Migration and its Discontents

Last week, I caught a sound bite on the radio of David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, saying ‘British jobs for British workers’. Immigration, is yet again, a major theme in UK politics. Being one of the main concerns for voters, it never strays far from the centre of attention. It was a key theme in Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions with regard to the backlog of asylum seekers and the EU laws. But this is not an issue only relevant to the UK. Movement of people started with the migration out of the Horn of Africa 1.8 million years ago and migration has been a key issue ever since. This is the reason why humans have populated each continent. In 2007, the UN estimated that there were 200 million migrants globally, including 9 million refugees.

Each migrant comes from a source and will leave due to a variety of push factors such as poverty or the pull factors of better prospects elsewhere. Some countries will encourage their nationals to leave as Morocco, Turkey and the Philippines did in the 1960s as economists thought this would help development as it would ease overpopulation and result in remittances. This had little factual evidence and the wave of labour does more good for the host country than the source. Other people have little choice but to leave. In the UK last week, Ed Miliband, the leader of the UK Labour Party, drew attention to the fact that the number of asylum seekers awaiting a decision has risen by 70% in the last year. They seek asylum, safety, freedom not free money, no matter how the media portrays them.

No matter the reason for leaving, record numbers of migrants are crossing the Mediterranean and record numbers are dying in this process. This highlights the pressing issue which migration can be. Yet this death and desperation is covered far less frequently than people whining about how migrants are scrounging from the welfare state. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of people come here to work and not claim benefits.

Life for an asylum seeker or even an economic migrant, especially for those from outside Europe, is difficult. The journey over is a desperate one as the multiple shipwrecks and bodies washed up on Libyan shores attest. Smuggling across the Mediterranean has increased drastically in the last decade. The majority come from Eritrea, Syria, Mali, Nigeria, The Gambia, Somalia, Egypt, Palestine, Pakistan and Senegal and they are either trying to escape conflict, personal persecution or abject poverty.   Getting to the shores of North Africa is only part of the difficulty. Sometimes, the smugglers give the keys of a boat to the migrants, with no sailing experience, and to leave them to cross the Sea on their own. The Italians set up Mare Nostrum to patrol the Mediterranean because of the high death toll. They rescue stricken boats, drop the passengers in Italy and turn a blind eye to their lack of citizenship.

So let that bring us now to migration within Europe. The lucky migrants who reach Italy, continue on, and they need somewhere to go. They have worked hard and risked so much to get here. Whether you feel that they deserve it or not, they arrive in a place which they thought would be better than their home, for whatever reason. So let us now look at the borders within the EU which David Cameron, last week, says he wants to close – or at least put a mesh up through which only the rich can pass. He wants to put restrictions in place so that the common right to free movement is tied to the wealth of the potential source country. That is, those from poorer countries and so the ones with more need to move, have increased restrictions upon their mobility. The rich, as always, can visit or live anywhere they choose.

The EU is supposed to be a community. There are not any limits on a family moving to a different part of a city – a part which is better suited to their needs and tastes. Or across the country, and goodness knows megacities are swamped by migrants far above any estimates of their carrying capacity. These do not have specified limits. They respect the idea that people move to seek out a better life. So why then, do our borders try to restrict the movement of those with the virtuous goal of a better life, who plan to be a hard-working, taxpaying citizen? And these borders were often arbitrarily drawn onto a map with a rule and pen or are the legacy of long distant wars. Obviously, there are many exceptions but still, borders are decided from above, not the individuals on the ground, yet it is these individuals who have their lives and experiences defined by the side of an invisible line on which they live.

The EU was set up with the free movement of its people as a central tenant. As José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European commission, explained, they would be flouting this if they gave into David Cameron’s plan which is in turn him giving into pressure from Nigel Farage and the far right of UK politics. It is the right of any EU citizen to go live and work (or retire) in another part of the EU.

And it is not as if the UK receives nothing in return for allowing people to live amongst other people in a part of Europe where, as luck would have it, they weren’t born. Firstly, the host country gets people who are generally young and have energy (and at the beginning, optimism). These people, by moving, have made a massive investment n their future and have taken a huge and scary step. They aren’t going to sit idly by and scrounge benefits happily when they came here to work. So they take jobs far below them and work cheaply.

So here’s where the British jobs for British workers sound bite comes in and my main disagreement with nationalism. If you are hiring someone and you have two candidates, you should choose the person most suited for the job, the person you and the rest of the team feel you would get along best with, the person who will do the work well. Race should not come into it. Positive or negative discrimination should not come into it.

The other side of the labour coin is that British companies can also go to Europe. On one side, labour is free to move; on the other, capital and corporations. If you limit labour, the free movement of corporations becomes highly unjust.

