Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Mass Migration, Cultural Conflict, and the Fear of Terrorism: Dilemmas of the Democratic West

Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Mass Migration, Cultural Conflict, and the Fear of Terrorism: Dilemmas of the Democratic West

Article excerpt


There is no reason to believe that 2015 was the high-water mark of migration, documented and undocumented, from the lands of mass poverty to the wealthy and comparatively well-ordered countries of the West. In the next thirty-five years, tens of millions more people are likely to begin the trek to the West driven by the economic, social and political pathologies of the lands of their birth and pulled by visions of affluence and security. Some will seek entry invoking the right to be protected from persecution. (1) Others implicitly will invoke a moral right to build a better life for themselves and their families. (2) The world's population is headed toward 11 billion or more by the end of the century (3) in the absence of nuclear war or collision with a large asteroid or the discovery by nihilists of how to combine the lethality of Ebola with the contagiousness of the common cold. Less than twenty years ago, the conventional wisdom among demographers was that the world's population would peak in 2050 at 9 billion. (4) Now, according to United Nations (UN) reports, it is expected to hit almost 10 billion by mid-century and surpass 11 billion by 2100. (5)

The largest bulk of that growth will occur in Africa. Experts estimate that a population that has already grown 50 percent in the last fifteen years will by 2050 double from the present 1.25 billion to approximately 2.5 billion and continue to surge toward 4 billion by the century's end. (6) To convey a sense of what that means for individual countries, Nigeria's population alone is projected to leap from today's roughly 180 million to 500 million by mid-century (7) and the population in the risibly misnamed Democratic Republic of the Congo should expand from the current 75 million (an increase of 55 million since 1970) to 194 million. (8) Meanwhile, most of the rich countries will shrink absent large-scale immigration. Japan, to take an extreme case, with its 1.1 birthrate is projected to diminish from 120 million to less than 100 million by the middle of the century. (9) Italy, Spain, and Germany tag closely behind. (10)

In Asia, Pakistan's increasingly violent and dysfunctional society will likely add 50 million people just in the next fifteen years. Swelling numbers are also predicted for Afghanistan, from today's roughly 25 million to 55 million in 2050. (11)

Demographic pressure in the Middle East and North Africa present a particularly daunting picture for European political leaders concerned about managing immigration. In the second half of the twentieth Century, the population of the Middle East and North Africa increased fourfold, from about 93 to 347 million people. (12) Furthermore, that number is projected to double in the next thirty-five years, becoming roughly 680 million tightly packed persons by 2050. (13)

Powerful push factors beyond sheer numbers are at work in parts of the Global South. Anarchic violence, civil war, and persecution have already driven more than 60 million people from their traditional homes. (14) Some are displaced within national territories; others have fled across borders. (15)

Potentially dwarfing the numbers fleeing violence and persecution are the tens of millions of young people arriving at the door of the labor markets of developing countries, which seem incapable of bringing them into stable employment much less opportunities to prosper. In the Middle East and North Africa, 60 percent of the population is now under the age of twenty-five. (16) Less than 50 percent of people aged sixteen to thirty have regular employment and prospects for improvement in that figure are dim. (17) For many young job searchers, formal educational qualifications appear irrelevant: According to the World Bank, 30 percent of the unemployed in the Middle East and North Africa are university graduates, the victims of low quality education and a lack of relevant job skills, as well as insufficient private sector capital investment and persistent misgovernment. …

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