Faculty Overview: The Complexities of Migration

By Dr. Carolyn Haggis, professor of transnational security studies, and Dr. Petra Weyland, professor of Middle Eastern affairs, Marshall Center

In June 2015, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued its headline-busting report titled “Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2014.” It revealed that at the end of 2014, “59.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations.” This was the highest level of displacement ever recorded. If these 59.5 million were a nation, it would be the 24th most populous nation in the world. While media attention has focused on large-scale flows to Europe, the overwhelming majority of forcibly displaced people remain in developing regions close to migrants’ countries of origin.

As UNHCR statistics show, migration is a major challenge facing the world today. It is a byproduct of armed conflict, civil wars, persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, poverty, climate change and hopelessness in the face of widespread corruption. Unless we find solutions to these challenges, migration flows will continue and likely accelerate.

Given the magnitude of the challenge and indications that it worsened in 2015, this edition of per Concordiam examines migrant flows from the viewpoint of sending, receiving and transit countries. For sending countries, the current large-scale flows mean they are losing precious human resources: their youth and many highly educated and skilled citizens with the means to the make the journey. The scale of this conundrum in the Western Balkans is highlighted in an article by Dr. Valbona Zeneli and Joseph Vann. For receiving countries, they must cope with hundreds of thousands — sometimes millions — of people needing food, medical care, housing, schooling, jobs and language training, all while providing for their own citizens. Transit countries must also meet the needs of migrants and face the extra challenge of coordinating unpredictable flows of people with neighboring countries.

The migration challenge is analyzed from a historical perspective in the article by Anne Hammerstad, as well as from a legal perspective by Melina Lito and Kostas Karagatsos. Julie Arostegui introduces a look at migration through the lens of gender, reminding us that security and insecurity vary according to the roles one plays in society.

Since most per Concordiam readers are security sector professionals, the interrelationship between migration and security is much discussed in this edition. Two noteworthy pieces are written by academic scholars connected to the Marshall Center. Sam Mullins, professor of counterterrorism, writes about the link between jihadist terrorism and migration. And retired Rear Adm. Alberto Cervone, the Marshall Center’s first Italian faculty member, discusses how transnational criminal organizations have flourished under current restrictive migration policies.

To better understand how governments and citizens are coping with unprecedented migratory flows, we reached out to four alumni to learn about their countries’ experiences. These commentaries, captured in the article “Alumni in their Own Words,” are a highlight of this issue.

Finally, since many per Concordiam readers have spent time in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the picturesque Bavarian town that houses the Marshall Center, we interviewed Mayor Dr. Sigrid Meierhofer to learn how this corner of Germany has been impacted. Dr. Meierhofer’s overall message was one of optimism: The refugees represent an opportunity, not a security threat.

As all of the articles in this edition underline, what is needed are integrated, multidimensional solutions to the challenges posed by mass migration, not quick fixes. Politicians cannot address these challenges alone, nor can security professionals, the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration or the International Committee of the Red Cross. Ultimately, the outcome rests with citizens of all countries.

Given the Marshall Center’s location and its long-running focus on European security affairs, this issue also analyzes the migration challenge from the perspective of European unity and identity. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe embarked on the unique project of tearing down barriers, offering its citizens the freedom to move without hindrance. Twenty-five years later, Europe is asking fundamental questions about its future. To what degree should human rights, a cornerstone of the European project, be curtailed to enhance national and regional security? Can key European principles of democracy, peace, unity and economic liberty withstand the influx of millions who come from different political, social and economic environments? The answers to these questions are not obvious, and the migration challenge has mercilessly revealed the incompleteness of the European Union project and the complexity of forging common responses. Today, the viability of the Schengen Area is in serious doubt, and anti-EU sentiments are spreading.

We hope you enjoy this edition as much as we enjoyed putting it together.  ο