But don’t think that I am skating over the costs of immigration to the host country. Yes, it is far more pressure on our resources, whether this be jobs or our welfare system. My point is that such countries and systems, with a little ingenuity, have the capacity to cope with these extra demands. When you bring it down to the individual level, why should people be differentiated depending on where they are born? Should we not try to help as many people as possible?

There is also the point of emigration from the UK – you can’t have free migration out but not in. And we export our elderly which puts much more of a drain on other countries’ resources than young independent workers coming here.

Life is about taking the good things with the bad and trying to improve them as well as we can but if individuals did what was in their own best interests at the expense of all others, it wouldn’t sit well with the people around them. Take the bankers for example. They are hardly the most loved people of all time, are they?

Global democracy is about everyone being a citizen and everyone having the rights, which goes with that. These rights should be based on the fact of your existence and your inclusion within the human race not based on the luck of your birth.


Photo credit:  John Englart (Takver) https://www.flickr.com/photos/takver/9377527390/in/photostream/lightbox/

10 Airline Trends That Will Affect Fliers



Now may not seem like the best time to fly. Uncomfortable sardine-like rides, humiliating security checks, endless delays, and recent high-profile plane crashes may dissuade potential fliers. However, current trends across the airline industry are about to bring out more options and lower prices. With a little bit of planning and flexibility, these changes will improve the lot of many customers of the “friendly skies” across the world.


  1. The wave of mergers is finally stopping.

The last ten years have seen a wave of major airline mergers, especially in the United States: US Airways-America West, Delta-Northwest, United-Continental, Southwest-AirTran, and the ongoing American-US Airways. American, United, and Delta each have joint business agreements with airlines flying to Europe and Asia, allowing them to coordinate schedules and fares. Groups of European Airlines: British Airways/Iberia, Air France/KLM; and Lufthansa/Austrian/Swiss, are managed as a single airline and have price-fixing power, even though they appear separate to customer. For a while, governments softened their antitrust enforcement in order to enable airlines to stay alive amidst increased price of jet fuel and the Great Recession. But now that many airlines have seen their financial performance improve, this global antitrust leniency is about to end. While these mergers have hurt customers through increased airfares, they have also given passengers better schedules and access to more international destinations. As mergers come to a halt, so will these mostly harmful, but sometimes helpful effects on customers.


  1. Low-cost carriers are entering new markets.

Low-cost carriers such as Frontier Airlines and Ryanair, offering no-frills service at discounted prices, once existed only on a few short routes in Europe and the U.S. However, the game is quickly changing as Southwest opens up routes to Mexico and Scandinavian carriers such as Norwegian and Wow Air offer sub-$200 one-way fares from the U.S. to Europe. Low-costs are also becoming more popular in Asia and Brazil, appealing to the rising middle classes there. All travelers should welcome these additions, whether they fly on these low-costs or not. Even those willing to pay slightly more for improved service and frequent flier benefits should see increased pressure on established legacy airlines to lower their prices.


  1. Legacy airlines are charging fees the same way as low-costs.

Established legacy airlines are emulating the successful models of low-cost airlines. While lowering their base fares, airlines charge for everything from food to advance seat assignments to checked bags and often do not offer refunds or frequent-flier miles on their lowest fares. Those traveling without checked bags and who do not mind tight seats should welcome the lower fares, while those who want these benefits might end up paying more than before. As the gap in low-cost and legacy carriers’ fare structures closes, the two types of airlines are still very different. Low-cost airlines are targeted towards leisure travelers with networks focused on massive tourist destinations, usually on seasonal or weekend-only bases. Low-costs are absent on most longhaul routes between major world cities, focusing instead on shorthaul routes and a small amount of longhaul leisure routes using “beach fleets.” Also, low-costs in Europe especially are often based at secondary airports far from the city, increasing travel cost and time. Legacy airlines are still the superior choice for business travelers due to their more frequent schedules, coverage of routes between major cities, frequent-flier programs, and first and business class cabins.


  1. Premium economy cabins are giving customers an additional choice.

Passengers in economy class have more reasons than ever to feel jealous. While legroom has shrunk and seat recline has become a new battleground in coach, first class customers are experiencing better-than-ever restaurant-quality meals and flat-bed seats. However, these changes are the signs not of a growing class divide, but of more varied options for customers. In between the most bare-bones economy cabins and the most luxurious premium cabins, airlines now have intermediate premium economy offerings. These cabins, originally introduced by Taiwan’s EVA Air, are becoming the norm on most international airlines. Carriers previously without the cabin, such as Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, are now adding it. Premium economy generally consists of a small separate cabin of wider seats with more legroom and recline, as well as shorter check-in lines and higher-quality meals sometimes. Some airlines do not offer a separate cabin but have several rows of seats with additional legroom, free for their top-tier frequent fliers and available to other customers for a small extra fee. This trend should help customers by offering them a greater variety of options to suit diverse budgets and tastes.


