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Can the migration crisis be resolved?

Can We Solve the Migration Crisis?
Forfatter: Jacqueline Bhabha
Forlag: Polity Press (USA)
The migration and refugee problem could be radically reduced, says British lawyer and Harvard professor Jacqueline Bhabha in her new book.


As large flows of refugees turned their faces to Europe in 2015, the continent woke up to a piece of reality that it had so far managed to displace. With the tragic events in Syria, this was no longer possible – so massive was the influx to our part of the world. We know Europe's miserable response: European states failed to agree on a viable solution. Notwithstanding the migratory and refugee problem of its particular nature, the complexity of the issue continues to evoke a feeling of anxious panic and obviously a violent reaction from politicians and voters. Also contributing is that we are at the end of the current geopolitical order. So today Europe is well aware that a migration and refugee pressure is an opportunity if, for whatever reason, people are put in a situation where the right reaction is to break up. But are there alternatives to this?

Crisis or fluctuations?

Offering an answer, Professor Jacqueline Bhabha has tried to give in the book Can We Solve the Migration Crisis? (2018). Can other options be conceived? Based on this, the author develops a series of questions that should serve to find a comprehensive framework of understanding within which to answer the question. In principle, it is important for the author to clarify when there is a crisis and not just so-called normal fluctuations in migration and refugee figures. In addition, how should one ethically relate to the current situation where migrants and refugees are brought into extremely risky situations? In answering such a question, it would be expedient to have the question of the normal question answered beforehand.

Regarding the institutional framework, the author seeks to clarify how the architecture of the international agreement system used by the states is structured. And finally, what is the main driver of the current forced migration, where the identification of the underlying causes is a prerequisite for the current migration and refugee pressure to be handled and thus brought to a sustainable solution. The answers the reader subsequently receives must, of course, be seen in the context of the questions in which the questions were asked. Jacqueline Bhabha proposes a number of reforms, but must admit that none of the reforms will solve the migration and refugee challenge. Still, the author believes that one can go a long way toward radically reducing the migration and refugee problem.

Silo Thinking

Vulnerabilities and the so-called external risks should be central when attempting to map future migration and refugee flows. For a number of factors outside the traditional field of analysis, migration is essential to provide a bigger picture. Thus, more than 500 scientists are behind a 2014 statement that addresses the preservation of humanity's "life support systems" in the 21st century. The world is fast approaching a crucial turning point where we will be confronted with varying and alarming accounts of the destruction of our planet. Continuing the current development, the human quality of life in 2050 will have undergone a substantial decline, the assessment is based on the best available scientific data. Paul R. Ehrlich, known from the controversial book The Population Bomb (1968), is one of the initiators of the opinion.

With the opinion, science unequivocally demonstrates what the human consequences are: climate change, annihilation of species and populations, loss of ecosystems, pollution and population growth and forms of consumption. Before today's toddlers are middle-aged, it is very likely that the earth's life-sustaining systems, vital to human prosperity, will be irrevocably damaged. This will happen to a large extent globally and in the combination of these human-related environmental stressors – unless we take concrete, immediate action to ensure a sustainable, high-quality future.

Along with declining biodiversity and climate change, migrations represent one of the disasters where the "early-warning light" is already on. The challenge is not simply to understand the migration and refugee problem historically and structurally. Globalization and its many different expressions and consequences must also be included when establishing a coherent insight and understanding as the basis for coherent strategies. 

Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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