Friday, May 18, 2007


In the UK tabloid media, migration is "an issue". Actually, it's about people - and often their great pain. This much is made clear by Christian Aid's splendid new report, which (inter alia) blows the lid on the paranoid fantasies of The Mail and The Express - who are always talking in lurid and threatening terms about 'economic migrants' (people disenfanchised by the institutional inequity of the global financial system), asylum seekers and refugees.

What Human Tide makes clear is that there is a migration crisis. But it is at its greatest in the South, not the North; and equally its causes lies in the kind of policies we try to protect with barriers, not in the vulnerable people we scapegoat for their plight or the consequences of their exploitation. Of course there is the sickness and corruption of the people-trafficking trade, too. But again, many media portrayals segue the victims into the perpetrators. They fail to point out that movement takes people 'out' as well as 'in' (part of the issue behind a sane migration policy for Europe is how to help people move as a result of choice not compulsion). They don't recognise that development and security are the things that help people take root rather than being displaced. And they ignore the fact that in a word of dissolving borders and transparency to instant capital movements, trying to cage people just doesn't work - apart from being based on immoral premises.

None of this makes solutions to the global crisis that Christian Aid describes easy, of course. But it does suggest that the parameters of a sane and humane conversation about migration will look radically different to the one we have now, where electorates are scared by papers hunting fear-fuelled profit, and politicians bow to the climate of prejudice - in spite of their denials - with a weather eye to their electoral fortunes.

There are all kinds of reasons why Christians should care about this: about people, as well as policies. Among them is the simple fact that Christianity itself is constituted by journeying - in mission, in pilgrimage, in hospitality, in aid, and in flight from mistreatment and oppression. It is our history and our desiny we are talking about - and a growing understanding that the 'we' is a human family, not a self-preoccupied tribe. The Gospel, rightly understood, is always about enlarging the circle of our love, and developing our habitual capacity to respond to a barrier-breaking welcome which goes beyond the limits of human specification and subjectivity. God's, in other words.

Meanwhile, you can download Christian Aid's report, Human Tide: The Real Migration crisis here: full graphic version) (2mb *.PDF- this file may take time to download) or low graphic version (748kb *.PDF).

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