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World Happiness Report 2018 – John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey D. Sachs.

The most striking finding is that a ranking of countries according to the happiness of their immigrant populations is almost exactly the same as for the rest of the population.

Happiness can change, and does change, according to the quality of the society in which people live.

The countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries, but instead the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives.

A higher value for migrant acceptance is linked to greater happiness for both immigrants and the native-born, by almost equal amounts.

Human psychology is complicated, and behavioural economics has now documented hundreds of ways in which people mispredict the impact of decisions upon their happiness. It does not follow that we should over-regulate their lives, which would also cause unhappiness. It does follow that we should protect people after they make their decisions, by ensuring that they can make positive social connections in their new communities (hence avoiding or reducing discrimination), and that they are helped to fulfill the dreams that led them to move in the first place.

The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The World Happiness Report 2018, ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, and 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants.

The main focus of this year’s report, in addition to its usual ranking of the levels and changes in happiness around the world, is on migration within and between countries.

The overall rankings of country happiness are based on the pooled results from Gallup World Poll surveys from 2015-2017, and show both change and stability. There is a new top ranking country, Finland, but the top ten positions are held by the same countries as in the last two years, although with some swapping of places. Four different countries have held top spot in the four most recent reports, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and now Finland.

All the top countries tend to have high values for all six of the key variables that have been found to support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. Among the top countries, differences are small enough that year-to-year changes in the rankings are to be expected.

The analysis of happiness changes from 2008-2010 to 2015-2015 shows Togo as the biggest gainer, moving up 17 places in the overall rankings from the last place position it held as recently as in the 2015 rankings. The biggest loser is Venezuela, down 2.2 points on the 0 to 10 scale.

Five of the report’s seven chapters deal primarily with migration, as summarized in Chapter 1. For both domestic and international migrants, the report studies not just the happiness of the migrants and their host communities, but also of those left behind, whether in the countryside or in the source country. The results are generally positive.

Perhaps the most striking finding of the whole report is that a ranking of countries according to the happiness of their immigrant populations is almost exactly the same as for the rest of the population. The immigrant happiness rankings are based on the full span of Gallup data from 2005 to 2017, sufficient to have 117 countries with more than 100 immigrant respondents.

The ten happiest countries in the overall rankings also are ten of the top eleven spots in the ranking of immigrant happiness. Finland is at the top of both rankings in this report, with the happiest immigrants, and the happiest population in general.

The closeness of the two rankings shows that the happiness of immigrants depends predominantly on the quality of life where they now live, illustrating a general pattern of convergence. Happiness can change, and does change, according to the quality of the society in which people live. Immigrant happiness, like that of the locally born, depends on a range of features of the social fabric, extending far beyond the higher incomes traditionally thought to inspire and reward migration.

The countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries, but instead the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives.

While convergence to local happiness levels is quite rapid, it is not complete, as there is a ‘footprint’ effect based on the happiness in each source country. This effect ranges from 10% to 25%. This footprint effect, explains why immigrant happiness is less than that of the locals in the happiest countries, while being greater in the least happy countries.

A very high proportion of the international differences in immigrant happiness (as shown in Chapter 2), and of the happiness gains for individual migrants (as studied in Chapters 3 and 5) are thus explained by local happiness and source country happiness.

The explanation becomes even more complete when account is taken of international differences in a new Gallup index of migrant acceptance, based on local attitudes towards immigrants, as detailed in an Annex to the Report.

A higher value for migrant acceptance is linked to greater happiness for both immigrants and the native-born, by almost equal amounts.

The report studies rural-urban migration as well, principally through the recent Chinese experience, which has been called the greatest mass migration in history. That migration shows some of the same convergence characteristics of the international experience, with the happiness of city-bound migrants moving towards, but still falling below urban averages.

The importance of social factors in the happiness of all populations, whether migrant or not, is emphasized in Chapter 6, where the happiness bulge in Latin America is found to depend on the greater warmth of family and other social relationships there, and to the greater importance that people there attach to these relationships.

The Report ends on a different tack, with a focus on three emerging health problems that threaten happiness: obesity, the opioid crisis, and depression. Although set in a global context, most of the evidence and discussion are focused on the United States, where the prevalence of all three problems has been growing faster and further than in most other countries.

Edited by John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey D. Sachs This publication may be reproduced using the following reference: Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2018). World Happiness Report 2018, New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Chapter 1

Happiness and Migration: An Overview

Increasingly, with globalisation, the people of the world are on the move; and most of these migrants are seeking a happier life. But do they achieve it? That is the central issue considered in this 2018 World Happiness Report. But what if they do? The migrants are not the only people affected by their decision to move. Two other major groups of people are affected by migration: • those left behind in the area of origin, and • those already living in the area of destination.

This chapter assesses the happiness consequences of migration for all three groups. We shall do this separately, first for rural-urban migration within countries, and then for international migration.

Rural-Urban Migration

Rural-urban migration within countries has been far larger than international migration, and remains so, especially in the developing world. There has been, since the Neolithic agricultural revolution, a net movement of people from the countryside to the towns. In bad times this trend gets partially reversed. But in modern times it has hugely accelerated.

