Migration and International Relations
Migration’s connections to security and counterterrorism also apply to a larger discussion of the impact of human mobility on relations between countries. This can be seen in:
- Tensions between host and origin countries surrounding border control and illegal migration between the US and Mexico, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Countries often come into conflict determining respective responsibilities for regulating crossings and dealing with smugglers and traffickers.
- Tensions created by diasporas and immigrant communities’ influence on foreign policies. Examples include the controversial “Israel lobby” in the US, competing interests of Taiwanese and Mainland China diasporas regarding the Taiwan Strait, the influence of Kurdish populations in Germany on policy in Turkey and Iraq, and ethnic Russian populations in former Soviet republics.
- Destabilization by refugee populations fleeing violence, poverty, and disease. Large refugee populations can often put a strain on host country resources and exacerbate local ethnic tensions. Examples include Rwandan Hutu refugees in Rwanda and Sudanese Darfuris in Chad and the Central African Republic. Refugees in the former Yugoslavia similarly impacted neighboring European countries.
- Power plays that can occur when countries recruit immigrants of certain ethnicities in order to form regional or political influence blocs. This was the case with Libya and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, both of which tried to establish themselves as Pan-Arab homelands.
- Damage done to regional integration efforts when one country is seen as disproportionately bearing the burden of outside or illegal immigration, such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and other border states within the EU. The fact that Western and Northern European member countries refuse to take some immigrants from these EU gateway countries causes strains within the EU. A major reason cited for delaying Turkey’s bid to join the EU is fear that it will become the gateway for Muslims into the EU.
- Finally, migration affects international relations because it is often seen as a zero-sum game in which one country loses (from brain drain or the burden of caring for refugees and indigent migrants) and one gains (through the recruitment of talented/skilled workers or the safety-valve release of others). However, there are win-win situations, too. These most notably occur when a migrant receives something in the host country that he takes back to his country of origin (e.g. remittances, education and technological advances), and in the process, contributes something to the host as well (e.g. education, professional and cultural exchanges). Win-win situations generally occur between countries that already enjoy good relations and serve to further build inter-state goodwill.
Next: Special Issues in Migration: Migration and Climate Change