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A migration disaster in the making

Pedro Pardo/AFP /Getty Images

The future of American democracy may be decided on the Mexican border, says Max Hastings in Bloomberg. If Joe Biden can’t provide credible policies to stem migration, “Trumpism could resurge big time”. This is not just an American problem. In almost every advanced democracy, alarm about migration is a big political issue. The numbers show why: in 1970 there were fewer than 10 million migrants in the US; today it’s 44 million. In Europe there are 82 million migrants, a 10% jump since 2015. And “many, many more are coming”. Rich countries need newcomers to balance falling birth rates, but, apart from the most fervent libertarians, everyone agrees there’s a limit.

Most fixes are short-term – Trump built a wall, the UK opted for Brexit, France houses North Africans in “squalid banlieues” – but this isn’t a short-term problem. It’s a historic one that “can only worsen”. The pull of the rich north has never been stronger or more visible, thanks to ubiquitous TV and smartphones. And climate change, rampant conflict and corruption are making life ever harder in the poor south. The answer is for the rich world to spend much more on helping poor countries improve life for their people, giving them reason to stay. The challenge is convincing sceptical voters that foreign aid is not “wasteful largesse”, but the best investment the northern hemisphere can make toward saving itself from uncontrolled migration.

Why it matters
Since 1990 the number of migrants leaving Africa has doubled, with most of them heading to Europe. The late Professor Michael Howard said a few years ago that the “migration from the southern to the northern hemisphere that is now under way seems the most significant shift of populations since the early Christian era”.

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