The timing has differed in the various parts of the world, with the biggest movements linked to boosts in agricultural productivity combined with opportunities for employment elsewhere, most frequently in an urban setting. It has been a major engine of economic growth, transferring people from lower productivity agriculture to higher productivity activities in towns.

In some industrial countries this process has gone on for two hundred years, and in recent times rural-urban migration within countries has been slowing down. But elsewhere, in poorer countries like China, the recent transformation from rural to urban living has been dramatic enough to be called “the greatest mass migration in human history”. Over the years 1990-2015 the Chinese urban population has grown by 463 million, of whom roughly half are migrants from villages to towns and cities. By contrast, over the same period the increase in the number of international migrants in the entire world has been 90 million, less than half as many as rural to urban migrants in China alone.

Thus internal migration is an order of magnitude larger than international migration. But it has received less attention from students of wellbeing, even though both types of migration raise similar issues for the migrants, for those left behind, and for the populations receiving the migrants.

The shift to the towns is most easily seen by looking at the growth of urban population in developing countries (see Table 1.1). Between 1990 and 2015 the fraction of people in these countries who live in towns rose from 30% to nearly 50%, and the numbers living in towns increased by over 1,500 million people. A part of this came from natural population growth within towns or from villages becoming towns. But at least half of it came from net migration into the towns. In the more developed parts of the world there was also some rural-urban migration, but most of that had already happened before 1990.

International Migration

If rural-urban migration within countries is an age-old phenomenon, large-scale international migration has increased greatly in recent years due to globalisation (see Table 1.2). In 1990 there were in the world 153 million people living outside the country where they were born. By 2015 this number had risen to 244 million, of whom about 10% were refugees. So over the last quarter century international migrants increased by 90 million.

This is a large number, even if dwarfed by the scale of rural-urban migration. In addition, on one estimate there are another 700 million people who would like to move between countries but haven’t yet done so.

Of the increased number of recent migrants over a half comes from migration between continents (see Table 1.3). There were big migrations into North America and Europe, fuelled by emigration from South/Central America, Asia and Africa.

There were also important flows of international migrants within continents (see Table 1.4). In Asia for example there were big flows from the Indian sub-continent to the Gulf States; and in Europe there was the strong westward flow that has followed the end of Communism.

From the point of view of the existing residents an important issue is how many immigrants there are, as a share of the total population. This requires us to look at immigrants as a fraction of the total population. At the world level this has risen by a half in recent years (see Table 1.2).

But in most of the poorer and highly populous countries of the world the proportion of migrants remains quite low. It is in some richer countries that the proportion of immigrants is very high. In Western Europe, most countries have immigrants at between 10 and 15 per cent of the population. The same is true of the USA; while Canada, Australia and New Zealand have between 20 and 30%. The most extreme cases are the UAE and Kuwait, both over 70%.

Figure 1.1 shows the situation worldwide.

The Happiness of International Migrants

As already noted, migration within and between countries has in general shifted people from less to more productive work, and from lower to higher incomes. In many cases the differences have been quite extreme. International migration has also saved many people from extremes of oppression and physical danger, some 10% of all international migrants are refugees, or 25 million people in total.

But what can be said about the happiness of international migrants after they have reached their destination?

Chapter 2 of this report begins with its usual ranking and analysis of the levels and changes in the happiness of all residents, whether locally born or immigrants, based on samples of 1,000 per year, averaged for 2015-2017, for 156 countries surveyed by the Gallup World Poll. The focus is then switched to international migration, separating out immigrants to permit ranking of the average life evaluations of immigrants for the 117 countries having more than 100 foreign-born respondents between 2005 and 2017. (These foreign-born residents may include short-term guest workers, longer term immigrants, and serial migrants who shift their residency more often, at different stages of their upbringing, careers, and later lives).

So what determines the happiness of immigrants living in different countries and coming from different, other countries? Three striking facts emerge:

1. In the typical country, immigrants are about as happy as people born locally. (The difference is under 0.1 point out of 10). This is shown in Figure 1.2. However the figure also shows that in the happiest countries immigrants are significantly less happy than locals, while the reverse is true in the least happy countries. This is because of the second finding.

2. The happiness of each migrant depends not only on the happiness of locals (with a weight of roughly 0.75) but also on the level of happiness in the migrant’s country of origin (with a weight of roughly 0.25). Thus if a migrant goes (like many migrants) from a less happy to a more happy country, the migrant ends up somewhat less happy than the locals. But the reverse is true if a migrant goes from a more to a less happy country.

This explains the pattern shown in Figure 1.2, and is a general (approximate) truth about all bilateral flows. Another way of describing this result is to say that on average a migrant gains in happiness about three-quarters of the difference in average happiness between the country of origin and the destination country.

3. The happiness of immigrants also depends, importantly, on how accepting the locals are towards immigrants. (To measure acceptance local residents were asked whether the following were “good things” or “bad things”: having immigrants in the country, having an immigrant as a neighbour, and having an immigrant marry your close relative).

In a country that was more accepting (by one standard deviation) immigrants were happier by 0.1 points (on a 0 to 10 scale). Thus the analysis in Chapter 2 argues that
migrants gain on average if they move from a less happy to a more happy country (which is the main direction of migration). But that argument was based on a simple comparison of the happiness of migrants with people in the countries they have left.

What if the migrants were different types of people from those left behind? Does this change the conclusion? As Chapter 3 shows, the answer is, No.

