Symmetry in Migration in the Two Hemispheres

By David North on December 30, 2015

If you are as geography buff, as I am, you will notice a strange symmetry in the current migrations through the Balkans and through Central America.

In both cases these are south-to-north movements, with the migrants wanting to leave their sunnier but troubled lands for the prosperous, if chillier countries of the U.S., on one hand, and Germany and Scandinavia on the other.


There are, in religious terms, Western Hemisphere Catholics yearning for a predominantly Protestant America, and Eastern Hemisphere Muslims, wanting to settle in Christian lands.

In each case there are intermediary states, some friendly to these movements, and some not.

The most unfriendly nations regarding the migrants – who simply want to pass through the borders and have no desire to relocate in – are Hungary in the East and Nicaragua in the West, an odd couple, indeed. Then there are the two potential barrier states of Turkey in their hemisphere and Mexico in ours.

Hungary is dominated by a near-dictatorial, right-wing government, while Nicaragua is run by a nearly-dictatorial left-wing leadership.

Hungary has been building hard-to-penetrate fences along its borders, which are not so much tested as circumvented. If you are going from Greece to Germany there are other routes to northern Europe, such as such as through Croatia or Slovenia.

Nicaragua, as my colleague Kausha Luna has been reporting, sits astride the Central American isthmus (as Turkey is positioned in Asia) and has decided that it wants no part of the Cuban traffic headed north, and so some people leaving Cuba are stuck in Costa Rica (just east and south of Nicaragua.)

Once Cubans get to Mexico they can move freely up to the U.S. border, and once that border is crossed they get instant legal status because of this country's long out-of-date, bizarre wet-foot/dry-foot policy.

We treat Cuban refugees (though I am not sure that word is appropriate) just like the Germans and Swedes treat Syrians. And the fundamental policies, in America and Northern Europe, despite some posturing, simply encourage these migrations.

Meanwhile, thousands of Central Americans, all in illegal status, arrive at our southern border each month, despite the (presumably paid-for) partially successful efforts of Mexico to stem that tide. Turkey may, similarly, be induced by European money to play a similar role in the near future.

I can understand Hungary's position (it fears the massive in-movements of a non-European population) while being bothered by the razor wire, but Nicaragua's resistance to the passage of the much, much smaller groups of Cubans is puzzling.

Perhaps it relates to old times; the Sandinistas may have an antipathy to those leaving the shores of Castro's Cuba, and do not want to assist what they regard as an essentially counter-revolutionary population. If I were among the Nicaraguan decision-makers I would hustle the Cubans through in hours, on the grounds that they would create a substantial headache and expense for my old foe, Uncle Sam. But maybe the Nicaraguan elite has not figured that out.

Meanwhile there is another puzzle, an unattractive one, in the Balkans. There is a substantial Muslim majority in Albania, a genuine if poverty-stricken nation, as there is in two other political entities, Kosovo and the Bosniak portion of Bosnia. The latter two statelets owe their very existence to the United States because of our military intervention in the 1990s.

If it had not been for the Air Force of one predominantly Christian country (the U.S.) bombing another predominantly Christian country (Serbia) on behalf of a group of Muslims, Kosovo would still be under the Serbian thumb. We also intervened in Bosnia of behalf of the Muslims there.

So the unattractive puzzle is why neither of these jurisdictions has done anything to help the West in its hour of need as it seeks to cope with other Muslim populations? Maybe they have, but in such a tiny way that no one has noticed. Perhaps no one from the State Department has said – as they should have done – "hey, you guys, pitch in; when you were in trouble, we rescued you!"

We hear about plenty of European Muslims fighting for ISIS, but when did you hear of a Kosovar or a Bosnian joining our side in Iraq or Syria?

Meanwhile, back in this hemisphere, we see Mexico simultaneously helping – to some extent -- curb the flow of illegal Central Americans seeking to come to the U.S. while simultaneously helping the Cubans enter our country.

Human events and rationality do not always mix.