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Mediterranean Quarterly 15.4 (2004) 1-3

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People on the Move:

The Security, Social, and Economic Implications of Migration


The long cycles of history are revealing to those who study them but may harbor surprises for those who choose to ignore them. The editors of Mediterranean Quarterly, cognizant of lessons learned or ignored, decided to take a closer look at a pattern of history that seems to be at the core of current global instability: the mass migration of people in search of basic means of survival, or just survival from brutal rulers.

On an annual basis, approximately 100 million people either attempt to or actually do leave their place of birth, often not knowing where they will end up. More than 10 million illegal immigrants have entered the United States since the last "amnesty" in 1986, and the flow continues despite the promises of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Close to 1 million Albanians, almost one-fourth of the country's population, have sought refuge in neighboring countries since the collapse of their country's communist regime. Tens of thousands of Turks leave their country annually in search of work in Western Europe and endure the consequences of cultural discrimination. More tragically, young women from the poorest components of the former Soviet Empire have vanished into the jungle of human trafficking and become commodities in an ugly form of trade that is managed by the new barons of a dangerous underworld. Recent statistics assembled by Greek authorities estimate that seventeen thousand women are being exploited by sex merchants in the Balkans alone. Albanian mafia lords, in association with their former enemies and with links all the way to Afghanistan, control [End Page 1] lucrative drug, gun, and human-smuggling operations across national borders with relative impunity. And as in times past, the Mediterranean Sea has become the crossroads of people on the move and the stage on which human tragedy unfolds almost on a daily basis.

Human cargoes float from island to island in the eastern Aegean, with boat crews waiting for the opportunity to dump these people on dry land, after having extracted the last ounce of resources from their helpless victims. On the African shores of Gibraltar, thousands of Africans patiently wait for the first opportunity to cross the narrow stretch of water and set foot on European soil. Egyptians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Filipinos, and Bangladeshis have landed on Italian, Greek, French, and Spanish shores over the years. They bring along their poverty, their energies, and their hopes. They also bring social, political, and now security concerns.

More than a dozen scholars, policy makers, and political leaders pre-sent diverse views on this critical issue in these pages. The lead essay, on the security implications of illegal migration for the United States, is written by Congressman Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado, and the unfolding drama of African refugees is provided by Francis M. Deng, United Nations representative for internally displaced persons. Rochelle Gershuni, head of Israel's Ministry of Justice, addresses sex exploitation and human trafficking and its consequences for her country. Scholars of diverse origins and viewpoints deal with migration issues in Spain, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece and the South-North migration in the United States and Canada. Naturally, we do not pretend that we provide a complete picture of a huge historical phenomenon, but we do hope to spark a debate on the social, policy, security, and economic implications caused by "people on the move."

Historical patterns show that mass population movements have altered cultures, demolished empires, given birth to new ones, and ultimately compelled humankind to organize itself into nation-states, with sovereignty determining their national characters. Now the nation-state that saw its birth in the Treaty of Westphalia is in retreat as an organizing concept of human events. Multiculturalism, globalization, poverty, and the North-South global economic divide have altered the patterns of civilization to a degree unprecedented since the eastern tribes overwhelmed the Roman Empire and the Ottomans reached the gates of Vienna. [End Page 2]

The advanced industrial democracies...


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