In Chapter 3 the happiness of migrants is compared with individuals in their country of origin who are as closely matched to the migrants as possible and are thinking of moving. This again uses the data from the Gallup World Poll. The results from comparing the migrants with their look-a-likes who stayed at home suggests that the average international migrant gained 0.47 points (out of 10) in happiness by migration (as measured by the Cantril ladder). This is a substantial gain. But there is an important caveat: the majority gain, but many lose. For example, in the only controlled experiment that we know of, Tongans applying to migrate to New Zealand were selected on randomised basis. After moving, those who had been selected to move were on average less happy than those who (forcibly) stayed behind.

Migration clearly has its risks. These. include separation from loved ones,. discrimination in the new location, and a feeling of relative deprivation, because you now compare yourselfwith others who are richer than your previous reference group back home.

One obvious question is: Do migrants become happier or less happy the longer they have been in a country? The answer is on average, neither, their happiness remains flat. And in some countries (where this has been studied) there is evidence that second-generation migrants are no happier than their immigrant parents.

One way of explaining these findings (which is developed further in Chapter 4) is in terms of reference groups: When people first move to a happier country their reference group is still largely their country of origin. They experience an immediate gain in happiness. As time passes their objective situation improves (which makes them still happier) but their reference group becomes increasingly the destination country (which makes them less happy). These two effects roughly offset each other. This process continues in the second generation.

The Gallup World Poll excludes many current refugees, since refugee camps are not surveyed. Only in Germany is there sufficient evidence on refugees, and in Germany refugees are 0.4 points less happy than other migrants. But before they moved the refugees were also much less happy than the other migrants were before they moved.

So refugees too are likely to have benefitted from migration. Thus average international migration benefits the majority of migrants, but not all. Does the same finding hold for the vast of the army of people who have moved from the country to the towns within less developed countries?

The Happiness of Rural-Urban Migrants

The fullest evidence on this comes from China and is presented in Chapter 4. That chapter compares the happiness of three groups of people:

• rural dwellers, who remain in the country,

• rural-urban migrants, now living in towns, and

• urban dwellers, who always lived in towns.

Migrants have roughly doubled their work income by moving from the countryside, but they are less happy than the people still living in rural areas. Chapter 4 therefore goes on to consider possible reasons for this.

Could it be that many of the migrants suffer because of the remittances they send home? The evidence says No. Could it be that the people who migrate were intrinsically less happy? The evidence says No. Could it be that urban life is more insecure than life in the countryside, and involves fewer friends and more discrimination? Perhaps.

The biggest factor affecting the happiness of migrants is a change of reference group: the happiness equation for migrants is similar to that of urban dwellers, and different from that of rural dwellers. This could explain why migrants say they are happier as a result of moving, they would no longer appreciate the simple pleasures of rural life.

Human psychology is complicated, and behavioural economics has now documented hundreds of ways in which people mispredict the impact of decisions upon their happiness. It does not follow that we should over-regulate their lives, which would also cause unhappiness. It does follow that we should protect people after they make their decisions, by ensuring that they can make positive social connections in their new communities (hence avoiding or reducing discrimination), and that they are helped to fulfil the dreams that led them to move in the first place.

It is unfortunate that there are not more studies of rural-urban migration in other countries. In Thailand one study finds an increase in happiness among migrants, while in South Africa one study finds a decrease?

The Happiness of Families Left Behind

In any case the migrants are not the only people who matter. What about the happiness of the families left behind? They frequently receive remittances (altogether some $500 billion in 2015), but they lose the company and direct support of the migrant. For international migrants we are able to examine this question In Chapter 3.

This is done by studying people in the country of origin and examining the effect of having a relative who is living abroad. On average this experience increases both life-satisfactlon and positive affect. But there is also a rise in negative affect (sadness, worry, anger), especially if the migrant is abroad on temporary work. Unfortunately there is no comparable analysis of families left behind by rural-urban migrants who move to towns and cities in the same country.

The Happiness of the Original Residents in the Host Country

The final issue is how the arrival of migrants affects the existing residents in the host country or city. This is one of the most difficult issues in all social science.

One approach is simply to explain happiness in different countries by a whole host of variables including the ratio of immigrants to the locally born population (the “immigrant share”). This is done in Chapter 2 and shows no effect of the immigrant share on the average happiness of the locally born. It does however show that the locally born population (like immigrants) are happier, other things equal, if the country is more accepting of immigrants.

Nevertheless, we know that immigration can create tensions, as shown by its high political salience in many immigrant-receiving countries, especially those on migration trails from unhappy source countries to hoped-for havens in the north.

Several factors contribute to explaining whether migration is welcomed by the local populations.

First, scale is important. Moderate levels of immigration cause fewer problems than rapid surges,

Second, the impact of unskilled immigration falls mainly on unskilled people in the host country, though the impact on public services is often exaggerated and the positive contribution of immigrants is often underestimated.

Third, the degree of social distress caused to the existing residents depends importantly on their own frame of mind, a more open-minded attitude is better both for immigrants and for the original residents.

Fourth, the attitude of immigrants is also important if they are to find and accept opportunities to connect with the local populations, this is better for everyone. Even if such integration may initially seem difficult, in the long run it has better results, familiarity eventually breeds acceptance, and inter-marriage more than anything blurs the differences.

