“If these people are in reality refugees then the world is absolutely full of persecution. Logically this would grant western countries the right to take over such countries to deal with the persecution.” So writes the author of “Canada’s Dysfunctional Refugee Determination System“ in response to Canada need not emulate oppression.
Interestingly Steve Gallagher, author of “Canada’s Dysfunctional Refugee Determination System” is not alone in holding such views, nor is such feeling limited towards people seeking refugee status in Western countries. People from the outside world do not wear distinctive marks in the West for differentiating refugees from legal immigrants. To most of the Westerners holding views such as those of Mr. Gallagher, everyone with a different skin tone and features is an unwelcome visitor
This scribe has so far been a strong opponent to a) open border policy –” which envisions a world in which people, empowered by policies that respect their human rights, are free to move without immigration restrictions –” and b) the tactics of obtaining refugee status through forged documents and fake stories. However, the statements, such as given above forces people who do not want to hurl down ethical standards even in the face of adversity to ask: Is the Western world really doing a favour to people from developing world with granting asylum and immigrant status?
To answer this question, one needs to look at the issue from many perspectives such as: the ways in which the Western world benefits from immigrants; the benefits the Western world has already extracted from the developing world; the extent to which the West is responsible for the mess which forces many to leave their countries, and the extent to which brain drain is hurting the developing world –” which in turn becomes one of the reasons that force people to leave their homes and end up living as unwelcome visitors or unequal "citizens" in Western countries.
We also have to ask, Will Steve Gallagher’s solution to re-occupy or re-colonize the suffering countries clear the mess of previous such civilizing missions? Of course immigrants needlessly hurt feelings of some schizophrenic racists. However, the following assessment shows that Western nations have immensely benefited from immigrants.
The right questions to ask are: Do the Western countries really need to destroy and reoccupy the developing world, particularly Muslim countries? Are they then supposed to share rebuilding contracts among the "civilized" victors? Or, the developing countries need self-rule without any outside interference and with full reparations paid for the damage done under the colonial rule and subsequent interventions in the post colonial period?
The reality is that the misconception of ending repression through intervention and occupation are the root causes of the present human flow towards the Western world. The imperial colonization has led to social, political and economic problems of unimaginable proportions for the former colonies. Out of the top 20 countries from which people claimed for refugee status in Canada in 2001, almost 18 have been under the occupation of one or another colonial power in the past. With the exception of Russia, and Turkey, none of these countries have ever occupied any other country. Furthermore, with the exception of Iran and perhaps China, the West recognizes, unduly supports and fully sponsors the sitting regimes in all top 20 refugee producing countries.
Immigrants pay back
Irrespective of their mode of legal or illegal arrival, immigrants end up benefiting the host countries in many ways. Countries like the US and Canada have been dependent on the influx of foreign born citizens in order to continue developing their economies. The majority of the citizens are the descendants of immigrants. People migrated from every part of the world to partake in the construction of these countries. There is a fear that "aliens" are taking their jobs away. Many a politicians also cleverly play this card due to the fact that people are ignorant about the nature of immigration to their advantage.
Migrants do not leave their country without a reason. Leaving one’s country is a very difficult decision to take. Yet, for some people it is not a matter of choice, it is a matter of survival. The first generation of immigrants, the illegal in particular, usually takes low-paying jobs and lives a miserable life. These individuals are the ones that persons like Steve Gallagher in Canada and Pat Buchanan in the US have animosity against. His negative feelings towards immigrants who unfortunately break the law affect the other group of immigrants who come legally.
Even legal "aliens" have to go through very rigorous processes for acceptance and permission to work. Moreover, legal immigrants pose a big benefit for expanding economies of the host states, since highly qualified individuals with international experience are highly demanded. Their capabilities are needed in an expanded global market. Thus, the credentials of legal immigrants are usually exceptional and differ with the ones presented by illegal immigrants.
Many people argue that immigrants take jobs away from natives, which is false since corporations that bring foreign workers have to prove that a local person could not have performed the job to be taken by the "legal alien." For example, Mexicans do come into the US illegally, but in the US, these "illegal aliens" do jobs the majority of Americans would never think of doing. If it were not for them, many American families would not be eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Similarly American would do better not to forget contribution of the Chinese in laying down the transcontinental railroad – just to mention one example.
40% of New York City is foreign born. If you add the children of these people, 60% of the city has strong immigrant roots. New York City, along with San Francisco, another city of immigrants, are America’s two most thriving cities. Immigrants have revitalized neighborhoods in these cities, created employment opportunities for others, and have also caused these cities to dazzle around the world as great cultural centers. In contrast to New York and San Francisco, Philadelphia is on the decline because of a major loss in its population.
