Event Recap | Migration & Social Stability: is Demography Destiny?

Dr. Francois Heran presents at the Tower Center Sept. 17.

Migration is today’s reality; not only is the world becoming more global, but people are becoming global too. People migrate for different reasons such as economic difficulties, regional conflicts, and political reasons. People are looking to migrate to improve their quality of life, create a better future for themselves and their children or to merely survive.

However, the question still remains of what affect does this movement of people have on societies and their demography?

On September 17th, SMU Tower Center’s guest Dr. Francois Heran met with a big crowd to talk about the history and current stance of migration in Europe and if there is any visible impact of these movements on demography in Europe. In the late 20th century, it was more common to see labor migrants in Europe, however with the start of 21st-century, migration has become a topic of human rights violations and regional conflicts. As a result, we can distinguish the type of migrations into two forms; Ordinary migration and Extraordinary migration. Dr. Heran classified ordinary migration as a result of marriage and family unification, as well as labor force of international students; whereas he described asylum seeking, economic exiles, and similar type of sudden and massive flows due to human rights violations or unsustainable economic hardship situations as extraordinary migrations. We mentioned that the first type of migration; ordinary migration is sustainable for a country and is beneficial in the long run. Extraordinary migration is also beneficial for a country, however, it is more difficult to maintain the sustainable level for a country since it develops suddenly and as a result of armed conflict or similar situations which create human rights violations. When this is the case, we have to focus on the causes of extraordinary migrations. These kinds of massive and sudden migration movements can become overwhelming for other countries’ economies and it is especially difficult to sustain for developing nations, as they are usually short on resources, or working on developing more resources according to their capacity.

Global economic vulnerabilities and authoritarian/xenophobe sentiments of leaders are also playing a big role on migration, and the acceptance rates of migrants into a public. We are living in a global economic environment, where the middle class, lower-middle class, and the working class see the biggest impacts of simple changes and fluctuations in status quo (such as cheap trade and surplus of cheap labor). Hence, massive and sudden migration movements continue to be a paradox of the international and domestic affairs. It is certain that when unacceptable human rights violations are happening and there are economic vulnerabilities and regional conflicts,  developed nations will keep seeing massive and sudden migration movements.

Global powers are able to develop effective policies which will benefit migrants, help developing nations  keep incoming migration movements in sustainable levels (which will not turn away asylum seekers and will not cause economic challenges for citizens), and eliminate conflicts and human rights violations. We have to mobilize resources and policies according to these interests.

Read Dr. Heran’s one-page brief.