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Migration differs

Author: Gurmeet Singh

The turn to attention and mindfulness in Europe and America isn’t surprising. The world has become increasingly noisy – the commonly-cited reasons are probably true: there’s more information we have to handle, more distraction from technology, the bombardment of perceived choice. People, desperate for a way to break through the noise and become aware of their own thoughts seek mindfulness and focus-building practises.

One of the main culprits is advertising. Far from being quiet, informing our choices and decisions, advertising is becoming more invasive and louder. While not an original point, it’s estimated that on average, in Europe, a person sees somewhere between 300-700 adverts per day[1] - streamed into your home through your television, propping up your inbox, greeting you wherever you go.

What gets marketed isn’t too interesting; how it does, is. Several commentators have reduced marketing down to three core images: images of social bonding, personal freedom and time for reflection. A new phone doesn’t give you apps and texts and a camera – it gives you greater connection to friends and family. Cars = freedom, and chocolate gives you your well-earned me-time.

This is the good life, as we’re shown it to be; buying is the key determine our own beings and our future – there simply isn’t any other way more effective and beautiful at creating our own identities and our own happiness.

The necessity to have these things therefore is impressed on us every day – without them, we don’t lack objects; we lack self-determination. To be without the opportunity of such goods therefore, is all the more difficult.

Take a step back

Eurostat gives us this image:

This shows the age structure of immigrants by citizenship within the EU 28 excluding Slovakia.

This graph shows migrants’ previous country of residence. While there is a distribution among the origins of people – some countries have more migrants from non-EU countries than others – but the age range of migration shows that overall, it’s younger people who have migrated. It might not surprise us that these people are not only the most likely to uproot and travel than other demographics, but also they’re the ones to seek work elsewhere.

58% of migrants to Germany previously lived in an EU member state. As did 64.5% of the migrants now living in Austria, 53% of those in the Netherlands and roughly 40% each for both the UK and France. Luxembourg’s is at a whopping 90%, but that surprises no one.

In short, we can infer from these combined data that people generally gravitate to centres of relative economic prosperity. While we might not be so swayed by the good life that marketing offers us, many people want the opportunity for economic prosperity – and are willing to leave their homes for it.

Greece and Spain

As early as 2012, news agencies were commenting on Greek and Spanish migration, particularly to Germany.

Reuters commented:

“Immigration to Germany jumped by 15 percent in the first half of this year from the same period the year before, due mainly to an influx of people from EU states including crisis-hit Greece and Spain, where unemployment levels are soaring. 

Although the largest number of immigrants to Europe's biggest economy came from neighbouring Poland, the statistics office said arrivals from Greece increased by 78 percent and were up 53 percent from both Spain and Portugal.”

Both the European Union and the Schengen Agreement allow for the free movement of people between member states and signatories. Yet, each economy functions differently. While each European economy is tied each other, particularly with the shared currency, variation between economies exist due to the independence each economy retains – and while economists argue over why this is – some suggesting lack of full integration, others arguing that integration remains irrelevant in economies of different stages of development – which means while some economies can fail, others can still do well.

Though a description of the crisis is inevitably biased one way or another, but here’s Vox’s interpretation of what caused the Greek crisis – the Euro:

The ongoing battle between Greek politicians and the EU to hammer out a solution to Greece’s economic crisis has seen the relationship between Greece and Germany break down in popular terms. The extreme austerity demanded of Greece and Spain by the troika of the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) led to popular discontentment of many Greek and Spanish residents who started grass-roots political movements to act against these measures, and also to influence similar movements across Europe. Both Podemos and Syriza were greatly influenced and in some cases directly shaped by these people, and the parties have attempted to redress the entire dialectic surrounding austerity politics of recession and post-recession Europe. Their claims, generally, that the money used to bail out both Greece and Spain should actually reach the nations – and not circulate directly back to large, international banks – and that debt relief could be provided, as well as much needed social service upgrades. Syriza, as we all know, has all but collapsed; Podemos currently marches on, but the knock-on effects of Syriza’s capitulation to the troika will have had an effect.

As many as 320,000 Greeks currently live in Germany, with about half of that number coming after 2009, or the apex of the initial recession. The unemployment rate of Greece and Spain among people of working age under 25 stands at a considerable 50% - whereas in Germany, it is at around 7%.

Young people are moving because they want to work – as well as for recreation – but mainly because they wish to find work. This kind of migration has had its negative effects too – too numerous to relate as they happen in real-time; we must wait and analyse the full impact of this crisis in retrospect, with perhaps a decade or two between now and then. But, the most common implications are almost certainly going to occur:

  • A brain drain: if the most educated brains leave the country, then the economy and culture of the place of origin lose capacity.
  • Stunted development: young people who aren’t able to fully integrate into the economic system quickly are left with developmental issues, including increased anxiety during the twenties due to lack of security.
  • Xenophobia: the receiving countries tend to develop more xenophobic attitudes as a result.

The latter point is probably best evidenced in the rise of right-wing parties across Europe – UKIP, Front Nationale among others have all benefitted from the recession, and the economic migration of European citizens – claiming that their native culture is being destroyed. Indeed, Jose Manuel Barroso believes UKIP, Syriza, Front Nationale and Podemos to all come from the same nationalistic place:

“Nationalistic sentiment pervades both the tone and the message of parties from both the extreme left and the extreme right, and this is counter-productive to the European project: PodemosSyrizaFront Nationale, among others are using the same tactic and we should reject this.”

This Migration is different

Economic migration differs from other kinds of migration because it is strictly speaking, supported by more commonly understood legal frameworks, as well as being socially-accepted by many people because it is driven by a desire for productivity. It is not seen as escaping a desperate situation, like being a refugee is, for example – which is seen by many people as being not unlawful, necessarily – but insufficient for migration. “Why should they come here?” is the sentiment underpinning the latter. 

What’s more, economic migrants are also mobile without a desperate need to move for a job. The EU permits migration between member states freely – and many communities of expats are built up. This in itself is a loaded term, implying a “higher” kind of migration – one that is sealed in by cultural walls, but also, more fundamentally – one that has choice in deciding to live there. Not like refugees or asylum seekers, who are forced to live wherever they can and are able, wherever the machinations of political institutions and local authorities drive them. 

Which makes Kos such a tragedy

The Greek Island of Kos is a receiving space for refugees from Syria and several African nations. Many institutions have covered this story – here’s VICE:

An overburdened economy and land with little tolerance and time for new migrants due to known hostilities caused by the current crisis, the rise in xenophobia means the challenge to accommodate these refugees is heightened to the point of overcapacity.