• 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. 

  • Stockholm’s integration problem

    Stockholm streets
    Even your favourite cities have their blind spots (Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash)

    I love Stockholm. I’ve lived there, worked there and been charmed since my first visit by a lifestyle that seemed to me the world’s best-kept secret. Why, oh why, did no one ever tell me about this place?

    We always see the weaknesses in the things we love. Places we’ve never been can be mocked with cliché, but a place known is revealed, and it came as no surprise when I read Monocle’s Annual Quality of Life survey this month — in which Stockholm always appears — and it sounded a note of caution.

    Among the 25 cities selected for the best quality of life on the planet, Stockholm came in a respectable 11th, with the caveat that:

    “segregation remains a serious issue that no one seems to have a solution for”.

    I lived there way back in 2001, in that distant pre-9/11 world, yet in my short time among Swedes in the city, I was struck by the integration problem. I was also confused. How could a country world-renowned for its liberalism and equality have such difficulties with the migrants in its midst?

    I lived among affluent, liberal, young Swedes. Their instincts were impeccable. They were warm, open-minded and thoroughly right-on. But they had a blind spot: Islam. They were tolerant of anything but that, by the simple logic that it appeared to them to be intolerant and oppressive.

    By an ironic twist of fate, the vast majority of migrants to Sweden at the time were from Muslim countries in the Middle East and South Asia. There is a suburb in Stockholm called Rinkeby and its name was a byword for the undesirable, the unwanted and the best avoided.

    It revealed a wider issue that perhaps permeates the relatively small and cohesive populations of Scandinavia generally — that if you weren’t ‘white’ or ‘native’ or ‘Swedish’ Swedish (whatever you want to call it), you could never be truly Swedish.

    This was true for me, of course, as an Englishman, yet I was aware that I was already more integrated (as a white European) than many non-white Swedes who had lived there much longer than me. It is sad to see that it is still being flagged as a serious issue in 2018.

    Disclaimer: Living in Brexit Britain, as I now do, this perspective is not offered from the comfort of superiority. I know Britain even better than I know Sweden, and as a result, know its weaknesses even more deeply.