Chicago Tribune — Migration of Muslims to the West will Continue

Feb 28, 2002;

The Sept. 11 tragedy changed the world of migration. Combating terrorism and halting illegal migration coincided. A new enemy was created–Muslim migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. They were potential terrorists. They had to be kept out. Borders were closed. New walls were erected. The West closed its gates to migrants from the region. But the underlying causes of the migration of Muslims to the West persist. Thousands continue to venture into the dangerous journey of migration with the hope of finding salvation in the West. They flee war, political conflict, poverty and the hellish life under Islamic

For many, international migration is the only escape from the cultural and political violence of fundamentalism. Plagued by unending wars and sociopolitical instability, and driven away from the possibility of a life of peace at home, many have become voyagers in search of survival in faraway lands. This seems to be the story of most Iraqi, Afghani and Kurdish migrants caught behind borders in the West.

Devastated by war and political violence, millions have also been subject to destructive economic changes beyond their control: the globalization of economics and culture. Displacement and migration have been the result. The introduction of market relations and the transformation of subsistence economies have changed the nature of work in many countries. Millions have joined the ranks of wage laborers, swelling the labor force in most urban areas.

In the past 30 years, the labor force increased by 176 percent in the Middle East and North Africa. The unprecedented increase in the labor force has not been matched by a growth in job creation and improvement in the standard of living. High unemployment rates persist in most countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Poverty has been on the rise in many countries in the region.

Intoxicated by the flashy images of the West, a large number of socially aspiring and culturally adventurous young men and women have joined the ranks of migrants in recent years. They, too, flee home for a better world.

The recent migratory movement of young Iranians is a telling example of this development. The Iranian youth echo the inner aspirations of millions of young people across the Muslim world–a desire for life with dignity, freedom and the possibility of work with livable pay.

There seems to be no reversal of the existing migration flow to the West from the Middle East and North Africa in the near future. A growing number of displaced Muslim men, women and children will be facing closed borders in Europe. The result will be increased clandestine border crossings, desperate use of more dangerous routes and methods of migration, exploitation and abuse by smugglers and human traffickers, and death. A policy revision is necessary to stop this human drama.

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