The recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa have once again exposed the growing divide, that is fueling resentment between host populations and immigrants in many countries. The phenomenon that is globalisation has changed the world by integrating national societies and economies to form what is usually termed as ‘the international community’. Inter-migration has soared in the last decades on all the continents, and with the revolution in communication technologies, some countries of the world have transformed into multicultural societies. However, recent social upheavals in the world show that despite the advantages that are realised from globalisation, host countries are seemingly resenting immigrants for settling in their countries.
Xenophobia is defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘a strong feeling of dislike or fear of people from other countries’. Xenophobia, like homophobia, sexism, and racism has its roots in not accepting the ‘differences’ in human beings that can be defined by nationalities, race, sex or culture.
The emergence or advancement of modern technologies has increased the connectedness of the world in the social, political and economic realm. This phenomenal change is called globalisation which is a process describing the spread and connectedness of production, communication and technologies across the world.
The integration of national economies into one big global economy has created some winners and some losers. The effects of globalisation come with deep-seated political changes – poorer, ‘peripheral’, countries become dependent on rich countries who usually are the biggest investors with advanced technological expertise. The widening gap of inequalities caused by the effects of globalisation, has put the poor country at a disadvantage in terms of opportunities for its citizens. Rich countries have usually registered higher growth rates than poor countries, and for 20 years between 1980 and 2000, the continent of Africa registered the average GDP growth rate per capita as zero. Ultimately, the wealth gap between the rich and poor countries has widened to astronomical heights, that the ratio between a country like the United States and Madagascar is 50:1.
These large gaps in mean income and wages are the reasons why citizens in poor countries, migrate to countries which are deemed to offer more opportunities than their own countries. The TV, internet and social media which are by-products of globalisation, have helped to inform the poor citizens of the world of these wage disparities between the developing and developed countries. For example a bus driver in Amsterdam earns about $20 an hour while as the same job in Mumbai pays about $3 an hour. In such a scenario of obscene disparities, a bus driver in Mumbai would most likely be enticed to migrate to Amsterdam to seek better wages. So due to this awareness of disparities that has been enabled by technology, some poor citizens in poor countries migrate legally or illegally to the developed world.
In 2007 it was predicted by the UN that 2.2 million people will migrate to developed countries, each and every year with the trend being consistent up to the year 2050. However, as migrants have been settling in richer countries to pursue a better life, local host populations have become disillusioned with the high numbers of immigrants that have been settling in their countries.
In Europe, political parties who want to crackdown on immigration are on the rise in countries such as Britain, France and Austria. These political parties are championing policies which aspire to see their countries limit the influx of immigrants crossing their borders. As immigrants keep crossing borders, host populations are becoming disillusioned with the numbers of foreigners in their countries. It is through this disillusionment that the host populations begin to construct the image of foreigners as being different from their national identities. John Mills, of golf course marshal from Sussex in the UK claims,
“There is a huge immigration flow coming into this country and it puts an enormous strain on all our public services – our hospitals, our (doctors’) practices, our schools,”.
John Mills like many others in Europe see immigrants as foreigners who are putting a strain on their public services. It is through situations like these that local populations begin to resent immigrants, and through contact they begin to harbour negative sentiments about them. These feelings then culminate into strong feelings of dislike for foreigners, who are considered as aliens who should have stayed in their countries.
In South Africa, xenophobia has reached new heights where foreigners have been subjected to violent attacks by some of the local populations. Since the fall of the apartheid government in 1994, many Africans and Asians migrated to South Africa. South Africa which has always been the largest economy in Africa until last year, has always been a popular destination for migrants especially from neighbouring African countries.
It has now been over a week that foreigners in South Africa have been violently attacked for being immigrants. Foreign owned shops have been looted and an eyewitness claims,
” A group of men were dropped from a mini bus, and all of them were armed with pangas, a [type of] very big knife. They started chasing people, throwing stones at them. Some were even knifed.”
Most South Africans have claimed that most foreigners have taken their jobs in a country where 24 per cent of the population is unemployed.
In conclusion, globalisation has offered the free movement of capital and goods between countries which has resulted into the integration of national economies into one global economy. Through such changes, migrants have travelled to richer countries to seek better opportunities which are scarcely available in their own countries. However, as they settle in other countries, host populations become disillusioned with the large influx of migrants who are considered as a drain on public resources. In over time, the observations and outcries by host populations turn into frustrations, where they begin to resent people from other countries. Arguably, globalisation has enhanced the porosity of national borders, which has in turn encouraged the poor to migrate to rich countries. It then can be argued that globalisational changes have a positive correlation with migration, which has in turn increased the cases of xenophobia in the world.
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