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ASEF's book presentation: Too many foreigners? Crises and their impact on migration flows

~by: Rina Choo~
~ with: Jewel Philemon~

The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) hosted a presentation of the book, “ Perspectives on migration flows in Asia and Europe”, by Professor Antonio Marquina, on the 11th of October at their headquarters.

A panel discussion featuring economist Dr Aris Ananta, political scientist Dr Reuban Wong, and migration specialist, Dr Mizanur Rahman, was conducted shortly after the presentation.

Dr Tan Lian Choo, ASEF‘s director of public affairs opened the event and introduced noted Guests-of-Honour ASEF’s executive director, Ambassador Michel Filhol and His Excellency Federico Palomera, Ambassador of Spain to Singapore.

Ambassador Filhol took the stage and introduced the book, which is the third in a series by the Asian and European scholars after publications on Energy and Security and Global Warming.

“Professor Marquina analyses political, economic, social and environmental trends which prevent countries in Asia & Europe from stemming the flow of migrants”, shared Ambassador Filhol, “Factors that have played an important part include an ageing domestic population, the effects of the economic crisis, migration caused by environmental degradation and the exodus of political refugees.”

His Excellency Ambassador Palomera who came on next, heralded the editor of the book and touched on key issues that the book brought up.

He said, “The book is on migration flows and its appropriate policies in Asia and Europe. It touches on push and pull migration economics as well as other issues like the global economic crisis; its impact on migration flows, illegal migration and rapid globalisation.”

Dr Choo then invited Professor Marquina to present his book to His Excellency Ambassador Palomera who accepted it on behalf of Spain.

“It is premature to make bold assumptions on the future of migrations.”

Professor Marquina kick-started the panel discussion by thanking ASEF for the preparation of the event and the presentation of the book, and also extended his thanks to the distinguished panellists, Guests-of-Honour and participants.

He gave a short synopsis of the book, which includes contributions from anthropologists, security specialists, migration specialists, political scientists and environmentalists among others. He admitted that the publication process was “…difficult and time-consuming…”, especially in reference to his earlier works. He added that the book emphasizes on how “It is premature to make bold assumptions on the future of migrations.”

Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South-East Asian Studies (ISEAS), Dr Aris Ananta, commented on the effects of migration in Asian countries and the impact of migration in society.

“Migration is unavoidable. It is almost impossible to stop it. Stopping its flow is becoming an untenable goal.” he remarked.

Another Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, Dr Mizanur Rahman, deviated slightly from the topics at hand to talk about Human Rights. He got back on track after a slight reprieve and spoke on the fixed figures a nation allots to migrants, like Canada and Australia as well as policies on migration economic flows that depend on the demand for migrants in the market, citing Kuwait and Oman as examples.

He also shed light on the management of foreigners, the rights of foreigners, and the isolation of foreigners from local due to anti-foreigners sentiments or xenophobia.

The final discussant, Dr Reuben Wong, from the Political Science department of National University of Singapore (NUS) asked, “Who are the foreigners?”

“The book identifies the many different types of foreigners that exist. We have the ‘blue-collar workers’ like construction site workers, ‘Foreign talent’ like those in the healthcare, banking or business profession who are highly welcomed foreigners because they bring in capital, ‘Permanent Resident’ holders, who have certain rights and lastly, ‘the illegals’, who do not fit into these groups.”

He said that these ‘illegals’ pose a big problem in countries like the United States of America, Netherlands and Western Europe, among others. He added that this has led to governments in Western Europe, to clamp down on their migration policies, as well as resorting to forcible deportations.

“I don’t think migration is a modern issue. It has been with us for a long time – since the 19th Century.” He revealed, “The great age of migration has actually passed due to the government’s control and political barriers. However, migration cannot, as evidenced by this book be stopped. The question is how do we adjust to it? How do we mitigate the bad effects- or the side effects of it?”

Dr Choo then opened the floor to questions from the participants.

“Multi-culturalism has been discredited. It has not been failed.”

One participant asked the speakers, in reference to Singapore, what their views were on the supposed failure of multi-culturalism in Europe as well as the public’s ‘anti-foreigner sentiments’. “Why pronounce Multi-Culturalism dead when it has not even started? I’ve also researched on and personally interviewed foreigners and locals alike; find myself identifying with both groups in terms of where they are coming from. Do you have any comments?” she asked.

Dr Reuben Wong took her first question, saying that “Multi-culturalism has been discredited. It has not been failed. It is on-going whenever new-comers come into the scene. However the British and French Prime Ministers had indeed publicly rejected the model of Multi-culturalism. This is because everyone’s sense of nationalism is increasing. National identity is shifting.”

The question on ‘anti-foreign sentiments’ though, could not be discussed further due to the lack of time.