Fear of Immigrants and Others is a Global Political Monkeywrench

Riots police separate pro and anti immigration demonstrators as a man waves a flag reading "Islamists Not Welcome" during a Pegida demonstration in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Feb. 6, 2016.

Riots police separate pro and anti immigration demonstrators as a man waves a flag reading “Islamists Not Welcome” during a Pegida demonstration in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Feb. 6, 2016. VOAnews.com

Hamburg   Meeting with people in the Netherlands and Germany, conversation quickly comes to the Clinton-Trump race. People want to be reassured that Trump really can’t win. They don’t want to hear that the vote will be close, even though Clinton will win in the Electoral College. Interestingly with all the brouhaha that Trump has stirred up over closing borders, building walls, blocking entry to Muslims, and deporting millions, no one asks about the issue, mainly because these are issues too worrisomely close to home for them as well.

In Holland, a xenophobic, anti-immigrant leader has risen and created a “party of one” largely on this platform. Though he may not have much of a party, he clearly has a base. Political experts believe that he is taking votes way from the Social Democrats, long the dominate party of unions and some of the left. The Social Democrats are in a free fall for many reasons including the compromises they have made on healthcare and other issues as part of the ruling coalition government, but a piece of the problem, similar to the challenge for the Democrats in the United States is anger and desertion of some older, working class voting segments reacting to the anti-immigrant campaigning.

In Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel a year ago during a humanitarian crisis opened Germany’s borders to one-million migrants largely from the war-torn Middle East and Syria, there has clearly been a political backlash over whether or not German standards of living and services are being compromised by these migrants. An upcoming election in Merkel’s home state is being watched closely to see whether her center-right governing party has been able to re-position itself with voters by implementing agreements to hold more of the immigrants in Turkey. Merkel is not retreating from her conviction that Germans “can do this,” but she is equally clear in recently reported interviews that she cannot lead along this path for another year, as she has for the last year. Her party in the state elections is busily echoing rightwing themes of homeland and security as it scurries about trying to hold onto its base. A new anti-immigrant party is expected to take votes away from Merkel’s Christian Democrats as well as the more progressive Social Democrats.

And, what in the world is this urkini thing about in France? Courts there have overruled local municipalities over their burkini banning, but reports are indicating that the activity, right down to having police stop Muslim women on the beach and make them disassemble their outfits, were very popular with the general French public. The rightwing, anti-immigrant party there did not fare as well as they had hoped in recent elections, but continues to be a serious force nationally.

Country to country immigration, migrants, and refugees are divisive political issues. Muslim women in particular are reporting worldwide that they are being viewed differently and worse than in the past. Discrimination in large and small ways is increasing.

Today there are no hard questions for an American traveler on immigration, because embarrassingly, too many progressives and others are fearing that politically we may be more united by hate that any other national value. Everyone is living in glass houses now, so no one is throwing stones, and fewer and fewer are leaving their doors open.

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Moving Money with the Migrants – Hawala Style

HawalaNew Orleans    Given all of the trials and tribulations connected to the tales of the migrants streaming north from the Middle East to escape war and violence, it is good to see the hawala system for safely and inexpensively transferring money getting some attention. One of the ironies of the predatory remittance or money transfer system skimming billions of dollars from families and workers being transmitted back to their home countries and families left behind at huge costs is the age old, traditional hawala transfer of money based on trust. Trust, only costs about one-half of a percent to one-percent, while modern, superfast computerized systems can suck 20% or more out of the remittance for their so-called trouble.

A fascinating story accompanied by graphics in the Wall Street Journal by Giovanni Legorano and Joe Parkinson did about the best job of explaining how the system works that I have ever seen. They noted that “90% of the transactions in a people-smuggling trade valued at around $2.5 billion a year in Europe, according to European security officials and researchers” utilizes the hawala system. Furthermore hawala is the method of choice “for a further $390 billion a year that migrants send back home as part of an informal but widely accepted financial system used across the developing world.” This is no small potatoes operation!

Security officials hate it because records of the transactions often disappear after the money is safely with the intended parties. Banks and others hate it because they don’t want to lower their fees to compete with the system, so they malign it, yet the system thrives in the Middle East, Africa, and south Asia.

The graphic description is so accurate and precise that I can’t help but share it while wishing we could all go forth and do likewise! You have to note a first time ever graphic attribution in the Journal which identifies the source for the graphic as “people familiar with the transaction.” Gotta, love that!

Anyway, here’s how a financial system works based on low cost and trust, thanks to the Journal of all places.

Step 1: Sender of the money gives hawala broker, we’ll call Broker A, money to be transferred to a beneficiary.

Step 2: Hawala Broker A contacts hawala Broker B by phone, WhatsApp, Skype or email and tells him the amount to pay the beneficiary. They also establish a passcode associated with the transaction.

Step 3: Broker A gives the passcode to the original sender and tells him where Broker B is located in the country or location where the money can be received.

Step 4: Sender gives the passcode to the beneficiary and tells him where to pick up the money.

Step 5: Beneficiary gives the passcode to Broker B and picks up the money. Bam, all good, smoother than silk, and faster than UPS or Federal Express. The brokers at a later stage settle any imbalances on the transaction.

Hawala is legal in some areas. Legal or illegal, migrants use the system to keep from being robbed along the way.

If banks and money transfer organizations won’t reduce their fees to the real level of their costs and eliminate the predatory profits they extract, we have to hope that the hawala system continues to thrive and grow so that beleaguered families have a chance to make new and better lives. If governments are concerned about security all they have to do is force MTOs and banks to stop fleecing migrant and immigrant families, but as long as they are in the pockets of the predators, the hawala system that has worked for centuries on trust will continue to find a place in the modern global financial system.

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Source Wall Street Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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