When did the US begin to restrict immigration?
Political scientist Parag Khanna: "The age of migration has already begun"
"Move" is the name of the new book by the Indian-American political scientist Parag Khanna, in which he conjures up a new century of global migration. This is not a terrible scenario, he emphasizes, but rather an adaptation to climate change and the demand for workers. With the right policies, some countries can benefit from this development in the future, he is convinced.
DEFAULT: Mr. Khanna, migration has always existed in human history. What is different today
Khanna: Sure, there have always been different driving forces for migration movements, such as the Little Ice Age in the late Renaissance, industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries and colonialism. The difference to today and the last decades is that never before have so many different driving forces collided in different interactions. These include the aging of the population, for example in Europe, the ongoing political unrest, the long-term economic effects of automation and, last but not least, climate change, which is getting worse and worse. We all have these problems at once.
DEFAULT: At the moment, the world is rather in sleep mode due to the corona pandemic. Doesn't that contradict your thesis of the new age of migration?
Khanna: Statistically, the new age of migration has long since begun. In 2019 we reached the record level of 1.5 billion travelers and 275 million people living abroad. The only question is when will we rejoin the path we already have? Because Corona has not stopped migration: Millions of guest workers have withdrawn to their home countries - that is also a form of migration. The rich have never stopped switching passports and moving from red to green zones. Many of them have settled elsewhere in the world in the middle of the pandemic.
DEFAULT: But that only affects a very small group.
Khanna: Not only. Look at the border between the United States and Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have flocked there since the US election. You stand in line at the border, hoping for a better life. This movement has long since started regardless of the pandemic.
DEFAULT: Seen globally: where will people move?
Khanna: Migration from the USA to Canada will accelerate, for health as well as climatic reasons. There are parts of the US, the southeast, where rising sea levels have displaced a great many people. Canada will in future have an even larger population than Russia and Japan and will become a demographic superpower. Southern Europeans will increasingly move to Northern Europe. We are seeing that floods and drought caused by climate change are affecting more and more people, especially in Asia. Cities like Jakarta and Bangkok could soon be submerged. This is one of the reasons why more and more South Asians will migrate to Central Asia and Russia.
DEFAULT: But migration is complex and difficult to predict. Many people who are particularly hard hit by climate change are poor and have little means of even moving away from their homeland.
Khanna: Of course, eight billion people will not be on the go right away. At least four to five billion people will never leave their homes. They still depend on their relatives to work abroad and send money home. But thanks to digitization, this money can be transferred more and more smoothly. Therefore this trend will continue.
DEFAULT: Why should European countries, Russia or Canada willingly accept migrants? Isn't populism, which is directed against "too much" migration, already booming?
Khanna: In Western Europe we are on the verge of overcoming populism. Because people see what kind of failing politics the populists pursue. There is no phenomenon in political history that is as short-term as populism. Even people like Viktor Orbán in Hungary will soon be gone. Because the most powerful principle is still supply and demand. On the other hand, populism has no chance. No head of state can escape Europe's demographics and aging population without migration. What is a state without people? Agreements are regularly concluded to bring in workers from other countries. This is a thousand times more important than any fence that is built on any small border.
DEFAULT: But borders are just as real as seldom before due to the pandemic. What role will they play in the future?
Khanna: I am for the preservation of borders and for state sovereignty. The question is whether you can deal with it more pragmatically. I see this in the example of Russia: of course, the country is not Canada as far as immigration is concerned. But there are many officials and mayors in the country who are in favor of more immigration. They need the workforce to start agriculture, for example. They don't want to live in a failed state. Russians' fear of immigrants was much worse ten years ago. People no longer talk about the "yellow danger", but rather about "management". We should defuse the issue of migration so much that it becomes an administrative issue.
DEFAULT: For many people, migration has a lot to do with integration, values, culture and sometimes also social conflict. How can states deal with these issues?
Khanna: A strict and good immigration policy is important. It's not about the number of people who come, but about the integration measures. As I have experienced myself, language is the most important gateway to culture. No matter if guest worker or refugee - everyone should try to adapt in the host country. And each state can determine, based on its own culture, which regulations immigrants must adhere to. We have to find a compromise between the values of the countries that need to be preserved and increasing migration. The topic should be discussed publicly and not swept under the carpet. Migration has been largely peaceful over the past 80 years. That is why we should also stop with the horror scenarios.
DEFAULT: In your book, you can also think of temporary "pop-up cities" as a way of dealing with the changes in climate change. In what way?
Khanna: I imagine sustainable, mobile cities that are self-sufficient with food, renewable energy and water. This could arise in Siberia, for example, where there is a risk that the earth will sink in due to the melting of the permafrost. Such mobile systems would also be very nice for the Mongols. Cities could also be built up and dismantled quickly in places where guest workers only stay for a short time. Perhaps many more of us will one day imagine living a little more nomadically.
DEFAULT: You yourself have often moved between the USA, Germany and Dubai. What does home mean for someone who changes residence as often as you do?
Khanna: I can't quote anyone better than the writer Pico Iyer, who said: Home is not just a piece of the ground, but a piece of the soul. In the end, home is where life can come true. (Jakob Pallinger, April 10, 2021)
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