Amnesty International and other news agencies recently reported that the world was facing the worst refugee crisis since WWII with between 50-60m refugees now displaced from their homelands. The worst area was, unsurprisingly, the Middle East with Syria accounting for 1 in 5 of all refugees alone.
As bad as this is, however, the world is facing an even greater problem when war refugees are combined with economic migrants – those from the Third World who merely or desperately seek a better life away from economic instability, persecution, the effects of a changing climate or a host of other reasons for a new life in the ‘promised lands’ of the West.
And whilst there is one obvious, though extremely difficult, solution to war refugees - that of conflict resolution and eventually peace - there is no straightforward answer to preventing an economic based surge of millions. Altogether we are undergoing a combined global migration crisis on an unprecedented scale.
Every week Calais comes under siege from thousands seeking to cross into the UK, whose generous benefit system is a magnet for anyone from the world. Every week thousands from Africa and the Middle East attempt to board dangerous vessels in North Africa attempting to reach Italy. Hungary is building a fence to stop migrants from Serbia crossing into their country. And Europe, with its sacred but naive free movement of people principal, becomes the perceived easy target in reach for millions – with ‘Benefit Britain’ often the ultimate destination.
Throughout time people have always ventured across the seas in search of a better life. America was indeed founded on it. There is nothing wrong with aspirations as such. However, that was at a time when nomads numbered in the thousands. Today, with 7.3bn people in the world, that flow has become completely unsustainable. And if climate change does cause increasing droughts, famine, and war in the coming years in Africa and the Middle East, these numbers look set to rise inexorably.
Only by taking the three pillars of sustainability – economy, environment and social – together in a systems approach can we hope to try and address this crisis. Using the British Royal Navy to rescue migrants in boats and transporting them to Italy in a glorified ferry service may look impressive on TV news and show how humanitarian the UK is, but does no long term good whatsoever to the problem.
A systems approach avoids attempting to solve each pillar on their own – as virtually all the world’s bodies vainly attempt - and recognises that each pillar is a supporting and interlinked structure that, if one is weak, can bring down the others. It is no magic formula but, critically, a universal truth that you cannot solve problems in one without addressing them all, for they are all inextricably linked.
The global migration crisis is just one example of where these linked factors have to be actioned simultaneously if we are even to begin to solve what threatens to become one of the greatest challenge of this century.
'A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels' – Albert Einstein