The importance of attitudes is documented in the Gallup Annex on migrant acceptance, and in Chapter 2, where the migrant acceptance index is shown to increase the happiness of both sectors of the population, immigrants and the locally born.

Chapter 5 completes the set of migration chapters. It seeks to explain why so many people emigrate from Latin American countries, and also to assess the happiness consequences for those who do migrate. In Latin America, as elsewhere, those who plan to emigrate are on average less happy than others. Similar to themselves in income, gender and age. They are also on average wealthier, in other words they are “frustrated achievers”.

But those who do emigrate from Latin American countries also gain less in happiness than emigrants from some other continents. This is because, as shown in chapters 2 and 6, they come from pretty happy countries. Their choice of destination countries is also a less happy mix. This combination lessens their average gains, because of the convergence of immigrant happiness to the general happiness levels in the countries to which they move, as documented in Chapter 2. If immigrants from Latin America are compared to other migrants to the same countries, they do very well in relation both to other immigrants and to the local population. This is shown in Chapter 2 for immigration to Canada and the United Kingdom, countries with large enough happiness surveys to permit comparison of the happiness levels of immigrants from up to 100 different source countries.

Chapter 6 completes the Latin American special package by seeking to explain the happiness bulge in Latin America. Life satisfaction in Latin America is substantially higher than would be predicted based on income, corruption, and other standard variables, includIng having someone to count on. Even more remarkable are the levels of positive affect, with eight of the world‘s top ten countries being found in Latin America.

To explaIn these differences, Chapter 6 convincingly demonstrates the strength of family relationships in Latin America. In a nutshell, the source of the extra Latin American happiness lies in the remarkable warmth and strength of family bonds, coupled with the greater importance that Latin Americans attach to social life in general, and especially to the family. They are more satisfied with their family life and, more than elsewhere, say that one of their main goals is making their parents proud.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are large gaps in happiness between countries, and these will continue to create major pressures to migrate. Some of those who migrate between countries will benefit and others will lose. In general, those who move to happier countrIes than their own will gain in happiness, while those who move to unhappier countries will tend to lose. Those left behind will not on average lose, although once again there will be gainers and losers. Immigration will continue to pose both opportunities and costs for those who move, for those who remain behind, and for natives of the immigrant-receiving countries.

Where immigrants are welcome and where they integrate well, immigration works best. A more tolerant attitude in the host country will prove best for migrants and for the original residents. But there are clearly limits to the annual flows which can be accommodated without damage to the social fabric that provides the very basis of the country’s attraction to immigrants.

One obvious solution, which has no upper limit, is to raise the happiness of people in the sending countries, perhaps by the traditional means of foreign aid, and better access to rich-country markets, but more importantly by helping them to grow their own levels of trust, and institutions of the sort that make possible better lives in the happier countries.

Download the full report, Pdf

World Happiness Report

The Migrant Boon – Ian Goldin and Jonathan Woetzel. 

New research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) shows that cross-border migrants – more than 90% of whom have moved for economic reasons – comprise just 3.4% of the world’s population, but contribute nearly 10% of global GDP.

Many of the immigration debates now raging around the world reflect the faulty assumption that admitting immigrants is an act of largesse – and a costly one, at that. But, far from being an economic burden, immigrants represent a major economic opportunity for destination countries. Those countries that take a thoughtful, long-term approach to immigration can capture large and tangible benefits.

Contrary to popular belief, immigrants typically do not take jobs that would otherwise be filled by native-born workers. Many gain a foothold in a new community by taking jobs that are available precisely because locals do not want them. A large body of research shows that immigrants have a negligible negative impact on the wages and employment of native-born workers, not to mention on the fiscal resources of destination countries.

The problem is that, in many countries, the immigration debate begins and ends with the question of how many people to admit and what their profile should be. It rarely extends to creating real pathways for those immigrants to assimilate fully and maximize their economic contributions.

Focusing more attention and resources on integration can help new arrivals reach their full productive potential – an outcome that is in every destination country’s best interests. Such efforts can transform immigrants’ lives and those of the second- and third-generation immigrants who will shape the labor force of the future.

Of course, immigration does imply short-term challenges and costs for destination countries, particularly when it takes the form of a large and sudden influx of refugees. But these costs are far outweighed by immigration’s medium- and long-term benefits – as long as governments work actively to support integration.

In today’s interconnected world, migration is inevitable. The question is whether we will create isolated, disaffected, and dependent populations of immigrants, or a powerful engine of growth and dynamism.

Project Syndicate

… 

Global Migration’s Impact and Opportunity

McKinsey.com

My Family’s Secret Refugee Past – Aram Sinnreich. 

A descendent of Ukrainian refugees and World War II camp liberators sees in his family’s history an answer to rising anti-immigrant sentiment.

I woke up last night, as I have so often in recent months, in a state of panic. My heart was racing and my muscles tensed, as if my body was already braced for violence. My mind was racing, too, not with the remembered snippets of some fleeting nightmare, but rather with the full knowledge of yesterday’s news, and anticipation of today’s and tomorrow’s.

