The People Flows

The Christian Science Monitor, April 25, 2000 | Go to article overview

The People Flows


Few problems are as morally trying, and politically complicated, as dealing with the world's torrent of people seeking better lives.

International agreements set standards for treating those fleeing persecution. But asylum policies, even among well-established democracies, can vary widely and be swayed by nativist political impulses.

National immigration policies are difficult balancing acts. Often, one line of thinking wants to guard the door as closely as possible to secure jobs and social stability for those already inside. Another wants an open door to fill jobs that go begging and help spur the economy.

The moral imperative to treat people humanely competes with the political need to appear tough, particularly on illegal immigrants and asylum seekers who may be fleeing poverty more than repression.

Governments wrestling with these challenges span the globe:

*Britain is in the midst of a debate over the treatment of people seeking political asylum. Their annual numbers have grown from a few thousand a little over a decade ago to 70,000 now - with an unprocessed backlog of well over 100,000. The government is implementing tougher rules, including less public support and more detention for refugees.

*Germany, with a newly growing economy and a declining native population, wants to open its doors to more high-tech workers from India. …

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