as a Fact of Life

“To tell you the truth, I hate foreigners.” A sentiment probably heard in all countries. This is quoted from a report by Human Rights Watch on the growing hate against foreigners in South Africa, symbolized by Operation Dudula.

This operation has set as its aim the removal of all foreigners from South Africa. This operation has resulted in mob attacks on hospitals, refugee housing and other foreigner-centric locations. Foreign shopkeepers and truck drivers have both been targeted in a worrying political trend.

Similarly, the immigration issue takes center stage in Europe and the USA, with scenes of migrants arriving at beaches, crossing borders and thronging refugee centers prominent in the media.

News anchors try to explain what is behind the flow of immigrants. They criticize the lack of empathy for those forced into exile.

People arrive in foreign countries without solid job opportunities, struggling to adapt with little or no support structures and far from family and friends. This migration results in strained marriages and faded cultural heritage among children. Immigration entails loss.

The South African ruling party is often blamed for having done little to stabilize and democratize the neighboring Zimbabwe. The recent elections were criticized by almost all observers as not conforming to the Zimbabwean Constitution or the regional organization's guidelines. But South African President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the inauguration of incumbent President Emerson Mnangagwa. The results sent the economy, once again, into freefall. Economic refugees are expected to join the thousands already in South Africa. 

There are, it seems, two aspects to consider: Firstly, those who protest against immigration should be just as vocal about conditions in countries of origin. If there was no political repression but abundant jobs and flourishing economies, would people choose the deprivation and hardship of emigrating?

Futhermore, immigrants bring with them knowledge and innovation. After all, The United States received shiploads of immigrants in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Staten Island was the point of entrance and the Statue of Liberty bears, so I heard, a poem welcoming immigrants.

Europe benefits hugely from the labor of immigrants but should consider stabilizing their erstwhile colonies in Africa, creating jobs there and developing economies that would be markets for European products before lamenting the immigration of wretched, unemployed refugees from dictatorships and repressive regimes. Immigrants have been among the most creative people in most developing economies. 

Perhaps there is a benefit in welcoming the “... tired, the poor...” and acknowledging the sacrifices they are making.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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