I know I’m not alone. Many friends have reported similar problems, and there is certainly no lack of real-time camaraderie on Facebook and Twitter at any time of night, though it’s always accompanied by fresh provocations, revelations and inducements to rage. Indeed, it seems that the entire nation’s mood — from left to right, from top to bottom — has gotten stuck in permanent fight-or-flight mode, like a laboratory animal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Even several committed pacifists I know have begun to talk openly about investing in personal firearms and to debate the morality of political assassination. While I don’t condone this widespread turn toward violence, I certainly do understand it; what else are we to do with all the fear and anger in our collective bloodstream? If we don’t flee, we have to fight.

For me, the only path through this predicament has been to remind myself, constantly, that there is a third way, an option beyond our baser instincts. Fortunately, I have a powerful example from my own family history to draw upon: If it weren’t for a simple act of mercy shown by a soldier in the midst of war a century ago, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story today.

My grandfather was born in 1914 on the outskirts of Stanislau, Galicia, a town and country that no longer exist (it is the current site of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine). His family, one of the few Jewish ones in the midst of a devout Catholic community, ran a small grocery store, behind which was a two-room home with no electricity and only a bread oven for heat. In 1913, some locals raided the store, leaving my great-grandparents utterly destitute. My great-grandfather decided to leave for America, where he hoped to make some money, then return and rebuild. He was only supposed to be gone for a few months, but unfortunately, fate intervened: While he was away, World War I erupted, rendering him unable to return to his wife Rifka, who had six young children and yet another (my grandfather) on the way.

By the time my grandfather was an infant, World War I was unfolding on his doorstep. The family dog was felled by a soldier’s pistol; other bullets struck my great-grandmother’s home and narrowly missed killing her in the street. During the day, soldiers would come looking for food and supplies, taking whatever they could, sometimes at gunpoint. Once, a Cossack strode into the house, speared a loaf of bread off the table with his sword, and left with promises to return soon for more, leaving the family alive, though shaken and hungry. At night, Rifka and her seven children slept huddled on the hard-packed dirt floor, worrying that bullets or worse would come through the blacked-out windows and barricaded doors.

Without either goods in the store or money from my great-grandfather (or, indeed, any word from him), my great-grandmother was left to fend for her family in any way she could. Mostly, this meant smuggling. The German soldiers to the west of the line had material goods but little food; the Russians on the other side had food but no cloth to mend their ragged clothes. So Rifka would wrap her entire body with bolts of cloth and yarn, then don her clothes, and walk across the front line from west to east. Once she was there, she would exchange the smuggled textiles for food (mostly potatoes), stow it away, and walk back across the line, where she would sell or exchange it to the German soldiers.

This went on for months. Every day, my great-grandmother was in danger for her life, and not just from the bombs and bullets of warfare. The penalty for smuggling was execution on the spot, so if she was caught even once with her contraband, it would spell the end for her, and most likely, for her children as well.

One night, Rifka did get caught. Some soldiers patrolling the west side of the line captured her as she was returning from the east with her smuggled vegetables. They brought her to their commanding officer, a German lieutenant. My great-grandmother fell to the floor, prostrating herself before the officer and begging for mercy — not for her own sake, but for the children’s, who would be left alone in the middle of a war zone if she were executed. Luckily, the German lieutenant took pity on Rifka and spared her life and, by extension, those of her children.

Not long after this incident, the whole family became refugees, relocating to Romania for two years. Eventually, when the war ended, they returned briefly to what was left of Stanislau, and then all eight of them emigrated to America to rejoin my great-grandfather, sailing from Amsterdam to Philadelphia, and settling in Hartford, Connecticut. My grandfather Simon was six when he met his father for the first time, safely reunited on American soil.

Simon loved America, and never stopped being grateful for the opportunities this country gave him — not only to live, but to thrive. He was accepted to Harvard University (very rare for a Jew at the time, though his older brother had gone there), yet he opted instead to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, and to pursue a career as a U.S. Army officer.

By 1945, my grandfather was a Lieutenant Colonel, stationed in Germany. One day, he and his men liberated a Nazi work camp, filled with corpses and the barely living. The abject brutality of the scene was overwhelming; it was a memory Simon would carry to his grave. Some of the enlisted men captured a German officer, and pushed him up against the wall of a barracks, planning to execute him on the spot for his war crimes. At this point, my grandfather did something extraordinary — something I’m not sure I’d have the strength to do. He intervened, saving the Nazi officer’s life. To him, it was a simple moral calculus: to kill a Nazi summarily, without a fair trial, when he posed no immediate threat, was itself an act of evil, on par with the crimes of the Nazis themselves. To kill them was to become them.

I’ve known this story for decades; my grandfather told it to me when I was a teenager, during the last years of his life. But when I asked my father about it a few days ago, I was shocked to discover he’d never heard it. My grandfather never talked about the war, he says; it was too horrible. I called my aunt for corroboration. No dice. I called my father’s cousin. Same thing. None of them knew about this remarkable act of mercy, either. Apparently, Simon never told anyone else this story, only me.

When I’ve thought about Simon’s act of mercy over the years, I always considered it to be a parable about morality, and about the value of keeping a cool head and an open heart in the face of overwhelming fear and anger. It certainly is that, but it’s also more than that.

