Migration has always happened, and it is almost always good for the destination country. Migrants go where the jobs are, rather than “stealing” jobs from the locals, and they contribute to economic growth in developed countries where populations would otherwise shrink. So runs the repeated lesson of this dense but illuminating study, whose author’s sympathies are clear: “Globalisation [...] must also mean the globalisation of people.”

Drily demolishing the xenophobic assumptions behind the desire to maintain a “fortress Europe” that will not be “swamped” by aliens, and the pernicious conflation of voluntary migration with criminal people-smuggling, Guy Arnold conducts us on an impressively orchestrated tour of population movements all over the world: from former Soviet states to today’s Russia, between countries in south-east Asia and Africa, to and from North America, and (increasingly) from China to Africa. (The scale of internal migration within China itself – mainly from countryside to city – dwarfs all other movements between countries.)

The style can be a bit imprecise and repetitive, but the accumulation of facts and statistics has its own irresistible rhetorical force.

Migration: Changing the World

Guy Arnold
Pluto Press, 2011

By Steven Poole

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