- The Quest for Solutions to Mass MigrationThe SAIS Review Editorial Board
Migration is reshaping world politics. The world is currently facing the biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II, as asylum-seekers pour into developing countries bordering conflict zones and make their way across deadly routes toward the hope of safety in the developed world. At the same time, huge numbers of economic migrants make similar journeys, facing similar danger in hope of a better life. Other migrants have more sinister motives, like the thousands of jihadi-salafist fighters moving to and from Syria and Iraq with the goal of setting up a caliphate. The combined force of these three forms of migration is causing the rules of domestic and international politics to be rewritten worldwide.
Solutions to the migration crises the world faces will require truly original thinking. The international norms and institutions of the world order set up after World War II are not equipped to deal with this unprecedented movement of people. Countries and multilateral organizations are struggling to provide solutions—or even just temporary alleviation—to the problems of migration. Meanwhile, hostile actors are manipulating the flow of migrants in their own interests. With threats rising and responses faltering, the future seems destined to hold more and more serious migration crises.
This issue of the SAIS Review explores the interaction between migration, foreign policy, and the international system. Its first section addresses the failures of international aid and assistance in handling migration crises. Next, the SAIS Review turns to a discussion of the use of migration crises for political purposes, both domestic and international. The third set of articles addresses the causes and effects of future migration crises. In the final section, former senior officials in government and multilateral organizations give their views on the state of migration and world affairs today.
Evan Easton-Calabria kicks off the issue’s set of cautionary tales by assessing the use of World Bank loans as a means of helping refugees. By examining cases such as Greece in the 1920s and Jordan in the 1990s, she shows that the track record of the use of loans to host countries is not good. Addressing other concerns about the prospects for refugee resettlement, Johan Sandberg examines Sweden’s handling of a large influx of refugees in the last few years. He finds that Sweden’s policies towards immigrants—which have been in [End Page 1] succession both extremely open and extremely closed—have not been based on coherent strategy or analysis, leading to results which are less than ideal.
Turning to the use of migrants for political gain, Alexander Bick discusses how various actors in the Syrian civil war, including Russia, the Syrian government, and the Kurds, have used forced migration to advance their interests in Syria and abroad. He concludes that the prospects for Syrian refugees to return to Syria will not necessarily improve once fighting stops. Moving the focus to internal politics, Jacqueline Mazza analyzes the state of immigration across the US-Mexico border, juxtaposing the facts and rhetoric to shed light on gaps in policy.
Our third section looks at the future, in which migration is certain to continue to play an important role. Colin Clarke takes us back to issue of Syria, asking what will happen as the Islamic State collapses and its battle-hardened fighters head elsewhere. Drawing parallels to Al-Qa’ida after the Soviet-Afghan War, he predicts these fighters will continue to pose a worldwide threat. Shedding light on a less-discussed migration crisis, Benjamin Gedan discusses migration from Venezuela in the face of the ongoing economic collapse there. He predicts the slow trickle of emigrants could turn into a “mass exodus” to other Latin American countries and the United States.
In our fourth section, the SAIS Review presents special commentary from three individuals who have served at high levels in the organizations that deal with migration crises. Our interview with Sarah Sewall, who was recently US Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, explores the impact of migration on US strategy. Next, another former US State Department official, Maureen White (former Senior Advisor on...