I only learned about Rifka’s struggles, her World War I smuggling operation, and her brush with summary execution a few months ago, when I read a memoir by one of her older sons, my great uncle Joe. As soon as I learned this new piece of family history, Simon’s story suddenly clicked into place. It wasn’t merely an act of moral rectitude, or adherence to some abstract higher principles. Simon himself must have been well aware of the act of mercy by which that German officer had saved his own life a generation earlier — and his intervention to save the Nazi’s life can therefore only be understood as a cosmic act of payback. A chance to keep the karmic wheel in spin, to “pay it forward,” in the parlance of our times.

Why did Simon choose to tell me this story, when he apparently kept it secret from his own siblings and children? I can’t be sure, but I think he just wanted it stowed away somewhere in safe keeping, so that it could be told when the time was right. That time, sadly, is now. When the entire world seems to be succumbing to the same kind of insanity that brought us those two World Wars, when the horrors of the Holocaust seem increasingly likely to be revisited, and augmented, by today’s heirs apparents to the Nazi legacy. When a sociopathic charlatan like Donald Trump can plunge our democracy — our sanctuary — into chaos in a matter of days.

I’m angry as hell. I cry every day now, and not because I’m a fragile “snowflake,” but because I can barely contain the murderous rage that seethes through every vein in my body when I see the desecration of Simon’s memory and the scale of cruelty and injustice being perpetrated on the vulnerable of the world in my own name. Nearly everyone I know feels the same. I can no longer imagine a path forward for us as a nation, or as a species, that doesn’t involve hideous bloodshed, and the splintering of every peaceful bastion of civil society. I am, sadly, prepared to fight — to kill, to die, to play my assigned role in this farce, because what else can I do?

Yet, I am also committed to doing more than just that. Because of the unlikely mercy of a nameless German officer a century ago, my children and I are free to live, and to love. We owe every second of our lives to that man. And, because my grandfather repaid that karmic debt a generation later, saving the life of his bitterest enemy, who knows how many German children have been born, lived, and loved in the years since then?

So, yes, I’m prepared to fight, to protect the lives of those I love, and even to protect the institutions and abstract principles of the democracy that gave my family a home when we needed one so many years ago. But, if we’re ever going to emerge from the other side of this impending shitstorm with a shred of our humanity intact, it’s not going to be as a result of how many bullets we’ve fired, or had fired at us. It’s going to be because of the times we chose not to fight and kill, the moments we were able to transcend our rage and fear, and to see one another, just for a moment, as the delicate and precious links in the improbable story of the survival of human species that each of us truly represents. If we do ultimately survive this madness, we will do so one small act of mercy at a time.

The Daily Beast

Cold weather reignites fears for refugees poorly sheltered in Greece – Helena Smith. 

For the first time in history a whole continent commits a heinous humanitarian crime. And the rest of allow this to continue. We are despicable. 

A new bout of cold weather across southern Europe has reignited fears for thousands of refugees and migrants sheltered in deplorable conditions in Greece.

Forecasts of freezing temperatures have also been met with trepidation by international agencies, aid groups and local mayors on islands.

“Thousands of people are poised to suffer needlessly in conditions that are becoming increasingly desperate,” said Eva Cossé at Human Rights Watch. “Europe’s failed policies have contributed to immense suffering for people warehoused on the Greek islands.” Greece was the focus of public outcry this month after shocking footage emerged of refugees on Lesbos living in flimsy, snow-swamped tents as an arctic blast sent temperatures plummeting to -14C. The outcry prompted the government to dispatch a naval ship to temporarily house up to 500 people detained at the island’s vastly overcrowded Moria reception centre. Others were moved into heated containers, hotel rooms and apartments.

The Guardian

The Canadian who spent C$1.5m to rescue more than 200 Syrian refugees – Ashifa Kansas. 

On a recent snowy Saturday, Jim Estill went knocking on his neighbours’ doors, offering to shovel snow from walkways and driveways for cash.

Behind him stood a handful of Syrian refugees, newly arrived to the Canadian city of Guelph, in south-western Ontario. Estill, the CEO of multimillion-dollar appliance company Danby, was acting as the group’s salesman, and helped the refugees land 50 snow-clearing jobs.

It was a glimpse into the deep relationship that has been forged since the mild-mannered executive decided just over a year ago to spend C$1.5m to bring 200 Syrian refugees to Canada. 

In the summer of 2015, moved by the headlines emerging from what he called one of the “the greatest humanitarian crises of our lifetime”, Estill began working out how many families he could help under Canada’s private sponsorship programme, which was launched 35 years ago after the Vietnam War and has brought more than 275,000 refugees to Canada. It allows private citizens to welcome and settle refugees as long as they commit to covering the expenses for the first year or so and helping the newcomers ease into their new lives.

The Guardian

“Immigration, Gumballs and White Genocide” – Roy Beck, YouTube. 

YouTube 

The Berlin Attack Has Sealed The Political Fate Of Europe – Nathan Gardels. 

The worst thing that could have happened, the shoe waiting to drop, was a terror attack at Christmas time in Germany by an asylum-seeker linked to Islamist terror groups. It is just that which took place in Berlin this week. 

That the inevitable has now occurred likely seals the political fate of Europe. Public opinion will surely turn decisively against the open-arms refugee policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel — the most prominent defender of the troubled European project of integration and the free movement of people.

Alternative for Germany party and other anti-immigrant groups are already capitalizing on the incident.

