Tide of Poor Could Inundate Wealthy Nations: Refugee Chief NORTH/SOUTH RELATIONS

By John Dillin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 2, 1990 | Go to article overview

Tide of Poor Could Inundate Wealthy Nations: Refugee Chief NORTH/SOUTH RELATIONS


John Dillin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A HIGH-RANKING United Nations official warns that a "poverty bomb" could soon explode in third-world countries with serious consequences for Europe, North America, and other developed areas.

Thorvald Stoltenberg, UN high commissioner for refugees, says hundreds of millions of people living in poverty are already beginning to leave their homelands in search of better lives.

"This is a mass movement of people that ... will be one of the most dramatic developments of the 1990s," he says. The dimensions of the problem are "not yet fully grasped by governments, people, or parliaments."

The surge of people from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East should be recognized as a serious, long-term security problem by Western organizations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Mr. Stoltenberg says.

The commissioner's comments, made at a breakfast meeting with reporters, echo warnings from other experts on world population. In the May/June issue of "The American Enterprise," for example, a French demographer writes about the potential "Africanization" and "Islamization" of Europe during the next several decades.

Jean-Claude Chesnais, head of the demography and social department at the Institut National d'Etudes Demographiques in Paris, says Europe will feel the impact of two historic population developments.

First, declining birthrates in Europe will shrink the supply of native workers. Already in some European regions and communities, such as Liguria, Italy, deaths exceed births by a wide margin.

Second, birthrates in Africa are holding at record-high levels. African women are averaging between four and six children each.

The long-term results of this dichotomy between African and European birthrates are expected to be dramatic. Professor Chesnais projects that within 35 years, modest-sized African countries such as Sudan, Algeria, and Morocco will equal or exceed the current populations of Germany, France, and Britain (55 million to 60 million). Egypt could reach 95 million, and Turkey, 100 million by 2025.

Europe will come under pressure to accept growing numbers of immigrants from Africa, as well as from Mideast nations, such as Iraq and Iran. This could lead to a rapid increase in the Muslim population of Europe.

France already is home to 5 million Muslims, a development that has fueled a social backlash and increased the political power of Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front. …

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