  1. Improved business class is replacing first class on most international routes.

While domestic first class usually means a meal and a wider seat, international first and business class are a completely different experience. Seats reclining fully into flat beds, offering maximum comfort for both working and relaxing, have become the norm on most major airlines in business class. Because new business class seats are superior to many old first class seats, most airlines are cutting or severely trimming it. First class is surviving only on a few routes with sufficient demand, mostly between large markets such as New York, Los Angeles, London, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, and Sydney. There, airlines are competing for the most outlandish offerings. Emirates Airline offers an onboard shower, Asiana Airlines and Thai Airways’s seats have sliding doors on the outside of the suite, and Lufthansa adds to the ground experience by having a separate first class terminal and driving passengers to their flights in luxury cars. Though full-fare prices for these cabins can cost over $10,000, frequent flier miles offer a way to experience this luxury at much lower price tags.


  1. Frequent flier programs are changing their earning and spending structures.

Though all their complex fine print may seem daunting at first, frequent flier programs offer free flight tickets, upgrades to higher classes of service, access to VIP lounges, and other great benefits to loyal customers. Unfortunately, airlines devalue their mileage currencies with little or no forewarning, which has even been the subject of class-action lawsuits. Delta and United have also recently switched to a system of awarding miles to customers based on the money they spend, not the distance they fly. Despite this, earning miles through credit card signup bonuses has become easier, with some cards offering bonuses large enough for a free round-trip ticket from North America to Europe! Most frequent-flier program experts recommend redeeming miles for longhaul flights in premium cabins and using the miles right after accumulating them, since airlines can devalue them at a moment’s notice.


  1. Airlines are focusing more on flights out of hubs and less on point-to-point routes.

Southerners in the U.S. like to say that after death, someone going to either Heaven or Hell will have to change planes in Atlanta to get there. This hub-and-spoke system is gradually erasing almost all point-to-point routes. In the U.S., where major airlines each have over five hubs, mergers have led to the removal of flights from unprofitable hubs such as Memphis, St. Louis, and Cleveland, and, according to prediction from aviation analysts, Phoenix may be next on the chopping block. Less populous countries cannot sustain a hub network of flights out of more than one city; British Airways has acquired the nickname “London Airways,” and Japanese airlines have eliminated nearly all of their non-Tokyo flights. This is bad news for fliers based in cities losing flights but good for others, who will see greater frequencies and better connecting opportunities through strengthened hubs. Customers originating in or going to smaller cities will likely need to transit in a hub on the way to anywhere else.


  1. Young fleets are offering modern amenities.

Airlines are switching to modern, more fuel-efficient aircraft to save costs. These new airplane models, such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER, come equipped notably with updated entertainment systems. The most radical improvements come on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Now that Boeing has fixed the major issues initially plaguing it, customers can enjoy the improved air pressure and larger windows of the aircraft. Tighter seat configurations in economy are a main drawback, but fliers can purchase upgrades to seats with extra legroom or higher travel classes.


  1. Middle Eastern airlines continue to expand and seize key markets.

Four Middle Eastern airlines: Emirates Airline in Dubai, Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, Qatar Airways in Doha, and Turkish Airlines in Istanbul, are expanding at a very rapid rate. Each has been adding about three new American destinations per year, providing opportunities for connections to India, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. While European and Asian airlines are furious to see these new entrants claw at their business, the increased offerings are excellent for customers. Those flying these airlines will see affordable top-notch service on modern planes, while those flying other airlines will see lower fares due to the increased competition.


10. Third-party sites are simplifying travel planning.

Expedia, Kayak, and Hipmunk are some of the travel sites that have revolutionized the booking process by eliminating the need for travel agents and enabling fliers to search the Web themselves to find the lowest fares and make their own bookings. Now, a new generation of startups is going one step further to help customers. Yore Oyster, Zyppos, and Flightfox are using their teams’ expertise to piece together complex itineraries beyond the scope of automated system, such as round-the-world trips stopping in all seven wonders of the world. Some companies use their teams’ collective brains; others crowdsource and have their experts compete to optimize the customer’s wishes. For a minimal fee, customers can outsource their travel planning to specialized online travel agents and go without hassle to enjoy their destinations.

Risking Life to Run for Presidency in Somalia

Dayib aiming to become first female president in Somalia-Picture by Kotiliesi
Dayib aiming to become first female president in Somalia-Picture by Kotiliesi

She is quite, warm and usually carries herself with a smile. From her looks, one’s first guess would be that she is a model. Well she was once a model as a young woman, but has spent most of her adult life working with the United Nations in various countries. And now, Fadumo Dayib, 42, a Master in Public Administration student at Harvard Kennedy School is eying Somalia’s presidency.

