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The Immigration Conundrum

Migration from the developing world to the West will continue until and unless international development can improve the societies people are leaving.

· 8 min read
The Immigration Conundrum
September 14, 2023, Merchant ship BBC EDGE, which picked up 184 migrants on board 42 minors including 5 unaccompanied in the port of Salerno, disembarked. Alamy

Immigration from poor countries has a perverse effect on the rich. Instead of working out, through observation and experience, how to address the poverty and violence which convulses so many developing nations, the preferred response is a mixture of moral posturing and ignorant prejudice. Sir Paul Collier, an Oxford professor, stands out for his clear thinking on this and for his unwearying advocacy of change. His work, and his pleas for a reform of how we confront this increasingly perilous matter, ought to be better attended.

In 2015, Angela Merkel, then Chancellor of Germany, decided—without consultation—to open Germany to migrants. Around a million came, mainly from Syria: a huge, rapid shift in a country where immigration had been moderate. The largest German minority had been Turks, attracted to work in Germany’s large manufacturing sector, and in most cases, they had been in the country for decades. Merkel was applauded by liberals everywhere for her generosity of spirit, yet her gesture was, more quietly but at times venomously, resented by her neighbours, who believed she had left them to cope with the consequences of a policy that had made Europe an even greater attraction to immigrants than before.

Inside Germany, the legacy of Merkel’s decision became clearer, albeit with a time lag. In the latest Politico poll, the far-right party, the Alernativ für Deutschland (AfD), is now running ahead of the ruling Social Democrats, second only to the centre-right coalition, the CDU/CSU. The AfD’s success has grown in a few years from a gathering of conservative economists to one of the most successful populist parties in Europe, and it now drives wedges within the centre right. Friedrich Merz, the CDU leader, broke the strict cordon sanitaire between the AfD and the centrist and left-wing parties when he countenanced the possibility of collaboration with the upstart group at regional and local levels, especially in the east of Germany, where it is the dominant force.

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