The "Other" Migrant crisis

Across the world, migration is a hot-button issue that evokes passionate responses among citizens and politicians alike. From America, to Italy, western States are grappling with the relentless surge of migrants from less developed countries.

The full blown crisis on Europe’s borders which sees thousands of migrants rescued from harrowing journeys across the Mediterranean almost every week recently caused the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, to call out some of his peers in the  European Union on their refusal to agree to a shared responsibility for the situation.

Beyond the alarming trend of desperate migrants braving hazardous conditions on high risk voyages for a shot at a better life, another silent migrant crisis lurks nearby. This is the dilemma of undocumented immigrants who lead double lives as peaceful citizens while hiding in plain sight.

Driven by the desire for a better life in the West, many respectable individuals have found themselves in the undesirable situation of effectively living as fugitives in their countries of residence due to their illegal statuses. Under intense pressure to survive, they resort to criminal practices from arranged marriages and impersonation to identity theft and credit card fraud, amidst a host of other crimes. Desperate and vulnerable, many fall victim to local gangs who take advantage of their misfortune to recruit and use them as mules to service the criminal organisation.

Engaging with some of these individuals and learning about their backgrounds, it’s hard to understand why they have chosen to live such harrowing lives when there is a real possibility that they could be better off in their home countries.

A case in point is the story of an African lady I recently came across. She had visited Britain several years ago and become so enchanted by the society that she desired to remain indefinitely. Having explored avenues to remain legally with no success, she elected to remain beyond the period for which she was legally allowed and consequently ran afoul of the law. She continued to seek ways to remedy the situation and later got romantically involved with a British citizen whom she hoped to marry. Believing that she had found a way out, her hopes were dashed when she became pregnant and her partner refused to accept responsibility for the child. He proceeded to end the relationship, and left with little or no alternative, she entered an arrangement with a purveyor of false identities who issued her an identity and documents of a legal resident to enable her find work in exchange for a percentage of her monthly income. The arrangement worked fine until the benefactor randomly pulled the plug and refused to honour the agreement. She has since been left with no source of income or means to work despite having a baby to care for; an awfully precarious state of life.

This is just one example of the unwarranted hardship that many undocumented migrants face. While it is a justifiable argument that most of these circumstances are self-inflicted, the moral premise that compels action to rescue those who embark on risky voyages across the Mediterranean can be extended to justify action to address the situation of those that are already embedded within communities of Western nations.

Migration is an issue that must be addressed pro-actively with nations that are affected owning the responsibility to take concerted action on implementing policies that address the issue. Western governments must rise to the task of addressing this challenge in their domains by taking an empathetic view in dealing with cases of undocumented migrants, some of who are reluctantly engaged in criminal activity.

The broader solution to this crisis lies in the development of the third world, which is proving to be the single biggest challenge of humanity. Unless progress is made in fighting corruption and actually developing functional societies in less developed countries, migration could well become a modern plague in the digital age.

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