07 November 2005

Never mind the consequences

Lives and livelihoods are subject to insecurities. And, this fact is particularly true for the billions who inhabit the developing countries. In countries like Mexico or Bangladesh, where millions of people work in the agricultural sector, whose incomes from production suffer everyday due to market fluctuations and recessions, this problem takes on a serious note. Added to this are the insecurities of the millions who are unemployed, and those who work without proper employment contracts.

Unlike developed nations, most developing countries don’t even have formal social protection mechanisms like social security or unemployment benefits or healthcare endowments of any kind. When income from agricultural production suffers, or jobs disappear, people have little to fall back on. The need for food, water, shelter, healthcare become powerful drivers for migration to urban areas, or across borders. For many, crossing international borders in the search of income opportunities seems like the only answer… no matter what the consequences are.

And what consequences are we talking about? The US-Mexico border is a case in point.

Illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border has always been a problem for the United States. Border patrols have been active for decades, but over the years have become mired in corruption. So, a new strategy is in place. On the US-Mexico border, the US government has decided to deploy military troops (over 10,000 soldiers in the last count), besides the usual border patrol, to stem cross-border migration. Some fear, these troops are not trained to help or save people, but rather to engage illegal immigrants in combat – to search and destroy, and to kill.

Even farmers and ranchers in Arizona, Texas and California have decided to take matters in their own hands. Not only have they driven illegal immigrants off their properties, some ranchers have even shot the aliens and left them to die in the desert. Imagine having to live through poverty in your own country, then heat-strokes and dehydration in the desert – even hypothermia at night – only to be shot down like dogs when you’re closer to civilization… and to living your dreams!

This, of course, has increased tensions between the two countries. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has stepped in. Human rights activists and the media are out there doing their jobs, but no solution seems to be in sight. Meanwhile, cross-border migration continues unabated, never mind the consequences.

Closer home, illegal immigrants across the Indo-Bangladesh border perhaps face a similar predicament.

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