Asia Pacific

The World This Week: A New Age of Migration


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August 22, 2015 20:00 EDT

Millions are fleeing their homelands for their lives, and hundreds of millions are leaving ancestral villages for cities in search of better lives.

Homo sapiens sapiens is the Latin name for the subspecies that human beings belong to. Apparently, this subspecies originated in East Africa and migrated to the rest of the planet. It seems that to migrate is to be human.

People have always migrated in search of greener pastures, fertile soils, temperate climes, metals, spices and more. The Mongols thundered across vast steppes on their galloping steeds. The Arabs reached both Sind and Spain in the blink of an eye. Even in the early days of the first human civilizations, Mesopotamians and Indus Valley natives settled in each other’s lands. More recently, the 19th century was a period of European expansion. White Europeans turned up to claim land from the Native Americans, Aborigines, Maoris, Africans and Asians to bring “civilization” to these places.

Today, migration across continents and borders has a different hue. In the Americas, Latin Americans from countries like Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador are streaming into the United States and even Canada. They clean toilets, mow lawns, repair cars and do the odd jobs that keep the US economy ticking. Europe is the key destination for migrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa who are fleeing hunger, persecution and war. Germany alone has received 179,000 asylum applications in the first six months of 2015. Smaller countries like Austria will be receiving 80,000 applications this year. Unsurprisingly, Werner Faymann, the Austrian chancellor, has described the migrant crisis as “Europe’s biggest challenge.”

In the US, immigration is turning out to be a key issue in the 2016 Presidential Election race. Donald Trump has come out with all guns blazing against illegal immigrants. The brash billionaire is leading the Republican primaries and wants a wall on the Mexican border to keep out immigrants. He has popularized the term “anchor baby” that has been used by rival Jeb Bush as well. The term refers to immigrants deciding to have babies in the US because the 14th Amendment to the Constitution grants citizenship to anyone born in the US. Trump and other candidates are playing on the fears of aging white Americans who dread the day when they will be in a minority in the US.

In India, immigration from Bangladesh is vexing local populations and many politicians. States in the northeast of India such as Assam are seeing a massive demographic shift as Bangladeshis flee into India. The northeast of India has long been the region where the “brown” and “yellow” races mingle. The former tend to be Muslim, while the latter are mostly Christians. As the pressure on resources increases, race and religion are exacerbating tensions. In the rest of India, Bangladeshi immigration is causing unease because Hindus fear growing Muslim populations that bring back the specter of the country’s partition into India and Pakistan in 1947.

It is important to note that the greatest migration of our era is taking place from the villages to the cities. Hundreds of millions are on the march to huge urban centers as villages die by the thousands worldwide. This urbanization first began in England in the 19th century. From 1801 to 1891, the urban population of England rose from 17% to 72%. By now, urbanization has occurred in Europe and the US. The urban population in bankrupt Greece is 78%, 3% more than that of prosperous Germany. The figures for the US and Canada are 81% and 82% respectively. Now, the rest of the world is catching up. The World Urbanization Prospects, published by the United Nations, estimates that 66% of the world’s population in 2050 will be living in urban areas.

In China, hundreds of millions of villagers are marching into cities to work in factories that make everything from shoes to iPhones. Under China’s houkou system of household registration, most of these workers get a raw deal when they immigrate to cities. They work inordinately long hours in tough conditions for low pay and little vacation time. The Spring Festival is the one time in the year when they head home and reconnect with their roots. In the urban areas where they slave away, they do not qualify for social benefits such as health care or education for their children.

The rest of Asia is worse off than China. Slums in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are infamous for their grinding poverty, abject living conditions and rampant disease. Those who leave behind villages to chase the urban dream often rue the nightmare of city life. Despite the pitfalls of urbanization, Dickensian England marches on. Already, Osaka, Karachi, Jakarta, Mumbai, Shanghai, Manila, Seoul and Beijing are home to over 20 million people—and their populations are growing.

Fair Observer - World News, Politics, Economics, Business and CultureWhile many are migrating to cities in search of a better life, others are fleeing for their lives. As of the end of 2014, a record-breaking 38 million people were forcibly displaced within their own country by violence that threatened their existence. Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria caused 60% of the new displacement. As per the United Nations, nearly 60 million had to flee their homes because of war and persecution. This means that 22 million had to cross borders, and one in every 122 humans is now a refugee. This brings new challenges for humans from sanitation and disease prevention to social order and employment generation.

We are living in a new age of migration with hundreds of millions on the move. It is leading to upheaval, tension and even strife. Promise accompanies peril, and this unprecedented migration might force over 7 billion Homo sapiens sapiens to live more harmoniously on the planet.

