I am trying to read the newspaper. The sense of horror and helplessness which has been pre-occupying me over the last few days and weeks has driven me to write this blog. No doubt many readers have similar feelings as we hear about the mounting numbers of desperate people in Calais trying to get to the UK and the response.
Is the situation in Calais among the many other awful things going on near and far, a signal of ever increasing chaos as our global economic system fails to serve the needs of the ‘common good’ in favour of so called ‘economic growth’, and all that goes with it including ever growing inequalities?
I am sure I am not alone amongst readers believing that this situation requires an immediate humanitarian response. yet I fear and know that this will not happen for many of the migrants. In the longer term, we know no visas, borders, walls, detention centres, immigration laws and benefit reductions will stem the flow. If the causes of migration are not effectively addressed the numbers will probably increase.
We, in Steady State Manchester, have done some thinking about migration and what solidarity with places outside Manchester might look like. We think it timely to open up a conversation about a viable economic approach to migration.
We believe Manchester is and should continue to be a place which values people from outside and celebrates the richness of a diverse and hospitable region. At the same time we should recognise that most people would prefer to stay in their home country if they can see a way to sustain their lives there and live in freedom, without conflict and persecution.
Current policies focus on controlling the numbers and types of people coming into the country rather than addressing the reasons why people want to move in the first place. A viable economy would work on reducing the determinants of migration. Policies should be based on an understanding that the interests of our region are interdependent with the interests of those outside. Solidarity is key to ensuring a viable population and migration patterns. This needs to be international, national as well as local.
We believe that if economic equity is increased, migration will fall whether it is from the North East of the UK to Manchester, Manchester to London or Africa to the UK. Similarly if the impact of climate change is kept to the minimum more people will manage to sustain their lives where they are and this will reduce migration. There will be fewer wars in a world where more people can provide for their basic needs, live with greater equity within their societies and between societies and where economies such as ours produces and sells socially useful goods rather than armaments. Well functioning societies here and elsewhere are likely to be more accepting of political, racial, religious and sexual diversity.
I do not feel I have enough conversations amongst people who are concerned about the welfare of migrants about longer term strategies, let alone with people more concerned about immigration controls. I find the polarisation of views on migrants / migration very painful. I don’t find it easy to have conversations with people with very different views to mine, however I want to find ways to understand people’s fears and learn from them. I wonder if by addressing the bigger picture in a viable way it might be possible to come up with strategies that show compassion for the situation of migrants and people in the places they are coming from AND for people who fear them coming here
Steady State Manchester suggest some ideas to reduce the determinants of migration. We believe policies need to foster equity between our region and others, good environmental measures which will ensure minimum climate change and do not fuel reasons for migration such as economic injustice, eg TTIP and war e.g. arms exports. Given the role of war and civil conflict as causes of migration, we advocate work with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade to encourage transformation of jobs in the arms trade in our region to socially useful production such as renewable energy technology. This list is far from exhaustive – we would like to hear your views on these issues and what can be done especially things that have some chance of success in the months ahead.