Tuesday, June 26, 2018

It is not just THEIR problem; it is our problem too

One look at a 3-minute video on Mali tells nearly all about the economic migrant problem. Life in countries such as Nigeria and Mali is not very good. Not only is there a lot of corruption but there is also a lot of poverty and desperation. If you think the rift between rich and poor is large in North America with an average annual household income of $60,000, what about an average Mali household income of $2200 or nearly one thirtieth of Canada’s?

With the spread of cell phones and video streaming, these African people can see close-up how well Europeans and Americans live. On top of it, their populations double in size every thirty years.  Think what it would take to share Canada’s current jobs with double the number of workers?  You may say that our economy growths by close to 2% per year. But just do the math: 72/2 that is a doubling every 35 to 40 years. Oh… and then there is: automation. No wonder they come over by the boat full. These are not exactly the most promising emerging economies and their poverty drives many into Islamic and other forms of extremism. Wouldn’t you if there is no way out?

Africa is not necessarily a bad region to live. I think the solution lies not in blocking borders but in providing better opportunities in those country. A Marshall plan for Africa. Just like we provided China advantaged trade rules to catch up (today we have a bit of a fight to level that playing field), we should have favored-trade rules now for Africa. 
We are all humans and, I remember from my days as an emigrant, how angry I felt when I discovered that I was not allowed to live wherever I wanted. Was I not a free human?  Really, what give others the right to tell me that I am not welcome?  Only when I realized how different societies are in terms of taxation and social networks and how expensive those net works are that I better understood why there are admission standards. Only after I saw that third-generation immigrants still had trouble with Canada’s culture and language did I realize why we have those admission rules. I still don’t think it is right. But, there is a practical limit as to how many people we can let in before we get overrun. How can you expect to have a person from Africa, semi-literate and with poor Canadian communication skills, to seamlessly integrate into Canada where we already have a lack of work opportunities?   We don’t want to compete for these jobs in our own home country with those much more aggressive nearly death-defying immigrants!  In other words, the NIMBY phenomena is a large issue not only in the pipeline issue.
We should start admitting that this is not only the fault of those rotten foreigners that want to live in our country.  I had a Nigerian family showing up last week to rent an apartment unit I have vacant.  Nice people. The father spoke decent English and had worked as a facilities engineer in Nigeria’s oilfields. So quite skilled. But there is virtually no work in Alberta’s oil patch. The mother was good looking and also spoke English. But… no work. They had some savings… but the father thought he could pick up a job in no time.  Not from what I can see. Not even jobs at Safeway or Coop are a given. The apartment rent was low, but still as a minimum they would need $2500 - $3000 per month to live off and they with their 2 young children were less than a month in the country. Rough! 
I don’t want to end up three months from now, or in the middle of winter having to evict a family who has run out of money. Just imagine if they got some publicity and how evil I would be depicted by the social media crowd. The best I can do was to let him rent the place if they could prove that at move-in time the husband or the wife has a job. He told me that I put him in a bad spot. My response was that he had put himself in that spot. But is that entirely true?  There are no easy answers and really, as a small landlord with my own financial obligations I have to look first after myself.
But here you see in a micro-cosmos the problems of the economic migrants in the world. We can blame Justin Trudeau for being too soft and ridicule him for treating illegal immigrants too nicely. But what is the solution? I can and will vote conservative, but that government has to deal with these issues as well and we are not all Donald Trump. Even the Donald had to admit that he might have been be too harsh by splitting up Mexican families at the border. What about Algeria who sends the economic Mali and Nigerian migrants back by the truck full dumping them in the Sahara to walk 30km back to the border without water? Many are dying on the way back out. A real tragedy but still they are coming. And once they on the Mediterranean Sea, these people are still dying on the way to European ports where they are less and less welcome.
It is not a problem for just those darn migrants!  It is a problem for humanity. We need a new vision about how to deal with this. It is not their problem alone; it is a problem for all of us humans. I can see some remedies but they may take time and they are not always palatable for everybody. Obviously, we must control population growth in these countries. We must improve the economic circumstances in those countries.  If they had more affluence, less would be motivated to leave their homes. We need to think less as Canadians or Dutch or as U.S. citizens or as Bulgarians and more as humans of this planet. We should feel a responsibility to help those people and welcome them in our communities rather than just count on the government to take care of it. It is all easier said than done. Maybe, just starting to think more sincerely about this issue could be helpful. We may gradually learn how to deal with it here in our own communities rather than labelling them as faceless illegals.

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