Huffington Post 

All we want for Christmas is to be safe in New Zealand. 

About 300 refugees have arrived here since the Government announced it would take 750 over 2.5 years from Syria in September last year. Yesterday the Government announced an extra $1 million in aid.

The Morad family languished in tough conditions in Lebanon for three years before recently moving to New Zealand, along with Mohamad’s mother Gazala Dib Fayon.

NZ Herald 

An utterly unacceptable and callously insignificant contribution by NZ to a massive international situation.

We are accepting 70,000 migrants annually yet we have no room for desperate people fleeing a situation that is entirely a consequence of western Middle East policy. 

We spend millions on bullshit. Flags nobody wants, dairy farms in the desert, etc etc, yet our government is proud to announce with a perfectly straight face an extra 1 million in aid.

New Zealand once had a caring population that was always at the ready to speak out and help in situations such as this. 

We have lost our hearts in the swamp of Neoliberal greed. 

These Are The Criminals and Corporations That Have Gotten Really, Really Rich Off The Refugee Crisis – The Huffington Post. 

The biggest refugee crisis in recorded history has engulfed continents, swung elections and fueled the rise of nativism. It has also made a lot of people very, very rich. These are the stories of the CEOs, criminal masterminds, pencil-pushers and low-flying vultures who have figured out how to profit from global instability, also known as human suffering.

Huffington Post 

Help Refugees: ‘We will never abandon them’ – The Guardian. 

Driving through northern Greece on a recent December night, a pair of volunteers from the grassroots aid group Help Refugees Help Refugees have just received this SOS from another aid worker. It is 7.32pm, and a young Afghan refugee is about to go into labour at one of Greece’s worst refugee camps. It is a few dozen tents on a remote and windswept hillside – but the government and the UN refugee agency can’t move her anywhere better. 

As the temperature drops to 3C, the group’s network whirs into action. A call goes out to Filoxenia, a housing project funded by Help Refugees, to see if it can take in the pregnant woman. Behind the wheel in the car, Crystallynn Steed Brown says if the worst comes to the worst, she will put up the family at her flat in Thessaloniki. But can they get to the woman in time?

It is a typical night for Help Refugees, one of three beneficiaries of the Guardian’s Christmas charity appeal. The group is one of the unsung heroes of the European refugee crisis, a young grassroots collective that has tried to create a more dynamic form of aid in Calais and Greece, where even seasoned aid workers admit their traditional models have failed.

The Guardian

Broken Men in Paradise. The world’s refugee crisis knows no more sinister exercise in cruelty than Australia’s island prisons.

A 60-mile-long slice of heaven. But for more than 900 asylum seekers from across the world banished by Australia to this remote corner of the Papua New Guinea archipelago, Manus has been hell; a three and a half year exercise in mental and physical cruelty conducted in near secrecy beneath the green canopy of the tropics.

Endless limbo undoes the mind. But going home could mean facing death: Refugees do not flee out of choice but because they have no choice. Satah’s light brown eyes are glassy. His legs tremble. A young man with a college degree in English, he is now nameless, a mere registration number — FRT009 — to Australian officials.

The toll among Burmese, Sudanese, Somali, Lebanese, Pakistani, Iraqi, Afghan, Syrian, Iranian and other migrants is devastating: self-immolation, overdoses, death from septicemia as a result of medical negligence, sexual abuse and rampant despair. A recent United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report by three medical experts found that 88 percent of the 181 asylum seekers and refugees examined on Manus were suffering from depressive disorders, including, in some cases, psychosis.

New York Times 

Far-Right group attacks refugee camp on Greek island of Chios. Molotov cocktails and rocks as big as boulders. 

Dozens of people have been driven out of a refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios after two successive nights of attacks by a far-right group.

The Guardian

The refugee crisis fills us with despair but it can be a chance for hope and kindness. 

For three years during the Syrian civil war, Nisreen gave her children a tranquilizer every night so they might sleep through the airstrikes. Secretly, she preferred for them to die in their sleep than live every day in such incapacitating fear. 

When Islamic State took over his school, Ahmad pretended to be dead while his classmates were first raped and subsequently burned alive. He was in third grade.

Nisreen and Ahmad are two of the 2.7 million refugees now living in Jordan – a small country with a population of slightly less than 10 million. Accepting such a great number of people, now comprising a substantial proportion of our population, has taught us a few lessons. We’ve learned of humans’ gut-wrenching ability to go to extreme lengths to hurt, destroy and deny others their humanity. We’ve seen refugees’ indelible marks of torture and heard their stories of adversity.

On the other hand, we’ve also learned of refugees’ incredible resilience and sense of hope against all odds – their ability to acclimate to a new environment and still feel committed to do what they can to be of service to others. Today Nisreen resides in a refugee camp in Jordan and leads group therapy for women with persistent trauma symptoms. By speaking about her own experience every day, she’s encouraging others to do the same. The Guardian 

Refugees in Greece. ‘We’re never getting out of here’. European Solidarity?

On June 26, 2015, as asylum seekers were rushing into Europe in growing numbers, EU leaders met until the wee hours in Brussels. Two countries were bearing the brunt of the crisis – the Mediterranean entry points of Greece and Italy. In what leaders heralded as a remarkable show of “solidarity,” the rest of the EU agreed to share the burden.