*[You can receive “The World This Week” directly in your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list. Simply visit Fair Observer and enter your email address in the space provided. Meanwhile, please find below five of our finest articles for the week.]

[seperator style=”style1″]Looking at the Iran Deal From Tehran[/seperator]

Iran Deal


The Iran deal is the result of hundreds of hours of negotiations between some of the most seasoned diplomats—it must be protected.

I can barely forget the prediction John Bolton made in 2008. The former US ambassador to the United Nations said Israel would attack Iran before the new US president was inaugurated. Well, here’s some breaking news: Barack Obama took the oath of office in 2009 and, following two presidential terms, Israel has never attacked Iran.

The prophecy that Israel would pound Iran back to the Stone Age is as old as the early 2000s. Debate over a solution to the nuclear standoff has stretched over decades, with warmongers pushing for a military confrontation while others argued for diplomacy. And at the end of the day, Iran’s relationship with the international community took a beating.

But the oft-repeated assertion that either Israel or the United States would strike Iran never came true. Peace and diplomacy emerged as the winner.

Retrospectively, when I explored content from media… Read more

[seperator style=”style1″]Viewing the Iran Deal From Israel[/seperator]


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The struggle is on over the ratification of the Iran deal, and Israelis are speaking out.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Republicans are trying to create the impression that all Israelis are opposed to the deal with Iran, which is aimed at preventing it from achieving nuclear weapons.

In The New York Times, Thomas Friedman wrote a recent article titled, “If I were an Israeli looking at the Iran deal.”

Well, I’m an Israeli who lives in Tel Aviv and experienced Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles raining down on the city in 1991, the ineffectual Hamas rockets that were blocked by the Iron Dome defense system in summer 2014, and who was on the front lines for eight months in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Combat Engineering Corps facing the Syrians with their then-chemical weapons potential during the 1973-74 Yom Kippur War. Since 1982, I have edited four publications that dealt with the danger of the nuclearization of the Israeli-Arab conflict and the quest for… Read more

[seperator style=”style1″]The Rise of Angels in India[/seperator]


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In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Raghav Kanoria, a co-founder and co-president of the Calcutta Angels Network.

India is emerging as an entrepreneurial haven. The Economic Survey 2014-15 placed India as the fourth biggest startup hub in the world. According to the report, this dynamic environment is spurred by the growth in technology-based areas such as research and development (R&D) and business process management.

While there is much to be done to create an entrepreneurial environment similar to that of Silicon Valley’s, India is moving in the right direction. According to the Startup Genome’s report in 2012, Bangalore was ranked as the 19th best startup ecosystem in the world.

Support is rising from many areas as Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has promised increased investment into technology startups by creating the Self Employment and Talent Utilization mechanism; this will serve as an incubator and advisor program for entrepreneurs. The Economic Times has recently announced the first startup awards to honor India’s finest entrepreneurs… Read more

[seperator style=”style1″]Single Mothers Face Judgment on Moroccan Streets[/seperator]


Vesna Middelkoop

An organization helps single Moroccan mothers rebuild their lives and regain respect.

Shaima is 18 years old and a single mother. Her own family says she is lost and her son is a “bastard.”

“I have lost my value,” the young woman says. “I’m worthless.”

The problem runs deeper than a man’s unwillingness to take responsibility. With high unemployment rates, most men can’t afford to marry even if they wish to.

There is also a law in Morocco that designates unwed mothers as prostitutes—a lack of marriage certificate serving as “proof.” As long as this is the case, men will be able to get away with shirking fatherhood.

Refusing to be shamed and asserting themselves takes courage. Aicha Ech Chenna’s organization helps Moroccan women rebuild their lives and regain respect within their communities… Read more

[seperator style=”style1″]What’s Behind Google’s Alphabet Restructuring?[/seperator]


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Google’s restructuring to separate non-Internet ventures from its core brand promises to reap rewards.

Google’s move to restructure itself under a new holding company named Alphabet will help protect its core brand, gives greater independence for its riskier investments—such as driverless cars or human longevity—and also brings greater accountability and transparency in those investments, observers say. However, they caution that Sundar Pichai, Google’s 43-year-old new CEO elevated from his prior role as product chief, also has his job cut out for him. Pichai’s Google will continue to battle rivals at home, including Facebook and Apple, and globally, such as China’s Tencent. In addition, the new independence for Google’s non-Internet investments raises the bar for it to demonstrate results.

As an Alphabet subsidiary, Google will retain the Internet products—including the search engine business, YouTube and Android—that formed about 90% of its $66 billion in revenues in 2014. The rest—Google’s non-Internet arms like research and development biotech firm Calico, venture capital arm Google Ventures and growth… Read more

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Riccardo Arata /

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