Economies and their impact on people’s rights of free movement

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Today's world global economy is driven by the law of supply and demand. Thus, with the objective of achieving the cheapest and fairest prices for goods and services. But how does this model really perform when the human factor is left out?

The Supply & Demand Model

It claims to be the fairest way for bringing economic balance to the world. This is, of course, supported by world’s leading countries that offer their citizens life quality conditions far above from the global average, but also have the most restrictive immigration models. On the other hand, there is the vast majority of countries. Their developing economies, in more than just a few cases, offer humanitarian conditions that border on what might well be considered modern slavery. It is so that they can offer products at unfairly competitive prices in the international market.

In a context where goods and services can be provided and delivered internationally under an almost non-restrictions policy, humans find themselves increasingly restricted in terms of mobility and harshly restrained to freely decide where to live and, specially, under what conditions they should work.

The global international context shows how this model, consisting of an immigration restricted world governed by some few liberal economies, is one with a high tendency to inequality and wide – and constantly growing – gaps between wealth and poverty, power and vulnerability.

The economic dilemma

People living in developed economies live very differently than the vast majority of humans, representing little over 1.3 billion people. They are about only 15 % of world’s population, according to the International Monetary Fund’s definition for developing world countries.

provides us with some statistics that reflect into people’s daily, mid, and long-term life expectations, from a clear economical perspective. Numbers vary briefly depending on whether they are taken from the United Nations or the World Bank, but estimates are accurate enough for the scope of the present article.

Comparing both pictures, it is easy to dive into some numbers: while North America, Europe, Oceania, and Japan average a GBP of about $37.000 a year, this very same number scales down to $6.500 for the rest of the world.

Despite the costs of living being different, the reader might agree it is just not possible to live freely on the average US 6.500 annual income budget from the vast majority of yellow/red developing economies. Things taken for granted in developed economies, like holidays somewhere overseas once a year, are simply far out of reach for most people.

Why stay under unfair conditions?

The plain answer to that question is because people normally can’t simply choose anything else apart from the reality they live in. They find themselves hardly restricted in a world driven by visas: permits people need to be granted by governments to be legally allowed to migrate somewhere else.

Furthermore, the way visas evaluate candidates makes them widen social differences within developing economies because they target only their most professional skilled sectors. They tempt the most valuable sectors from developing economies offering professionals wider migration possibilities to the First World. This scope narrows possibilities for those non-essential, non-skilled workers in higher need for new opportunities though.

So inequality for mobility has reached unimaginable levels, with those who need it the most being the ones who have the least access to it.

The current situation in Afghanistan shines as the greater example. The news talk daily about how more and more Afghan citizens try to escape the poor humanitarian conditions they live under. As humanitarian help might reach out (only) a few thousand, the Afghan passport ranks today at the top bottom of the Global Passport Index. It is the weakest and most restrictive travel document in the world. So, Afghans are not allowed to move – nor work, less live permanently – somewhere else. They must necessarily rely on the very limited asylum visas.

How fair it is really for people that happened to be born in Afghan soil to have less mobility rights than any EU citizen holding an EU passport?

A few final thoughts

Along the 19th and 20th century, when visas and work permits were not yet implemented and migration was not so bureaucratically restricted, people used to have real freedom in this regard. It was by this time when Europe had the largest voluntary emigration period in documented history.

It is important to remember that within this international framework the great, diverse, modern, and flourishing world leading countries of today were created. By bringing diversity, immigration plays a key role in protecting our societies from extremism, racism, and discrimination. Maybe It is now time indeed, for us all to start protecting immigration once again.

Contributions by external authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors

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