To solve its migration crisis Europe must make major financial investments in the lands it once colonized
By Amotz Asa-El
Colonialism, the scourge that sparked, stained, and shaped much of modern history – is back.
With more than 4,000 migrants drowning in the Mediterranean in each of the last four years (according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration), it appears that Africa and the Levant, once the destinations of European colonialism, are now colonizing Europe.
Yes, circumstances are different: Europe colonized from above, through government, and what it now faces comes from below, through ordinary people storming the horizon. Still, the aim is the same: distant lands’ wealth.
Caught unprepared by what many Europeans consider an invasion, Europe has turned to symptomatic treatment: building reception camps at home; spying on human traffickers abroad; and intensifying its naval patrols, so more migrants can be fished from the sea that once symbolized intercontinental harmony, and now swallows the victims of its demise.
While understandable, Europe’s defensiveness fails to address the root of its crisis, which demands a mental shift from the legacy of Rome’s clash with Carthage, which symbolized Afro-European enmity, to the Greek creation of Alexandria, which made the Mediterranean a lake of inter-continental harmony.
EUROPE’S seizure and plundering of Africa, India, the Levant and much of the Far East unraveled after World War II, as liberation movements from India and Israel to Kenya and Algeria defeated the colonial powers.
The result was the age of decolonization, in which dozens of newly independent states set out to build their futures by themselves. Most were in Africa and the Mideast, and most are now failed states.
Now we are witnessing this epoch’s aftermath, a reaction that should be called counter-colonization: the era in which yesterday’s unwilling hosts are today’s uninvited guests.
And since counter-colonization is as internationally disruptive as colonization was in its time – it demands innovative diplomacy, one which can be called post-colonization.
Counter-colonization began with the mass migration to postwar Britain of Indians and Pakistanis, and of North Africans to France following the retreat from Algeria. However, Britain was distant from its immigrants’ homelands and also an island, and therefore could control immigration’s size and pace better than continental Europe.
In continental Europe, millions of Arabs and Africans flocked to cities where they were wanted as hewers of wood and drawers of water, but unwanted as citizens and neighbors.
Ironically, counter-colonialization preserved the European colonizers’ three G’s, gold, God, and glory, which meant economic resources, religious missionizing, and political grandeur.
Now the natives of former European colonies were seeking wealth in London, Rome, and Frankfurt while Muslim Imams sermonized in Marseilles, Antwerp, and Malmo and Islamist terrorists sought world domination by waging attacks from New York and Buenos Aires to Manchester and Nice.
This is the backdrop against which millions of Europeans now view the lands that supply their unwanted migrants with a strange mixture of arrogance and guilt. Both sentiments are historically unjustified and politically disastrous.
Historically, today’s Europeans are not the ones who abused the current migrants’ ancestors. And politically, what’s at stake now is not the crimes of colonialist Europe, but the crimes of their successors, the local despots who failed to deliver their citizens personal security, social justice, and economic hope.
POSTWAR EUROPE’S failure to demand freedom, justice and prosperity for Africa and the Middle East smacked of a racist assumption that African and Arab leaders cannot be expected to deliver Europe’s kind of progress and wealth.
As Natan Sharansky told Audiatur-Online last fall, had European governments demanded over the decades that Arab and African leaders deliver the prosperity and freedoms Europeans enjoyed, Europe might not have faced the migratory waves that now threaten its cohesion and stability.
Historians may yet debate whether a different European attitude might have prevented the political oppression and social decay that produced civil wars in Algeria, Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
There can be no debating that better economies could have prevented the civil wars and the migrations they fed.
Yes, Europe cannot be directly blamed for what was brewed by African and Arab despots. Yet the brew is now spilling into Europe, and what will stop it spilling further is not a thicker lid above the pot, but a lower flame under it.
Europe must therefore look to the lands where its migrants come from, and help reinvent them, so their inhabitants will have faith in their own countries’ future.
A post-colonial Europe can make this happen by returning as a humble savior to the lands from which it was evicted as an uninvited colonizer.
This effort will initially focus on North Africa, both because it is Europe’s backyard and because it is the meeting place of Africa and the Mideast, which jointly feed Europe’s migration crisis.
Africa, the world’s second-most populous continent, currently attracts hardly 5 percent of global foreign direct investments, whereas Europe, whose population is but 60 percent of Africa’s, gets more than five time as much in foreign direct investments.
Africa, in other words, has a surplus of workers and a shortage of capital. That is why it is exporting workers.
If this will be offset, and Africa will import more capital, it will export fewer workers, and in fact will begin importing workers, exactly the way Europe does today.
Africa’s foreign investments must therefore be multiplied, and Europe should lead this effort, because Africa’s shortage of cash is driving the surplus workers that reach Europe’s angry streets after braving the Mediterranean’s hungry waves.
A post-colonial Europe will build between Cairo and Casablanca new cities, highways, railways, universities, colleges, hospitals, factories, and resorts that will attract millions of workers while reinventing the impoverished economies that Europe’s migrants now flee.
In due course, with more hope to its south and less fear to its north, the Mediterranean will return to be what it once was – an engine of intercontinental trade, dialogue and toleration.