September 28, 2015
Throughout human history people have migrated for various reasons; escaping natural calamities such as famine, flood, earth quakes, or fleeing man-made calamities of war and persecution. Even in peacetime there is economic migration, as people seek new opportunities. The 19th century gold rush in the US, Australia and South Africa resulted in mass migration of people from within its borders and from outside, all converging near the mines to make a fortune. There are examples of migration recorded in the religious scriptures, the Bible and the Quran confirms Prophet Moses (Musa AS) fleeing from Egypt with his people. Prophet Mohammed migrated (Hijra) with his companions to the city of Medina, which marks the beginning of the Islamic Calendar.
During the early phase of Prophet Muhammad’s life, some of his companions migrated to Abyssinia, where they were given sanctuary by the kind Christian King, Negus. Perhaps there is some parallel to this event today, because we see Muslims from Syria, Afghanistan, Africa and elsewhere seeking to cross into Western Europe by land and sea; the perilous journey has cost many lives, yet, it seems the risk is worth taking, as many more line up to take the same journey.
With the exception of the xenophobic minority, the majority of the population in countries like Germany, Finland, Sweden, Austria, Great Britain and others have opened up their hearts and welcomed the refugees. The media coverage has primarily focused on the largest group, the Syrians fleeing a war torn country, and the awful images that has surfaced on the media has naturally garnered a lot of sympathy. However, the second largest groups are the Afghans, and the media coverage here has been negligible in comparison.
In fact, well before the current refugee crisis, tragedies that have befallen Afghan refugees for decades have not made the headlines in Western media. Often families borrow money to pay the unscrupulous traffickers to send their sons to Europe, with the hope that they will carve out a better life. These ruthless human-traffickers are only interested in money, and safety is not even in their radar. Consequently, many have died dreadful deaths or have endured severe hardships. Recently, Austrian police rescued 24 teenage Afghans who were packed into the back of a small wagon with the doors welded shut and earlier 71 others were found dead because they were sealed in a truck. Until last year, Afghans were the largest global refugee population at 2.6 million people; that is a staggering 10% of the population. Despite the terrible experiences, the rate of migration continues to climb. After the recent announcement by Germany and some other European countries that they would accept refugees, Afghanistan’s passport department has been inundated with applicants
Most of these Afghan refugees are young men, and many of them are educated. When asked why they are fleeing Afghanistan, they say the Taliban. However, the Taliban do not control large parts of the country, and they have the option of crossing over into Iran or Pakistan. Why not aim for the prosperous Middle East, a question that is being asked by many in Europe. Surely fellow Muslim nations should open up their borders first and take them in. Some neighbouring Muslims countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have, whilst the wealthiest nations in the Muslim world have kept the door closed on them. Even if these wealthy Muslim countries opened up their borders, these refugees would still attempt to cross into Europe, because they are likely to secure the full rights of citizenship.
Substantial amount of these Afghan refugees are economic migrants; they have few opportunities at home where unemployment is staggering. A picture of an Afghan graduate wearing his graduation robes and holding a certificate standing near a fruit stall makes the point on the social media about their bleak prospect post graduation.
A fresh injection of labour into Europe, where some countries like Germany with an aging and shrinking population will provide an economic boost; the statistics support the fact that new migrant communities work harder to secure their future, after all this was their prime motivation to migrate. Over the years, I have seen many more Afghans along with Poles arrive here in UK, they are keen to make an honest living, and they are hard working individuals who usually set up small businesses.
Whilst Europe may enjoy the benefit of migration, this is bad news for Afghanistan. This mass exodus is causing a brain drain and the labour force is shrinking as a whole, along with flight of capital. This is indicative of the failure of Afghan government’s economic policy. The depressing figures reported in 2014 show a decline of economic growth rate to 1.9 percent from 9.2 percent in 2010, and a rise in unemployment to over 50 percent. Of course, the Afghan government would in turn point their fingers at the Taliban and its support base for contributing to the economic stagnation and instability. As long as the attacks continue, the flight of foreign and domestic investors, along with its youth will continue.
Will they ever see the very people that they are trying to speak for and want to rule over are fleeing the country because of their actions? Now, with reports of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) creeping into Afghanistan, the future does really look bleak.