It is hard to tell from afar that this sweet spoken lady is built for what would obviously be a tough battle for presidency in the insecure Somalia. But sitting down with her for an interview, it is clear not even the possibility of assassination would stop her from running.

“I understand the challenges that are attached to this. Wherever you are in the world if you are aspiring to run for political office, as a woman, you will face the same challenges.

“In Somalia, because of the instability, those challenges could be a bit harsher which means that you could actually lose your life. But I am not worried about that,” explained Dayib.

Now a mother of 4, Dayib has lived both in and outside Somalia. She has ever lived as a refugee in Kenya, and later sought asylum in Finland where she is now a citizen.

Somalia goes to the polls in 2016, the first time since 1967 that citizens will directly cast their vote for a president. In 2009 and 2012, presidents were elected through parliament due to instability in the country.

The election in 2016 would be the first democratic election for many Somali youths, whom Dayib banks her support on and puts on her agenda.

“As a young person, I represent the segments of the Somali population. I understand their sentiments, I can empathize with them because I have been there every stage of my life,” says the confident Dayib.

She says she is running because she wants to help her country not to have a second generation that has no sense of stability.

The current government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has faced a lot of attacks by the Al-shabab millitants, with politicians often being targeted.

This year alone, the Al-Shabab millitants have claimed responsibility in the killing of five Somali lawmakers, including Mohamed Mohamud Heyd on June 4, female lawmaker Saado Ali Warsame on July 24 and Aden Madeer on August 2.

But even that does not frighten Dayib, who plans to go back Somalia for the campaign. She says:

“I am very serious about this to the extent that I am willing to go in an unstable environment without my family and the people I care for the most to do this. And that shows you how serious I am.”


Bringing Death to Light: Is There a ‘Right’ to Die?

Let’s talk about death. Outside of the realm of science-fiction, the fact remains that everyone will die. Yet how and when we die can often be made subject to human control, and thus these still remain sensitive topics. The recent assisted suicide of two twin brothers from Belgium has brought the question of euthanasia back to the forefront of contemporary debate, reminding us that these issues continue to be controversial. Continue reading

Understanding the Changes in Consumer Preferences

Food safety, healthier eating, and a more active lifestyle are a growing issue of concern in the United States. According to a Deloitte survey in 2010, nearly three quarters (73 %) of Americans are more concerned now about the food they eat than they were five years ago. The U.S. domestic news cycle for the first week of 2014 has been filled with issues surrounding the safety of the food supply and a push back against GMO-containing products. Within the first few days of 2014, the news reported on the mandated shutdown of a meat-processing facility in Minnesota by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, legal action in Oregon against the makers of a vitamin supplement and the announcement by General Mills regarding its processing of a major cereal product. The growing popularity of store chains such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, and the increases in the amount of natural food line extension products, are indications of the shifting dynamics in consumer preferences in the U.S. Understanding the competitive nature of the global food industry means understanding changing consumer preferences and the food industry’s efforts to meet these demands. Food markets are constantly evolving, driven not only by changes in consumer preferences, but also, linkages between members of the food supply chains, prevailing policies, business environments and demographic trends. Changes in these preferences and perceptions may lessen the demand, reduce sales and potentially harm businesses. Continue reading

Photo: AslanMedia

Is the Rule of Law Fairly Applied to US Terror Suspects?

Five 9/11 prisoners are scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Sunday, January 27 in Guantánamo, Cuba. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed organizer of the September 11 terrorist attacks is among the accused, who also include Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, and Ramzi Binalshibh. All are suspected terrorist coordinators of the al-Qa’eda linked 9/11 attacks, and are accused of recruiting, training, and funding. Continue reading

Photo: isafmedia

Afghan Opium Brides

For the past decade, the Afghan government has been cracking down and destroying illegal poppy, leaving many farmers unable to pay back loans borrowed from drug traffickers to fund their opium farms. Afghans use the term “loan brides” to reference daughters given in marriage by fathers who have no other way out of debt. Continue reading

Photo: uncultured

Education Programs: An Encouraging Way to Reduce Gender Inequality

For a country plagued by a lengthy history of poverty and gender discrimination, Bangladesh has come a long way. Thanks to education and microfinance programs, the role of women in the country has dramatically evolved over the last two decades, leading the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to conclude that “if education were to be integrated on a massive scale with microfinance services for the very poor worldwide,” similar to the experience in Bangladesh, then their true potential will be recognized as they are offered “a dignified route out of poverty.” Continue reading