The tendency to pin society against immigrants is indeed not new, nor surprising. We see every day in the media migrants portrayed as the bad ones. On the news, we only see coverage related to an illegal border crossing, asylum seekers with no intention to integrate, or economic migrants that are coming to Europe to take advantage of any welfare state. This topic started to be explored in 2015 and further, hand in hand with the influx of Syrian refugees due to the ongoing war in the Middle East. This is the reason why many think that international migration is indeed something that started in 2015 and has not existed before. In this article, I will try to provide nothing else but historical facts to prove that international migration or mass movements of people is a phenomenon that has always existed, not something that has begun in the 21st century, and to persuade you that migrants can be and are useful for building the nation-state, which is why I strongly suggest the media to change their rhetorics to more human and welcoming one.

What we need to keep in our minds is that the world became populated by migration. If it was not for migration, all of us would most likely still live somewhere in East Africa. In history, migration was perceived as something normal and natural. The territory was usually shared and/or borrowed and people were constantly on the move, whether it was for the conquest of a certain territory, searching for better economic opportunities, or maybe the most frequent and basic reason – hunting. 

The first evidence of human movement goes back 2 million years. Homo erectus for the first time (from what we know at least) left its home, East Africa, and colonized other parts of the world, such as other parts of Africa, the Middle East, South China, and the Caucasus. Another example of mass movements of people from history is Haan from China or Vikings, who left today’s Scandinavia and went on a search to today’s England, Southern Europe, and Northern Africa. Another perfect example is The Roman Empire which was purely built on immigration and was perceived as a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities. I remember what my teacher once told me – try to imagine the map of the world a thousand years ago – everything was completely different! Spain was inhabited by Arabs and was to a large extend Muslim or Ukraine as we know it today was occupied by Turks and later on by Osman Empire. Let’s take the example of South and North America – this continent was still undiscovered, inhabited only by the natives. To conclude, history has a much different perspective on the issue of migration compared to today’s reality. 

To convince you, readers, that migration is indeed natural, it might be beneficial to use more current examples. Let’s take a look at the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution which is best known by the free movement of not only capital and goods, but by the free movement of humans. Travel prices significantly decreased and transportation technologies increased. Suddenly, even the poorest were able to purchase a train or a boat ticket and go to a neighboring country or even further. This is also the period when masses of people started moving to the Americas for a better future, because of the catastrophic seasonal harvest (e.g. potato famine in Ireland) or for the dream of becoming independent farmers. From 1840 to 1940 about 55 to 58 million people migrated there, mostly dominated by Germans, Italians, British, and Scandinavians. In today’s context, the tables have turned and these above-mentioned countries are the most popular countries for immigrants. 

The 19th century, however, is also significant for other maybe less known but equally important movements of people – around 46-51 million people moved from Northeastern Asia and Russia to Central Asia, Manchuria, and Japan. More than 48 million people left their homes in Southern China and India for rubber plantations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Most of them were very poor people who signed to work on the plantations for a fixed time getting very little or no wage at all. Usually, after three years they became free people and did not have to work on the plantations anymore.

The most significant change in the sphere of migration happened during and after the First World War. All countries started to impose brutal restrictions on the movement of people and were very careful about whom to let in. Likewise, World War II. produced millions of refugees and internally displaced people who moved from one deprived place to another deprived place which was not very much supported by the locals or governments, as they struggled to survive. Therefore, during the two wars, migration stopped being seen as a thing that can produce something good, but rather as a burden. That is how asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants, in general, became the new face of migration which lasted until this day. New, until the 20th century, unknown xenophobic fears and the fear of losing sovereignty prevailed.

To conclude, I hope I managed to convince you that migration is indeed something that has accompanied people since the beginning of times and should not be seen today as something extraordinary, and refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants should not be perceived as burdens, but rather as a future or a room for improvement that can consequently bring improvements for any country. Let’s just all have a look at the United States of America – the country purely built on the migration of not only rich people but poor and uneducated as well. Despite this, the USA is today the world’s leading superpower. If we give room to the immigrants and we create preferable conditions for them and we try to integrate them into society, every other country could have the same fate as the US does.

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