The UK Home Office research found that, although immigrants cost £28.8 billion in welfare benefits and state services in 1999-2000, they contributed £31.2 billion in taxes. The figure was boosted by the higher salaries earned by immigrants compared with the local population – on average, 12 per cent higher than those of people born in Britain.
The US National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences (NRC/NAS) study’s main conclusion is that on average, an additional immigrant to the US generated a positive net contribution to the country of roughly $1,800. The study also found that the average immigrant imposes a net lifetime fiscal cost on state and local governments of $25,000. However, one explanation is that the taxes exacted from immigrants go to the federal government, whereas the services they use, such as school, roads, etc. are provided by local governments. Furthermore, the study does not take into account the collection of sales and consumption taxes from immigrants. Since these taxes can be collected regardless of immigration status, it is clear that immigrants, both documented and undocumented, make huge contributions to such taxes.
The Urban Institute found that immigrants paid $70.3 billion in taxes per year and received $42.9 billion in services. According to a study conducted by the National Immigration Forum and Cato Institute, in their low earning years, immigrants are net drains on the public coffers, but over a period of time, after 10-15 years- in the US, they turn into net contributors. (Cyrus D. Mehta "Immigrants Are Ever More Crucial After 9/11" a panelist at a World Affairs Forum on September 25, 2002 entitled "US Immigration After 9/11: What Should Change?" at the University of Stamford in CT. The opposing panelist was David Ray, Associate Executive Director of FAIR.)
Walls or ditches on the borders or re-occupying former colonies is not the answer to end repressive regimes or decrease the poverty in these countries. More US Coast Guard vessels in the Caribbean are not going to prevent a "Junta" of generals from oppressing citizens from one island nation. Dumping money on providing security to dictators, such as Musharraf and dedicating all resources to changing school curriculum rather than addressing the most pressing needs of the suffering masses are not going to solve the problem of persons coming to the West illegally, since these measures do not eliminate reasons to emigrate.
As opposed to the human rights, pro-refugees and pro-immigrant forces, Western immigration policies are confronted with Western supremacists who want to tighten immigration restrictions because everyone in the developing world would like to be in a better place and the West cannot afford to accommodate all opportunist economic refugees.
Western supremacists propagate the ideas of Western supremacy while denying its racist and xenophobic roots. We can see success of their approach in the immigration laws that treat persons from 24 countries (including all Western Europe, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Slovenia and Singapore) differently than the rest of the world. It is interesting to note that this group is comprised of all of the former colonial bandits.
Loretta J. Ross, Executive Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education in Atlanta, GA, calls it White Supremacy which "has a vested interest in denying the privileged position of whiteness because this would belie their claim to victimhood status, relieving whites of responsibility for racism and xenophobia. Yet white nationalists remain obsessed with identity borders, conflating race with nation. The central question for them is maintaining white dominance, and non-white immigrants threaten their power." (http://www.nnirr.org/news/archived_netnews/whitenat.htm)
The Immigration Act of 1965, which lifted many of the race-based immigration restrictions and allowed Asians, Latin Americans, and Africans to come to the United States, has changed for the worse in recent years. Although there is no direct attack on immigrants, except a few TV programs which show that immigrants in Canada are outnumbering locals, voices are on the rise against refugees and "illegal" arrivals in Canada.
The West cannot escape its past
Immigration problem is one of the ghosts haunting the Western world for the repression it carried out during the "glorious" era of colonialism. It may hurt Britain today when its whole cities are replaced by immigrants it may not forget that it is the result of its plunder abroad. Just to take one example, remember when its forces battled for over a decade to pacify the country, using airplanes, armored cars, firebombs and mustard gas. Air attacks were used to shock and awe, to teach obedience and to force the collection of taxes. Winston Churchill, as responsible cabinet minister in the early years, saw Iraq as an experiment in high-technology colonial control.
Similarly, Belgium today may argue that it is the smallest country which cannot afford that many refugees and immigrants. However, it may well remember the time when it was occupying Congo, for example: 75 times bigger than Belgium. The problem is that the colonialism has never ended. It was just replaced by system to serve the imperial interests. In the case of Belgium, its rule was cruellest rule ever inflicted on a colonized people and, half-century later, by a violent intervention in Congolese politics after the country’s independence in 1960.
So far, no other former colonial power has shown any interest in looking back with a critical eye, even though the colonial records of, say, the British India, the French in Algeria, the Dutch in Indonesia and the Portuguese in Angola are full of human rights abuses and excessive use of force. The colonialists argue that they have worked hard in developing the infrastructure, building roads, organized school systems, and they feel they did a good job and it is very unfair that the whole thing is being criticized in a very one-sided way.
Misery of colonialism linger on
The post-colonial struggle in the former colonies between local nationalists promoting true independence with its concomitant political and economic development, and former colonial states trying to reassert control over the area through compliant governments, economic relations and military means, seems to have come to an end. The external agents have won the contested struggle. But they have won nothing. Their victory is metamorphosing into a tragic human nightmare.
