Monday, 31 August 2015

Balkan Migrations

The Balkans map provided by Arid Ocean

The Balkans has changed in the last 20 years. It is somewhat calm and slowly reconstructing despite the occasional bickering between Kosovo and Serbia over the 2008 independence of Kosovo. Bosnia is tensely peaceful. It is one of the few countries in the world that has three presidents from different ethnic groups ruling over a partitioned country. Bosnia is still seen as an example of what a multicultural society could be in other European countries. Bosnia was crossroads of Yugoslavia home to Muslims, Christians and Jews (Serbs, Croats and Bosnians) prior to the war that has since changed its multicultural makeup. On the surface the Balkans look as though it has healed from the Yugoslavia collapse and wars. The magnifying glass tells us a whole different story. A hundred years ago the Balkans entered the global media not for its culture, languages or beauty but for a political assassination that led the First World War. At the end of the 20th century, it was again in the global eye witnessing the collapse of Yugoslavia and its brutal wars. Yugoslavia had been for most the 20th century one of the successful independent, multiethnic and cultural communist countries. No one at the time would've prophesied Yugoslavia's heavy fall from grace (society wise) even after Tito's death. It was only until nationalist politicians from Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia began flaming xenophobic nationalism and bringing up long buried WWII grievances that the wider world noticed Yugoslavia's peaceful existence was cracking.

Eksodi-Albanian Exodus 

Before Yugoslavia's death, the then isolated Albania (as in North Korean styled closed society) was the one falling politically and economically. In 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed, some 20,000 Albanians jam packed a cargo ship named Vlora from the Albanian coast to shores of Bari, Italy. The Albanian Exodus is it became known in both Italy and Albania terrified and shocked Europe at the time. Seeing images of 20,000 exhausted and scared Albanians fleeing the collapsing Communist government and economic system made the Camp of Saints and Jean Raspail's fear of migration overload come to life. It also eerily foreshadowed the current human ocean of migrants in the Mediterranean and Balkans. The Italians detained thousands including families. Eventually the 20,000 Albanians who asked and demanded political asylum were deported from Italy which was an odorous process in itself. Keep in mind the Albanians were coming from next door (Italy and Albania aren't that far a part on the Adriatic Sea) not half way around the world or from across the sea.

Serbs commemorate largest ethnic cleansing since World War II in Croatia

As with any conflict around the world it led to the largest mass migration of people since World War II. The former Yugoslavians (aka Bosnians, Serbians, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians) and Albanians fled to Germany, Italy, France, UK, the Scandinavian countries living behind their former lives for an uncertain future. Some of the Balkan migrants thought they were only flee for temporary shelter and would return home. Other migrants traveled literally half way across the world to be resettled in the United States, Canada or Australia. The migrants turned immigrants in their host countries adjusted to the culture, language and societies and rebuilt their lives. A few Serbian, Bosnian, Kosovars returned home after the wars subsided. Most of the migrants didn't return home. Even after 15 years when the war and NATO bombings in Serbia stopped. Who could blame them?
      Serbia was on the receiving end of the 1999 NATO bombings. The Serbs also bore the brunt for the Yugoslavian Army's (made up of Serbs attacks and destruction) of destruction particularly in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and to a lesser extant Slovenia. When Serb civilians began migrating in mass into neighboring countries such as Croatia, Kosovo, Serb enclaves in Bosnia and eventually to Western Europe, there was little sympathy in the West for the backlash ordinary Serbs received. It didn't stop Serbs from migrating to Germany, UK, United States, Canada, etc. Not only was Serbia bombed as part of NATO campaign to side with Kosovo but was crushed by economic sanctions and a dictator the late Slobodan Milosevic.

