There are close to two hundred independent nations and territories in the world ranging in size from geographical behemoths like Russia and Canada, to little specks in the oceans like Grenada. Other countries like China and India boast of populations in excess of one billion people each and others like Andorra and Bermuda boast of populations of a few hundred thousand. In terms of the condition of people in the various countries, this varies over such a broad spectrum that it is futile to make any attempt in categorisation. Before the rise of the nation state, especially in Europe, borders hardly existed in any meaningful way and people moved freely over the globe putting down roots where they thought they could make a living. In many cases however, such movement was not voluntary, the greatest example of this being the Trans-Atlantic movement of Africans over a four hundred year period when an estimated twelve million Africans were forcibly taken from Africa and enslaved on plantations in the New World, to work from cradle to grave, creating wealth for the people of Europe. It is the wealth created by African slaves that built the foundation for the affluence now enjoyed by people of European descent in Mainland Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and people of European descent in South Africa.
With the end of slavery within the Western hemisphere beginning from 1834 in places under British control, the USA in 1865 and Brazil in 1888, there was an acute shortage of labour because the newly freed slaves exercised their new found freedom by walking away from the places of their enslavement thereby creating a big problem for people with huge plantations to run. This led to a situation in which people were transported from mainly China and India to replace the black people who had been liberated from slavery. The British turned to their possessions in India and recruited indentured servants who were expected to work for very low wages for a certain short period before coming back to their places of origin. The Americans were in that point beginning to build the railways which stitched their large country together. They would have found it impossible to do this without the large scale importation of labour from China which is why you have a visible population of ethnic Chinese in the USA today. In the period after the civil war in the States, there was a shortage of labour needed to drive the vastly expanded industrial sector of their economy and so they turned to Europe for migrants to fill the slack, which is why there are so many Americans with consonant heavy names from Eastern Europe, mainly Poland as well as Roman Catholics from Ireland and Italy. In all this time, there was a steady trickle of Jews escaping the persecution and periodic pogroms visited on them in many parts of Eastern Europe including Russia and in the time just before the Second World War, in Germany. The continuous arrival of people in the USA over the last five centuries means that that country is a nation of migrants, the indigenous people of the place having been hunted down, killed and their land expropriated from them.
A new kind of migration took place in the period immediately following the end of the Second World War. With millions of people dying in the war, there was an acute shortage of unskilled labour in the formerly belligerent countries of Britain, France and Germany. The British turned to their former slave colonies in the West Indies and brought over thousands of black people to do what we should not shy away from describing as the dirty jobs which native Britons shunned and perhaps loathed with a passion. It is clear that this policy was not well thought out because nobody quite realised the consequences of bringing people over from their own countries to solve a short term problem. The West Indians had been persuaded to look in Britain as the great Mother country which needed their help and they were therefore willing to come over to do their bit. Not even they, gave any thought to what was going to happen to them within a community in which they stood out so prominently on account of the colour of their skin.
Over in Germany, the same problem was being faced and the same solution was proffered. Germany and Turkey, in that time the leading part of the now defunct Ottoman Empire were allies in the First World War. They lost that war but memories of their alliance persisted and so it was almost natural that the Germans turned to their former allies to provide what they described as guest workers for their factories which were beginning to come back to life after the war. These migrations of course have had a profound effect on the demography of those countries and explains why the current English football team has a preponderance of young men of Caribbean descent and why the German football team has, over the last few years paraded players with names like Khedira, Ozil, Can and Guandogan even if some of them are now questioning the essence of their German connection. In this respect, no other country is more visible than France which has won the World cup twice in the space of twenty years with teams made up primarily of players of Arabic, African and West Indian descent with a sprinkling of ethnic Frenchmen thrown in for good measure, a veritable United Nations of footballers representing one nation. It is worthy of mention that the French parading their team of stars from all over the world are once again favourites to win the World cup for the third time when the finals of that competition take place in Qatar in a few months’ time.
The USA is above everything else a nation of migrants not even because virtually all Americans can trace their origins overseas but because over the last one hundred and fifty years, more than half of the population of the country have arrived from somewhere else. In those years also, the contribution of migrants to every facet of life has been overwhelming. The USA is by far the capital of food varieties and the world is eating all kinds of foods brought to the USA by migrants and have evolved in different ways to a truly wondrous mixture of cuisines which have been exported all over the world even if there is a downside to this phenomenon. The world has taken to eating American foods even when they are nutritionally inferior to locally available foods which are being or have been forced out of the menu available in other parts of the world where they have been domesticated. There are of course other aspects where migrant vigour has pushed the USA along the path of sustained development and as long as the very high standard of living associated with this country persists, she will continue to be a lodestone, attracting people from all over the world. This inevitably means that as long as migrants continue to arrive, they will precipitate various forms of advancement which guarantees even greater development. There is therefore a strong suggestion that migrants contribute a great deal to their host communities so that on balance migrations should be encouraged as much as possible. But what we see in practice is the direct opposite of this observation. The world is not likely to forget in a hurry that the immediate past President of the US, Donald Trump was so obsessed with keeping immigrants out of his country that he talked about and did little else besides building what he called a beautiful wall to keep illegal Latin immigrants from entering the United States through their southern border with Mexico. His otherwise inexplicable popularity with the American electorate gained traction as a result of this policy of exclusion.
In the period since the end of the Second World War, the rich nations of the world have built up extensive welfare states in which a great deal of services are free in the point of delivery. In Britain for example, the National Health Service is guaranteed to provide decent healthcare services to those who need them without having to pay for them directly. This and other welfare services may be free to the recipient but it is paid for in full by everyone who has a job and pays taxes which swallow up a considerable proportion of all legitimate income. There are utilities aplenty but they are paid for on a cash and carry basis and those who default in making payment for any service are instantly cut off and denied service. You do not need a vivid imagination to think of what happens to a household which cannot pay their electricity bill in the dead of winter. In terms of shelter, most people are a salary or two away from homelessness and this means that being in one form of employment or the other is a matter of life or death. These may be the features of life in the West but the options available are way more attractive than what is available to most people in the poorer countries where, as in the case of Federal Republic of Nigeria, no less than 70% or 140million people are, in least technically regarded as poor, many of them very poor. This means that they have no access to education, healthcare, decent shelter and food which are wanting in both quality and availability. The irony of this particular situation is that these poor people are most unlikely to scrape together the means necessary to effect their migration to friendlier climes where, in least in their fevered imagination, there is almost unlimited access to life more abundant. The people who are able to vote for a higher standard of living with their feet are those who already enjoy a standard of living far in excess of what is available to their much less fortunate compatriots. These people may be welcome in their destination because they have the skills which are required to further drive the development of their already sophisticated host communities. In other words, they are a form of development aid from the underdeveloped to vastly more developed countries.
The problem about migration begins when a large number of undeveloped people decide to gate crash into developed countries in search of greener pastures. They are looked upon as jobbers in search of free meals and are therefore ruthlessly excluded from the rich countries sometimes in the crude manner of building walls across borders. The situation is made worse when the would-be migrants profess a religion which is different from the prevailing Christianity of the Western countries. Unfortunately, right now millions of people are fleeing from the chaos in Syria and it has been made clear that they are especially not welcome in fortress Europe where strong arm tactics have been prepared to effect their exclusion from paradise as it were.
The problem of migration is global but can you imagine the chaos and confusion which will ensue if just 10% of Nigerians, 20 million souls in all, decide to hightail it out of their country which in the moment is a hot bed of existential challenges?