Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point: Debates: South Asian
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 30 November, 2001, 16:43 GMT
Migration: Can it be controlled?
A major international conference is taking place in the Dutch city of Rotterdam this week to discuss the current global movement of migrants.

Delegates from more than forty countries will examine the differences in admissions policies of various countries, the effects of migration on economies and the impact of ethnic diversity on social cohesion within nations.

The issue is at the forefront of the west's political agenda. Last week, in Denmark's general election, a right-wing coalition of Liberals and Conservatives stormed to victory after a campaign dominated by asylum issues.

The campaign played up fears, following the 11 September attacks, that Muslim immigrants are not committed to their host states in the West.

Australia's conservative prime minister, John Howard, was recently returned to office on an anti-immigration platform.

How should such fears be countered? What about the economic effects of migration - who gains and who loses? Tell us what you think.

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

It is natural - previously Western people used to go east for search of green pastures; now it is eastern people toward west.
Sandeep Bajwa, U.S.A.

Host citizens often forget the immigrants are fleeing despair

Farhad, USA
Host citizens often mistreat immigrants for hypothetical affiliations made with the immigrants' nation of origin. They forget the immigrants are fleeing despair, in search of hope. Mistreatment of Afghan immigrants around the world is a classic example. The fact is that Afghans have been losers on two fronts: first, they have their country stolen from them by the fringe elements of other nations; then, they are looked at as evil for being Afghans.
Farhad, USA

Migration is a voluntary human process of seeking to better one's life. If one seeks to impose control upon this democratic human process, one must ask, by whom is this process being controlled, for whom and who comprises the controllers and the controlled.
Mahitha Gokulachandra, US

It is natural phenomenon like migration of birds. To stop it is unnatural. Its flow is guided by contemporary world situations.
Khalid, India/UK

Prior to 1978 Afghans were at the bottom of ALL the immigration lists

Kamran, USA
For as long as people are oppressed and the bigger nations continue to interfere in the affairs of the smaller and poorer nations, immigration shall continue. I can tell you that prior to 1978, Afghans were at the bottom of ALL the immigration lists. People simply didn┐t leave their homeland completely to start all over in foreign lands. All of that changed with the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets and now we top the charts as the biggest refugee population. Leave the people alone and they will not come to your country. If we are blessed with natural resources that you want, don┐t starve us or don┐t install a puppet dictator just so you can benefit. This goes on all over the world and then the average person in the West complains about the onslaught of refugees.
Kamran, USA

People have migrated in search of greener pastures from time immemorial. It is a natural phenomenon. Would there be a present day USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand if not for migration?
Harsha Perera, Sri Lankan in Australia

If the Dutch conference aims at understanding the effects of migration, it should strongly consider the fact that the activities of one group of immigrants should not be construed as the activities of All Immigrants. Not all immigrants are responsible for the WTC and Pentagon Attacks. Take the Polish Jews who came as immigrants to American shores. They were initially mocked for their low levels of education and scholarship, but now they are one of the most highly educated communities in the United States. This is the same with Indian immigrants. A study by a journalist revealed that Indian immigrants control at least 5% of the US economy.
Malolan Cadambi, USA, Iowa

International borders are artificial lines

Sumeet, India
International borders are artificial lines, and they have been in existence for a fraction of the time humanity has thrived on this planet. For the most part man had been a nomadic creature and it's unnatural to try and reverse millions of years of evolution.
Sumeet, India

Skilled labour is a good thing for the western world who compete to get the best of the labours and weed out the rest! The developed nations are never going to stop this kind of discriminatory migration! It's disgusting! Around 20-25% of all American doctors are from South Asia, half of them are Muslims - as soon as the September 11th incident happened they suddenly became monsters from Angels? About 40-45% of all American technological staff are South Asians, they suddenly become the first ones to get laid off and later chucked out of the country, when push comes to shove! It's disgusting!

