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September 2015

Don't blame the smugglers: the real migration industry

Hein de Haas's picture
The billions spent on the militarisation of border controls over the past years have been a waste of taxpayers' money. As we are able to witness during the current 'refugee crisis', increasing border controls have not stopped asylum seekers and other migrants from crossing borders. As experience and research has made abundantly clear, they have mainly (1) diverted migration to other crossing points, (2) made migrants more dependent on smuggling, and (3) increased the costs and risks of crossing borders.

Europe's disgrace

Hein de Haas's picture
A general sense of panic is dominating media coverage of what has come to know as Europe's 'refugee crisis'. It conveys the image of a massive exodus going on from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, with European countries struggling to control borders in order to prevent an invasion from happening. To be sure, we are dealing with a grave humanitarian tragedy, that need urgent addressing. Yet the idea that we are facing a biblical, uncontrollable exodus is sheer nonsense.

“Say it loud, say it clear: refugees are welcome here”

Ellen Goldstein's picture


I am the World Bank’s Director for the Western Balkans, and I live in Vienna, Austria, where thousands of refugees, mostly fleeing from conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, are now straggling across the border from Hungary after harrowing trips on crowded boats, uncomfortable stays in makeshift camps, cramped bus rides and long journeys on foot when all else fails.

My father’s parents were refugees to America.  They were Jewish peasants from Russia who fled the pogroms of the early twentieth century.  My mother’s great-grandparents were economic migrants, educated German Jews who went to Chicago in the mid-nineteenth century to seek their fortune in grain futures and real estate.  When my parents married in the early 1950s, theirs was considered a “mixed marriage”: Russian and German; peasant stock and educated elite; refugees and economic migrants.  I know the difference between the latter two:  refugees are pushed out of their home countries by war, persecution and a fear of death; economic migrants are pulled out of their home countries by the promise of a more prosperous life for themselves and their children.