Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Here, as promised, is the piece I have written for the Guardian Comment-is-Free website: Migration's real meaning - An obsessive focus on restricting migration bypasses global realities and prevents us from seeking a more positive approach to people's movement.

Predictably, respondents have begun to misunderstand the article in two obvious ways. First, it has been described as advocating "no immigration controls". One would have thought that the occurrence of the word "regulation" in the final paragraph would have been a clue that I'm not seeing things that simply, but no matter. Knee-jerk responses are the order of the day in this debate. That's what prompted me to write something in the first place. What I'm actually suggesting is that we are over-preoccupied with controlling borders, and under-concerned about the deeper changes that would actually stem the flow of forced migration (whether by political, criminal or economic displacement) and help us to move towards sustainable people movements in a shared context - rather than one where we simply use borders as barriers. It's a matter of trajectory. [Picture: deletetheborder]

Second, the accusation is rapidly raised that my argument accepts the premise of unfettered capitalism. No. What I'm saying is that so long as capital can move unfettered, it is unfeasible and unjust (in a world of dissolving borders) to think of clamping down on people as a solution to the disequilibrium caused by massive inequality and other consequences of the 'rights of capital'. The point is that expecting migration policy to solve all the other problems you wish to ignore is palpably unrealistic - contrary to the bleatings of the 'get tough' lobby. The fact that there are no simple paths from where we are now to where we need to be heading for is no excuse for ignoring this. A paradigm shift is what I'm advocating, not a legitimation of the current patterns of globalisation. Or a simplistic belief that unqualified borders can resolve things.


Bob Churchill said...

I generally agree very much with your CiF piece, and with your rebuttals of the responses.

This is going to sound really superficial... but how come your portrait photo on the site is all corrupted and blurred. It looks like bad jpeg encoding. I know it sounds daft and shallow, but that kind of technical/aesthetic error probably effects the first-impression reception of your piece more than one might imagine!

Simon Barrow said...

Thanks, Bob. I'm also doing something on 'the numbers game', since this is a particular fixating point in this debate.

Dunno about the photo. The one I submitted was OK. I think they reduced the pixillation and squished it. Are some CIFers that superficial? You could be right ;)