• Is it your right to migrate?

    Close-up of ocean water with ripples and a setting sun against a blue sky

    Is migration a moral right? Not for birds or whales, but for people. It’s a given that non-humans can migrate, but can people? The knee-jerk response is usually two-fold:

    1. Are we talking about rich, educated people or poor, uneducated ones?
    2. I am a liberal or a conservative?

    Imagine you were this kind of migrant…

    You’re born in the wrong place

    You enter the world within the political borders of a state that’s not America, western European, Australia, New Zealand or a few others places. You don’t even have parents or grandparents from places like that. 

    Your parents are dirt poor

    Welcome to the majority! Dirt poor in the countries people like to get out of means no education worth mentioning. It means no college, no degree and sure as hell no semester away at an American or European institution. 

    Make something of yourself!

    Wherever you are in the world, so the free market aspiration goes, you can make something of yourself. What? Are there no entrepreneurs in Eritrea? Of course there are! But social mobility outside well-run functioning states is seriously stalled by small corrupt elites controlling most routes to wealth. 

    Can people globalise, too?

    If that were you, would you grant yourself the moral right to migrate? Or would it just be hard cheese? Make the most of Malawi, mate. 

  • Britain isn’t what it used to be

    Terraced streets in small-town England
    Where have all the children gone?

    A few weeks ago, something extraordinary began happening on my street — a standard issue redbrick Victorian terraced street in a provincial English town. Children started playing among the crowded parked cars. Where there had been only silence interrupted by the occasional revved engine, suddenly there were children’s voices. But they weren’t speaking English.

    The fruits of immigration

    The lament is a common one — not only among my more elderly English neighbours, but across the country. I’ve heard that the street isn’t what it used to be, presumably meaning that the people have changed, since the bricks and mortar certainly haven’t. I’ve also heard the dreamy reminiscence of when children used to be able to play in the street.

    Not anymore. Fear — of traffic, of strangers, of the generalised paedophilic threat — has emptied the street of most kids. But here were a whole host of kids — from late teenage right down to little nippers not much older than my son — riding every wheeled contraption they could find in and out of the parked cars. It was like the 1940s come back to life and put through a prism.

    “Listen to the cosmic laughter in the wind” Robert Newman, circa 1990s

    There is a beautiful irony to the fact that a street in this staunchly Brexit region has had a little slice of yesterday’s Britain resuscitated for it courtesy of its new immigrant arrivals. I don’t suppose it’ll stop the grumbles, but it can’t help make you smile. My son — still just too toddler to join in — thinks it’s the most exciting street entertainment he’s ever seen. Better than telly.