Migration is often closely linked to processes related to development. There is no single definition of development, but in broad terms it can be understood as the potential for individuals and communities within a society to access services, employment and other opportunities on an equitable basis. If people do not have a chance to develop their potential, if they are excluded from participating in development, they might decide to move.
Many of the factors pushing people from their homes are related to development. While there are many definitions of this process and its social, economic, historical, cultural and other ramifications, what most have in common is that they are in some way related to the potential for individuals and communities within a society to access services, employment and human rights.
But are they equally available for everyone? Not really.
And exactly at this point we can find the first link between (under)development and migration, especially in the case of minorities. Developmental processes are often bypassing rather than including them within the societies of the countries they live in. Minorities frequently do not have equal rights and opportunities: on the contrary, they very often face persecution and discrimination. And this can, and often does, play a major role in their migration.
The second link between development and migration may seem less intuitive, even surprising – but when you think about it more deeply, it actually makes sense. This is that migration can actually increase as countries become more developed and wealthy.
As people gain more resources, higher education and career aspirations, they start to look for opportunities. And at the same time they may be able to raise the money necessary for voluntary migration. And so they often decide to travel. In many countries across Central and Eastern Europe, but also in other regions, increasing emigration is a vivid example of this process.
The third link relates to modernization as a kind of synonym to development. We can analytically break down development into three distinct, but interlinked parts – sociodemographic, economic and political modernization. If these parts are not in ‘harmony’, it can create clashes and possibly push certain social groups, including minorities, towards migration.
For example, if the education system improves and people’s career aspirations rise, but at the same time economic modernization fails to keep pace (for example, more high-skilled jobs and other opportunities are not created to meet this demand) or political institutions do not also evolve (for instance, there is no strengthening of political and civil rights for citizens to express themselves freely), then this shortcoming can prove explosive.
Understanding all of these links will help you as journalists to cover these as well as many other related issues in a more balanced and effective way.