Inside Story: Refugees and Europe's Dilemma Al Jazeera

In your shoes

Flash forward 15 years later, another wave of migrants are pouring across the Balkans following the Serb, Bosnian migrants' near identical path to safety. Serbia and grudgingly Macedonia have waved the twenty thousands + migrants from Syria, Iraq Afghanistan, Pakistan through their borders. Macedonian police have barricaded, chased and shot at the migrant families and kids racing towards Hungary (3,200 daily) via Turkey, Greece and Macedonia. Once in Gevgelija, the migrants have been able to travel on to Serbia and to the Hungarian border towns of Roszoke and Asotthalom. Macedonia and Hungary are at a breaking point in terms of political/economic stress when absorbing migrants passing their territory. Hungarian border patrol are also monitoring and hurriedly constructing the border fence with Serbia. The Syrian migrants are now protesting in Budapest to pass onto Germany after the Hungarians halted trains transporting migrants further North to Austria or Germany. All the while alarmist right wing and nationalist politicians, leaders, pundits and ordinary people are screaming their lungs out about migrant invasions, Western suicide and the end of civilization. Serbia along with Greece, Italy and Hungary are demanding the EU find a workable solution to the large crowds of migrants. Russia has been helping Serbia with setting up refugee camps. The Serbs have worn the migration shoes before and understand the current hell that Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis have escape on a deep, personal level.

Migration is beneficial

In spite of the alarmists seeing boat people and migrant families as the end of Europe's unique identity many social/political and demographic analysts and historians have been saying for decades now that migration is not the end of the world. New migrants coming into the EU to economically well off countries such as Germany, UK or Scandinavian countries is necessary when considering Europe's current demographics. Europe has been aging for years now and is one of the top oldest places in (terms of age) in the world. There hasn't been a second baby boom in Western Europe where most of the fertility rate is far below the 2.1 replacement level for the future generations. The only countries who are ok for now are France that has one of the higher fertility rates in Western Europe.

And UK where immigration has helped UK with population growth, economic productivity, elderly care, construction, low wage works that keeps the power of London and Manchester running. Importantly immigrants bring new ideas and ways of relating to the world especially the non European world's majority people and culture. It is not necessarily a negative. The migrants turned immigrants to the UK have helped to transform London and other cities into multiethnic and culturally rich places. None of the cities have lost their unique local cultures either. The British kids and families of immigrant background have been saying for years that they feel and are British but mainstream alarmists have been treating them as the enemies. Over in France, the 2nd or 3rd generation French belong to the country but are still treated as strangers. Oddly enough, France has witnessed waves of migration into it for centuries. There are many French people who are of Portuguese, Polish, Italian, North African, West African and Greek descendant. Some people's grandparents migrated to France from their respective countries some 100 years ago. The way the National Front is complaining about migrants one would think the 2nd or 3rd generation French families and kids came to France yesterday. Same goes for the UK over the last 50 years. Each country around the world has its own unique culture or society. People have fought to keep their countries and societies special in their eyes. However, history and trade long ago blew the idea out of the water that there is an unwritten rule that countries must remain monoethnic, with a static culture resembling the Small World dancing dolls from Disney Land. The right wing and pundits also forget that renown historical figures and politicians (even now) who are nationalistic or strong leaders didn't originally come from the countries they rule over or represented. Now European governments are scrambling and debating if EU migration policy.

Transformation Japan's Migration Policy to Multicultural Japan. Policy Discussion

A Lesson from Japan on how migration can help society

Japan is the poster child for thinking about the future of society, aging and caring for a post industrial and post baby boom country. Japan has one of the most rigorous immigration policy in the world. Not even a trickle of migrants have been able to complete the requirements to resettle into Japan. With less kids being born in Japan nowadays, demographers predicted with less alarm that Japan's population will drop from 120 million today to 87 million in 2050. Eastern Europe is also following in Japan's footsteps. There are many ghost towns in Japan and Italy that was created due to local youth migration to more prosperous areas within the country, natural disasters, again an aging population, the younger generation's lack of interest to return to their provincial towns, etc. Japanese businesses have turned to robotics to manage some elderly care or mundane tasks where humans are not around. Yes the robots and technology are a brilliant and sustainable way to fix what would be or will become a labor shortage crisis. Yet its one of many solutions.

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