What place do international migrations have in the future?

Enrique Ramirez, Sail N12, Incertain vent, 2020
Encased in thirty-eight frames, Sail N12, Incertain vent presents the past colors of an object that has sailed. The artist summons up the object's multiple meanings, at once flag, landmark and source of information on the world's rumors and ills. But the sail is above all a metonym for the migrant and his or her journeys. It's a "representation of displacement, of failed displacements", says Enrique Ramirez. The sail lies ... like a ship aground, floating on the sea, abandoned to the uncertain winds. A boat that has traveled a long way.
Enrique Ramirez, Sail N12, Incertain vent, 2020, Musée national de l'histoire de l'immigration, inv. 2020.44.1 © EPPPD-MNHI, Enrique Ramirez. Courtesy of the artist and Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels, Adagp, Paris, 2021

Types of migration

The possibility, or not, of being able to cross borders determines the type of migration. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, most East/West migrations took a pendular form, meaning short-term migrations, enabling a back-and-forth between homeland and country of immigration. Nowadays these also involve “privileged” migrants from the southern Mediterranean, and those who enjoy a special status (dual nationality, multiple-entry visas, business owners, entrepreneurs, intellectuals). On the other hand, restrictive visa policies are encouraging migrants to settle for the long-term, afraid that they will no longer be able to return to the country and bring their family there. Hence, paradoxically, border-closing policies are leading migrants to settle, whereas a relatively open border policy would help avoid, or at least reduce, long-term stays.

Problem or solution?

Due to the many imbalances across the planet, the globalisation of migrations is expected to continue. And there are many causes: new geopolitical threats around water or raw materials; dramatic consequences of external western interventions in the recent past (Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya) and perhaps to come; or events in Vladimir Putin’s Eastern Europe; repercussions of Jihadist actions  and violence, notably in Africa; demographic evolutions on a continental scale (African youth, European ageing); consequences of environmental crises and climate deregulation…
Immigration will hold an important place in current and future globalisation. Given that fact, does it make sense to stick with our preconceptions, negative prejudices and to ignore the many aspects encompassed by international migrations which, by 2030, will impact the everyday lives, future – and mobility – of over 8 billion residents of the planet, and some 10 billion by 2050? Can we turn it into a solution rather than a problem? Can we imagine, as novelist Mohamed Mbougar Sarr suggests in Le Silence du Chœur (Éd. Présence Africaine), a community of destiny, a world shared between migrant-nomads and settled populations?

International migrations occupy and will continue to occupy a central place in the future of mankind. Helping people realise that – through education and information – will constitute a first step. Because we will need to go further, advance to the point of creating new approaches, overturning the old paradigms, changing the way people see things, and replacing the logic of walls, suspicion, fear and, ultimately, suffering and death, with policies capable of mobilising positivity, the advantages and energy inherent in international migrations. The challenges are many: protecting the migrants themselves, reassuring and informing populations in the host countries, ensuring everyone’s well-being, not forgetting the socio-economic challenges for the departure and arrival countries, for example rethinking the link between emigration and development – all other things being equal… starting with “bad governance” in Africa and elsewhere.

Does that in fact require questioning a world order that refuses to budge when it comes to State sovereignty over the control of immigration? In 2008, Catherine Wihtol de Wenden again raised the issue of creating an international governance of migrations. Along with Bertrand Badie, Rony Brauman, Emmanuel Decaux and Guillaume Devin, she invited people to adopt “a different way of looking at migrations” (La Découverte, 2008). And all this in a world that has become a global village, inevitably connected and interdependent, in which mobilities, however tiny they may be in percentage terms, participate in the irrigation of the world.

Mustapha Harzoune, 2022