World’s crisis over issue of borders and migration
Readers respond to Gary Younge’s article, which argued for an end to all immigration controls.
I agree with Gary Younge that borders “exist, by definition, to separate us from others” and that the Berlin Wall was built with “the deliberate intention to trap people in a place they might not want to be” (Border controls are a sign we value money more than people, 16 October). However, let us not forget that the wall’s construction was initially met with considerable relief by the west. The US and UK saw it as an end to communist ambitions to retake the whole of Berlin; they felt that it would not have been built if such plans were in the pipeline. The western allies concluded that the possibility of a military conflict with the Soviet Union over Berlin had significantly decreased. The wall’s erection was therefore an important step in helping to de-escalate tensions between east and west at a time when the cold war was at its hottest.
• Gary Younge’s otherwise excellent article omits one key fact. The reason he kept “butting into” the Berlin Wall on his trip to Berlin in the early 1980s was that the people it was primarily designed to confine were those living in the West Berlin exclave. The GDR’s term for it was the “antifaschistischer schutzwall” – the anti-fascist rampart – and it was deemed to be necessary to stop the then Federal Republic from undermining the economy of the new German Democratic Republic. Of course, it also brought East Berliners into very close contact with a border that impeded their free movement, but confinement was on both Germanys’ minds.
• Gary Younge makes some valid points about the effects of national borders on the global poor. However, he should be careful what he wishes for. National borders can enable a welfare state to develop by limiting the number of people who can call on its services. I agree that there is an element of unfairness in the fact that I can use the NHS by having the good luck to have been born in the UK. However, if anybody in the world could come and use it I am not sure it would exist in its current form.
• Gary Younge’s dystopian view of a world with no curbs on migration will increase the rise of the anti-immigrant right, as was seen on Sunday in Austria (Austrian elections won by conservative accused of playing the far right’s game, 16 October). It is time to stop always seeing migration just in terms of the rights of generally more affluent migrants. The rights of the original host country not to lose permanently their brightest and best must also warrant consideration, as should the views of the majority in the recipient counties who want less migration. The major cause of population growth in most rich countries is now immigration. This has led to well-founded public concerns about uncontrolled mass migration. A Gallup poll showed that about 630 million of the world’s adults would like to leave their country and move somewhere else permanently, with 42 million expressing a preference for the UK, a destination second only to the US.
If net migration continues at about recent levels, then the UK population is expected to rise by nearly 8 million people in 15 years, almost the equivalent of the population of Greater London (8.7 million). Population growth is projected to approach 80 million in 25 years and keep rising. Younge is right that nation states are a recent phenomena and mass migration is as old as humanity. But because of domestic pressures, the nation state will increasingly make large-scale permanent migration a thing of the past. The question will be: will their governments inevitably be rightwing or will progressive politicians grasp this rational political inevitability.
(Author of Progressive Protectionism), London
• Gary Younge must be congratulated for proposing a brilliant method for controlling immigration. Removing all barriers to immigration will not only increase the supply of labour; it will also raise the return on capital investment, thereby increasing economic growth. However, soon there will be more workers chasing fewer jobs, as the rate at which jobs are created would be much lower than they are filled. This will push down wages. As there are no barriers to immigration, workers will continue to pour in, pushing down wages even further. This process of downward wage spiral will continue until wage difference in Britain and immigrants’ countries of origin becomes insignificant or zero. The immigration will then stop, but it would leave Britain with massive unemployment and a divided society.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
• Halfway through his utopian thought, Gary Younge mentions the free movement of capital. Through the wretched Brexit referendum all eyes were directed toward the free movement of people, while the other three principles of the EU were essentially ignored. Our public broadcasters did a poor job of raising questions about capital movement. The plutocrat-owned press had no interest in raising the matter – and they got their miserable, misanthropic way. The only possible positive aspect of our recent political hiatus is that it has, hopefully, given a lot of people a much-needed education in political science.
Robin Le Mare
• At last someone has the courage to declare the principle that “We should all be able to roam the planet and live, love, and create where we wish”. I hope Gary Younge will continue to develop his critique of restrictions on migration. He might start by pointing out the enormous waste of resources spent on passports, border guards and all the rest of the bureaucratic nightmare that is the UK Border Agency. He could then look at the enormous waste of human resources caused by refusing to allow refugees to find places where they can live safely and decently. How many potential Marks and Spencers are currently living in refugee camps, or in Yarl’s Wood? Go for it, Gary!