On the one hand there are now more refugees and stateless persons than ever before. On the other, the selling and buying of citizenship is a $25 billion a year global industry. Citizenship is viewed as an investment, marketed as such by its brokers. Wealthy Chinese who don’t feel safe in China, for example, or people who want to be able to travel freely within Europe or start a business there. More than half of the world’s countries have a program of citizenship through investment. In the US it costs $900,000 invested in a business that would create at least 10 jobs. In the UK it costs at least $2.5 million to buy a citizenship. Other countries are cheaper, although sometimes the cost can be surprising. Bulgaria’s is $560,000 close to that of Spain at $550,000 and the Caribbean islands from $150,000 or even in some cases $100,000. One of the most popular is the citizenship from Vanuatu which is $150,000, a program which is only 4 years old. It raises a lot of money for the tiny country which gained independence in the 1980’s and which can identify with what it means not to have a passport. It can take as little as a month and many of the people who have Vanuatu citizenship, which enables people to travel throughout Europe, have not even visited the tiny country made up of some 80 small islands in the Pacific.
One could say this business is a step, however distorted towards the notion of one world and it may slowly be causing a redefinition of what citizenship is—a point the marketers make. But regardless of how it is pitched, it is an option that benefits the rich and as such contributes to the inequalities of the world. It is also a business open to corruption. Couldn’t a drug lord buy a US citizenship, and at the very least use it to launder money? And so the issue of the buying and selling of citizenship begs the question: Are the minuses overshadowing the pluses?
A Stanford University study from the Hoover institution underlines some startling facts about migration in the past and more importantly for the future*. Migrants have fled poverty and conflicts and are slated to continue to do so. The point which we can all anticipate is that not only is it a situation that has greatly affected the politics of both Europe and the US it is also one that will not change and possibly worsen.
Whether it is in
Syria, Guatemala or Honduras, climate change driven drought set up a series of
events. They led to poverty, to social uprisings and political upheavals, to
migration which in turn led to border crises, unrest and issues such as those
we are seeing at the southern border. Besides climate change and its way of
creating or worsening events, a population explosion is foreseen in several
parts of the world, stressing water shortages and urban resources. When added to a growing proportion of young
people who can’t either have an education or find work the result is seen to be
more migration, more people escaping poverty, more political unrest. And the
conflicts that are foreseen are not only within the countries that are and will
be affected but also among several countries as we see now between Mexico and
The authors of the
report emphasize that this scenario is not inevitable if both rich and poor
countries practice good governance. If the countries involved invest in
education and job creation and if the rich countries facilitate a more prosperous
future for them, people will want to stay home instead of becoming migrants.
The point that is
made, one that to me is crucial, is the report’s recommendation that it is in the interest of
rich countries to help poorer ones to avoid all these consequences. Because
then both sides will benefit.
*From the May 17th
issue of Signal, the newsletter of GZERO Media
It’s easy to speak of the consequences of climate change, but being faced with potential numbers of one of its consequences is a wake-up call. The World Bank recently issued a Report “Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration” saying that if current trends continue and we do nothing by 2050, 143 million people would be climate change refugees. The reasons are due to causes we’ve already heard about: decreased crop productivity, water shortages and rising sea levels. Of course Continue reading “Climate Change Migration”