The British and French colonial legacy of concretized sectarian/ethnic divisiveness, client political regimes, and state boundaries that served the colonizers’ interest is well known. The present problems are compounded by the seeds of destruction and animosity the colonial powers have sown long time ago in the name of bringing civilization to the colonies never stop germinating and producing deadly consequences for the former colonies. Take the example of India. Pakistan topped the list of people who claimed refugee status in Canada in 2001 and was second in 2002. Similarly India is not far behind at 6th place. History tells us that both India and Pakistan have starved their people only to get ready for a third major war. Responsibility for this resolve to mutually destroy each other goes to the British imperialists.
Prof B. N. Pande’s speech in the Indian Upper House of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, made on 29 July 1977 clarify the fog of British innocence surrounding this issue. He says:
"Indian history and its distortion by the British historians, while India was under British rule, portraying the Hindus and the Muslims as being divided into two warring camps with little in common between them, and that this distortion paved the way for the emergence of the two-nation theory…. the histories of India which have been taught in our schools and colleges for generations past were originally compiled by European writers…. A glimpse into official British records will show how this policy of Divide-et-Impera was taking shape. The Secretary of State Wood in a letter to Lord Elgin [Governor General Canada (1847-54) and India (1862-63)] said: ‘We have maintained our power in India by playing off one part against the other and we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore to prevent all having a common feeling.’ George Francis Hamilton, Secretary of State of India wrote to Curzon, ‘I think the real danger to our rule in India not now, but say 50 years hence is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation organisation and if we could break educated Indians into two sections holding widely different views, we should, by such a division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack which the spread of education must make upon our system of government. We should so plan educational text-books that the differences between community and community are further strengthened (Hamilton to Curzon, 26th March 1886). …. Cross informed the Governor-General, Dufferin, that ‘This division of religious feeling is greatly to our advantage and I look for some good as a result of your Committee of Inquiry on Indian Education and on teaching material’ (Cross to Dufferin, 14 January, 1887)."
India and Pakistan are still reaping fruits of the British strategy to divide religious feelings. Raising Babri mosque to the ground is nothing before crimes of the colonialists because the Indian government did not order its destruction. But the Colonialists officially issued the following orders: "Every civil building connected with Mahommedan tradition should be levelled to the ground without regard to antiquarian veneration or artistic predilection." Compare these orders with the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan statues. At least they did not order to level every church and temple in Afghanistan
Any way, the present generations in India and Pakistan are facing the consequences of what the British have done to their countries, resources and forefathers long ago. All this might be expurgated from British official memory but those who decide to leave their miserable status in India and Pakistan and opt to live in England for instance have two things on the back of their slavish mentality: a) England is a better place to live and b) British are far better than us.
The same approach was adopted in Asia, Middle East and Africa. The new borders ignored old ethnic and cultural lines, and both the colonial and post-colonial regimes pitted ethnic groups against each other as a macchiavellian strategy. Since African nations were mostly created by Colonial powers that loathed and detested democracy, during a period when almost all the world’s intellectuals hated democracy with passionate fury, and worshiped slavery and totalitarianism, it’s hardly surprising that no functioning democracies emerged from de-colonialization that was given the name of independence. The colonial powers installed carefully selected gangsters, landlords, thugs and mass-murderers, usually trained at Sandhurst or French military academies, or at hotbeds of pro-slavery teaching like the Sorbonne or the London School of Economics —- then they were financed for decades from outside. They continue to be financed by the World Bank. There is no mystery to this process.
As long as these unelected gangsters, military juntas, kings, and sheikhs are recognized as "legitimate governments" by the Western world, these conditions will continue to operate. Like prostitution, no one could ever stop Immigration. Legal and illegal immigration would continue as long as people who murder and torture their way into power are allowed to speak to the US Congress, the UN General Assembly, send their children to elite schools in America, France and England, and accumulate their loot in Swiss Bank accounts, the situation will remain exactly as it is.
As far as the dream of decolonization is concerned, Robert Fisk’s April 17, 2003 article is a good answer. He says: ""For the people on the streets, this is not liberation but a new colonial oppression. America’s war of ‘liberation’ may be over. But Iraq’s war of liberation from the Americans is just about to begin."
Time for reparations
In the current context, if people in the West have the right to demand control on immigrants from the former colonies, people of the former colonies also have every right to demand for reparations for years of occupation, plunder, slavery and genocide by the "civilized" world. Moreover, oppressed nations not only live out side the borders of former colonial states.
