By Tony Adams
All peoples of the world from time in memorial have always been on the move. Migration therefore is a common characteristic of human beings. Throughout history peoples have migrated for all sorts of varying reasons, trade, work, famine, war and conquest, in search of better lands or pastures for cattle and plants, natural disasters and including forced migration.
So, no group of people can claim to be the original and sole inhabitants of any given land area, country or continent because it depends on how far back in history you want to look. We can then say that the history of humankind is the history of migration. Migrants all throughout history have fuelled the engine of human progress. Their movement have sparked innovation, spread ideas, relieved poverty and laid the foundations of a global economy. In a world far more interconnected than ever before, the scale, pace, and intensity of human movement is greater today but the habits of migration and its disruptive effects are as old as humanity itself.
Take the story of Britain for example it has been settled and influenced by foreign people and ideas as old as the land itself. “Our aristocracy was created by a Frenchman, William the conqueror, who also created our medieval architecture, our greatest artistic glory. Our royal family is German, our language is a bizarre confection of Latin, Saxon and latterly, Indian and American. Our shops and banks were created by Jews. Even English Literature has for at least 200 years, been shaped and influenced by outsiders. We also did not stand alone against Hitler: the empire stood beside us.” It is telling to note that until the late 1960’s maps of the world still had large sections coloured pink because the countries ‘belonged to us’ as part of the British Empire. An empire that the sun never set on and the blood never dried on. The excesses, ravages and residues of imperial reach are still with us.
Today British troops are killing and being killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Countries, that in one way or the other entwined to the British Empire. Our continuing imperial wars together with the ongoing War on Terror have produced the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
A situation that has prompted and led European governments to enact the most sustained and far reaching border enforcement programme in history. Otherwise known as Fortress Europe. Detention and deportation, physical and bureaucratic barriers, naval patrols and satellite technologies are all part of Fortress Europe’s undeclared ‘war’ against undocumented immigration.
These strenuous efforts have generated a tragic confrontation between some of the richest countries in the world and a stateless population from the poorest countries. Leading to grotesque human consequences, that have become impossible to ignore as migrants drown in unprecedented numbers in the Mediterranean, Grave Yard of the World or find themselves trapped in Check Points, like Calais, Hungary and Greece.
Meanwhile this seemingly inadvertent humanitarian and refugee crisis that spans 23 countries was dealt a major set back by America’s withdrawal from the UN efforts to create a global strategy on migration in 2017. As the artist, activist and agitator, Ai Weiwei who tugged at our conscience with his feature documentary on the world’s migrant and refugee crisis “Human Flow” puts it “The crisis will not go away.” We all know it. It is going to be bigger with environmental, problems, climate change and famine.” It is a humanitarian crisis.”
The issue is not about money. The issue is understanding. “ To understand them as part of us not to see them as potential dangers or threats in so called civilised societies “ he added.