The EU would relocate 40,000 refugees – mostly Syrians – to member countries from Portugal to Finland. They would be given shelter, aid and a chance to rebuild their lives. As the number of asylum seekers surged, the EU later boosted its pledge – promising to relocate up to 160,000.

But 16 months after its initial decision, the EU has lived up to only 3.3 percent of that pledge, relocating 5,290 refugees – 4,134 from Greece and 1,156 from Italy. NZ Herald 

Charity takes legal action against Home Office over child refugees. 

Lawyers for a leading refugee charity have begun legal proceedings against the Home Office, arguing that ministers have failed in obligations to give sanctuary to some of the thousands of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Europe.

Help Refugees says the home secretary, Amber Rudd, has breached her relocation duties to some unaccompanied children in Europe, by misconstruing or misapplying the May Immigration Act under which the government was obliged to take some children into the UK. The Guardian 

“I’ve seen a lot of death, but not this thing. This is shocking and this is what makes you feel you are not living in a civilized world”

These horrifying pictures are the product of global economic inequality, victims of a world where 71% of the world owns only 3 percent of global wealth. People come from all over Africa. Some are fleeing extremist violence from groups like Nigeria’s Boko Haram or Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Others are simply people without opportunity or any hope for bettering their lives and their families in home countries where jobs are nonexistent and money is funneled to the ruling elites, who guard their wealth jealously. Occupy Democrats 

56% of Hungary’s voters not as ignorant as their Govt. Referendum Invalid. 

The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has failed to convince a majority of his population to vote in a referendum on closing the door to refugees, rendering the result invalid and undermining his campaign for a cultural counter-revolution within the European Union. 
More than half of the electorate stayed at home, rendering the referendum constitutionally null and void. The Guardian 

‘TOTAL CONTROL’

EU should set up ‘giant refugee city’ in Libya, says Hungary Prime Minister.

The European Union should build a “giant refugee city” on the Libyan coast to process the asylum claims of refugees arriving there from elsewhere in Africa, the Hungarian Prime Minister has proposed.

Speaking after a summit on the refugee crisis, Viktor Orban said the EU’s external borders should be under “total control” and said a new Libyan government could help establish the camp. The Independent

Refugee camps are breeding and recruiting grounds for extremists. Full of disillusioned young people and growing children. Bored, angry and rebellious. Camps are meant to be ‘temporary’ but that rarely works out when people have nowhere to go and certainly can’t go back to the circumstances they fled. Assimilation into society is the only humane and smart way forward. Europe needs the people! Let’s get clever now Europe! There’s 508 million of you. You can’t find it in your hearts to help a couple of million frightened, exhausted and desperate people? Perhaps you never learned anything from your World War Two experiences after all, despite all your talk about unity and brotherhood. 

A Moral Duty to Help.

New fears for 1,000 lone children in Calais refugee camp.

Up to 1,000 unaccompanied minors will be left to fend for themselves when the so-called jungle camp for refugees in Calais is bulldozed next month. The French authorities have made no plans to rehouse the children, the Observer has learned, because it is hoping to force Britain to honour a promise to help child refugees.

The French interior ministry has informed charities and aid organisations that it intends to destroy the camp in less than four weeks. 

Almost 400 unaccompanied youngsters in the camp, some of whom have relatives in the UK, have already been identified as having a legal right to come to Britain.

In May, David Cameron announced that Britain would accept as many as 3,000 unaccompanied minors. James Brokenshire, immigration minister at the time, said Britain had “a moral duty to help”. 

However, Home Office figures reveal that by mid-September, only 30 children had arrived under the scheme. The Home Office did not respond to queries over whether it intended to help lone child refugees once the Calais camp was destroyed. The Guardian

Why is it our response to any problem is always brute force? The West has created this refugee flow with seven decades of misguided and greedy meddling in the Middle East. 

Redneck Scum On The Run. 

Leader of Pegida anti-refugee movement flees to Tenerife to ‘escape persecution’ in Germany.
Lutz Bachmann has previously called asylum seekers fleeing conflict and persecution ‘scum’. The 43-year-old is a leading member of Pegida, which stands for “Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West”, and has led anti-immigration marches of tens of thousands of people. The Independent 

Theresa May’s Plan To Spend £100m Keeping Migrants Away From UK Torn Apart. 

Children’s charity War Child said it was “disappointing” that May will spend the money on trying to stop the flow of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean, when children affected by conflicts are in desperate need of safe homes and education. Huffington Post 

A desperate sea dash for a better life.

The Libyan coast is where traffickers launch overloaded and underpowered boats at about midnight. There’s no captain, no navigation, not enough fuel or water. Almost no one wears a lifejacket; no one can swim. Some people think the Mediterranean is a river they can cross by dawn.

It’s impossible to know how many die but the UNHCR calls it the deadliest year on record. No one deserves to die like that. NZ Herald

Germany Stands By Its Commitment In The Refugee Crisis. –  Peter Wittig, German Ambassador to the U.S. 

“Contrary to what some populists claim, the security situation in Germany remains stable. Crimes committed by migrants dropped by more than 36 percent between January and June of 2016. And many of the crimes were more of the petty sort, such as attempting to ride a train or bus without a ticket. The crime rate is especially low among refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the countries from which most new refugees in Germany come.” Huffington Post