In US, the majority of the indigenous population was wiped out and the rest were forced into areas that the brutal settler government designated. If looked in the proper perspective majority of those who hate immigrants are themselves descendents of illegal migrants. Some of the countries in the band of "civilized" world still submit to their Queen in England as if she is legal native with all the rights to be their head, and only those arriving from Middle East, Asia and Middle East are immigrants.
The luxurious lifestyle led by the elite classes in the imperialist nations that attracts many legal and illegal immigrants, is a definite result of the super-exploitations of the former colonies. The only true road to peace is a road that includes reparations for the oppressed nations of the world. Therefore the struggle is intimately connected with the struggle for liberation and self-rule for all oppressed nations. It is definitely not up to the US to decide when and how to hold elections in Afghanistan or Iraq, so to say, and it is definitely not the US and its allies to decide when a dictatorship in Pakistan is acceptable and when it is not.
It is interesting to note that Western governments ask for reparations from Libya for its alleged involvement in the bombing of Pan Am 103. Similarly, the milking of Iraq never comes to an end in the name of war damages and reparations for its 6 months occupation. On the other hand, more than 100 years of British occupation and exploitation of the Indian sub-continent, for example, are justified and any talk of reparation is at best laughable.
Haiti is a good example for the world to follow with regard to the issue of reparations. According to the Wall Street Journal’s January 2, 2004 report, the Haitian government is preparing a legal brief demanding nearly $22 billion in "restitution" for what it regards as an act of gunboat diplomacy of France.
More than two decades after rebellious former slaves vanquished troops from Napoleon’s army in Haiti in 1803, France’s King Charles X made the fledgling republic of Haiti an offer it couldn’t refuse. In 1825, as the king’s warships cruised just over the horizon from Haiti, a French emissary demanded 150 million gold francs in exchange for recognizing the new republic. The implicit alternative was invasion and re-enslavement. It was a huge sum, about five times Haiti’s annual export revenue. Haiti’s then-president reluctantly agreed, taking on a crushing debt.
Haiti now wants its money back — with interest. France’s response hasn’t been encouraging. In June, French President Jacques Chirac addressed the restitution issue by warning Haitian authorities "to take care over the nature of the actions of their regime." Herve Ladsous, a spokesman for France’s Foreign Ministry, said earlier in January that "this case has been closed since 1885."
The interesting point in the Haiti’s saga is the tone of Wall Street Journal’s report, which also tries to dismiss Haiti’s claim for the reason that Aristide just wants their money to pay his goons. This tone represents the point of view that even if reparations are paid, it will be wasted by corrupt regimes. Actually, the Wall Street Journal’s reporter forgets that since September 19, 1994 invasion, Bill Clinton always listed restoring priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power at or near the top of his accomplishments, called "restoring democracy to Haiti."
In fact, there are so many Aristides sitting in power due to direct occupation or indirect interventions of the "civilized" world in the name of democracy and liberation. The West would do a favor by letting them remove their respective Aristides and paying them reparations for real development and poverty alleviations.
If Kuwait deserves damages for living under Iraqi occupation just for six months, there is no reason others do not deserve reparation for suffering under imperial occupation for 100 years in some cases.
What the West must not forget at its peril is that the clock that runs at a rate of $34 a second for Haiti, runs at a much higher rate in favor of the rest of the world that lived and is still living under its occupation. Looking from that point of view, immigrants are not a curse but a blessing for the West. It must brace for honestly assessing the situation, say good bye to needless interventions and attempt to find ways for calculating and paying damages. Failing to do so will never change the rule of nature: first or last, a nation must pay its entire debt. Some events may stand for a time between a nation and justice, but it is only a postponement. It must pay at last its own debt. If a nation is wise, it dreads a prosperity achieved on blood and bones of other nations – a prosperity that loads it with more.
. Stephen Gallagher, "Canada’s Dysfunctional Refugee Determination System," Fraser Institute, Canada, December 2003.
. Abid Ullah Jan, "The need for a rational approach to the refugee "problem" in Canada," Montreal Muslim News January 08, 2004. Also : " Canada need not emulate repression," Media Monitors Network (MMN). January 09, 2004.
. Chinese American contribution to transcontinental railroad. Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum http://cprr.org/Museum/Chinese.html
. Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor, The Telegraph – UK, January 05, 2004
. See, British Colonialism and Repression in Iraq, Global Policy Forum, http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/history/britishindex.htm
. History in the Service of Imperialism, by Dr. B. N. Pande Source: http://cyberistan.org/islamic/pande.htm
. Letter No. 9 dated 9 October 1857, from Prime Minister Palmerston (1784-1865) to Lord Canning Viceroy of India, Canning Papers.
. "Impoverished Haiti Pins Hopes for Future On a Very Old Debt," The Wall Street Journal Friday, January 2, 2004.
Author’s latest book, “The Musharraf Factor: Leading Pakistan to Inevitable Demise,” is now available.
Also see: .