And the western countries talk about humanity, and humanitarian causes and all that good stuff. It's shameful how these human beings are used and what they are put through, just to get their food on the table every night. These people come here and earn their own food in exchange of their capabilities and not out of charity. And today we have discussions about what we should do with immigrants? When Pakistan stopped taking Afghan refugees, a lot of people jumped to conclusions; when India stopped a few, probably 1%, of its illegal immigrants one day there were almost communal riots. And the western world whines about few, well trained, exceptionally capable, economy boosting immigrants that they get every year. These leaders who talk about stopping immigrants should be taken to these south Asian countries and shown what is an immigration problem! Then they would know better not to whine!
Raj Datta, USA

Each ethnic group exposes the country to a different way of thinking

Dahesh Patel, USA
I believe one of the major contributing factors to America's economic growth and innovative new technologies is the diversity of its people. From Irish and Italian immigrants to Indian and Chinese immigrants, each ethnic group exposes the country to a different way of thinking. After a few generations, the descendants of these immigrants still contribute substantially to the American economy, while at the same time (with some exceptions) integrating themselves with other Americans. Unfortunately, in many European nations, right wing parties use immigration as a scapegoat for economic ills and criminal activity. This is a major reason why many people from South Asia and the Far East choose to further their education abroad only in the U.S. and Canada, and thereafter to reside in such countries.
Dahesh Patel, United States of America

I never forget that the majority of the world struggles day by day to survive

Peter, USA
I am blessed by the fact that I was born in the United States but I never forget that the majority of the world struggles day by day to survive. What place is it of mine to tell people seeking a better life that they cannot have it?

There are many negatives associated with immigration, but as a human, these issues are minute to me. If I lived in an oppressive society plagued by poverty I would be trying to escape and only death would stop me from achieving such a goal. The true way of curbing massive immigration is for the wealthier countries of the world to make real attempts at improving life in less developed countries.

I know here in the United States we spend an inordinate amount of our wealth on weaponry... why not invest some of that into helping our fellow human beings out? Or could it be that the majority of people in the West are happy living in their shells, ignorant of others' plights?
Peter, USA

Immigration has created the diverse and vibrant society that is America.

Scott B, USA
Coming from a country composed of immigrants I know the importance of immigration to my economy. The migrant's contribution runs into the billions of dollars. Without them we would be in trouble. Their contribution goes further. Immigration has created the diverse and vibrant society that is America.
Scott B, USA

The West is taking about immigration as if it is a burden on them. Compared to Pakistan, immigration is a non-issue for the west. Here in Pakistan, thousands of immigrants come in every day because of the policy of bigger powers. Australia was making a huge fuss for about 600 Afghan refugees. If only 600 Afghanis came into Pakistan in one day, we would feel happy that more did not come. Pakistan is the destination of more then 90% of the worlds refugees. If anything, the West should help Pakistan, which itself is a poor country, instead of making an issue of less then 10,000 refugees in year. Surely the amount of burden that is on Pakistan's shoulders is not even comparable to the so called problems of the West.
Fahad Qureshi, Pakistan

How else do we expect cross cultural communication and understanding? I wonder how the US reaction would have been to the recent attacks if it didn't have the Muslim population represented within its boundaries. At the same time I wonder how strong the coalition had been if the Muslim leaders and moderates educated in the west did not exists!
Rafi Shikoh, USA

Even India has negative immigration

Jvalant Sampat, NY
Pretty much every dispute in the world finds that the roots of the problem lie in one commodity - land. John Lennon once said, "Imagine if there were no countries." It may surprise some folks, but even India has negative immigration - more immigrants pour into India from her neighbouring states than out of it. The only way to make the world a safer and better place is to expose people of brittle nations to the concepts of democracy and free-thinking. Free flow of people from one part of the globe to another is one of the only safeguards against a polarized, divided Earth.
Jvalant Sampat, Rochester, NY/Bombay, India

Migration is a natural phenomenon and will always happen. It has little to do with talent and/or training. Its about the basic human need to find greener pastures, safety, and security.
Haru, USA

Can the migration be controlled? The answer is NO! It is a natural phenomenon, and it will continue as long as it lasts!
Agha Ata, USA

Skilled immigrants use less government welfare and pay taxes, and contribute to economy

Mahesh Sharma, India
To some extent it should be controlled. But too much rigidity is not good. In the modern hi-tech economy, availability of skilled labour is the key. US IT companies attract the world's best talent, which makes them very competitive in the market. Skilled immigrants use less government welfare and pay taxes, and contribute to economy. New immigrants also boost domestic demand. Many countries such as Canada have a liberal immigration policy and it is helping their economies. So, in my opinion immigration of educated and skilled people is good.
Mahesh Sharma, India

See also:

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asian stories