From past to present: The unending global migration crisis

Fazal Masood Malik and Farhan Khokhar, Canada

Migration has always shaped humanity’s journey, with early humans venturing from Africa as far back as 120,000 years ago. The ‘mitochondrial Eve’, a common ancestor who lived between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in southern Africa, is a testament to our shared heritage. (“Found: closest link to Eve, our universal ancestor”,

Even today, human migration continues to shape our world, driven by factors such as conflict, persecution, economic opportunities, and environmental changes. The numbers are staggering, with over 108 million people forcibly displaced in 2022, including 62.5 million people displaced internally from their homes. (“WHO WE PROTECT – Internally Displaced People” , have profoundly shaped the major faiths across history. The Book of Exodus, a cornerstone of the Jewish faith, recounts the Israelites’ exodus – their crossing of the Red Sea to escape pursuing Egyptians, led by Mosesas. Jesusas, too, was a migrant, journeying to escape persecution by the Romans and to minister to the twelve tribes of Israel spread throughout the region, even reaching what is now Kashmir.

Migration holds a significant place in Islam (Surah an-Nisa Ch.4: V.98, 101, a-Hajj Ch.22: V.58-59, al-Isra Ch.17: V.71). It is rooted in the Prophet Muhammad’ssa journey from Mecca to Medina, which was not merely a physical relocation but a profound transformation that led to the establishment of a new, just society.  This historical event – also known as Hijra – provides meaningful lessons applicable to modern-day patterns of human migration, where individuals and families are often compelled to leave their homes under dire circumstances.

In the contemporary context, non-religious migration experiences encompass those who move for a better quality of life. The religious dimensions of migration, however, are particularly significant. They emphasise the moral duty to migrate from a place of injustice to a place where one can lead a peaceful life and practice their faith without persecution.

The recent refugee crisis that appears to plague Europe has its roots in decisions made by the Western nations that removed existing roadblocks to migration. These roadblocks had previously helped stem the flow of migrants, but their removal has now allowed the passage of refugees not only to continue but to increase as well.

Fundamentally, people facing misery and persecution in their homelands are left with two options: stay and wait for conditions to improve or move in search of a better life elsewhere. However, no matter what policies are enacted at the borders, the root causes driving this mass migration will persist.  It is important to note that these root causes are often shaped by the policy decisions of Western nations that affect the regions where migrants originate from (“Migration and asylum pact”,

The situation in Africa illustrates this clearly. The destabilisation of Libya, a key transit country with the closest border to Europe, has enabled human traffickers and warlords to facilitate the movement of migrants towards the European continent. This destabilisation is, for a large part, the result of Western military interventions that toppled the Gaddafi regime. Similarly, the destabilisation of Syria, driven by the spillover effects of the Iraq War, was a critical factor in the refugee crisis that unfolded there, with people able to freely move towards European borders.

The Rohingya crisis provides another convincing example. The Rohingya people, a minority group in Myanmar, faced severe persecution and violence. This mistreatment was allowed to happen because Western countries did not strongly oppose the actions of Myanmar’s government against the Rohingya. In some cases, Western powers even quietly supported or went along with Myanmar’s mistreatment of the Rohingya minority. This silent compliance created conditions that forced the Rohingya to flee en masse to neighbouring Bangladesh and beyond, regardless of efforts to restrict their movement. (“Rohingya Refugee Crisis Explained”,

Unless the international community works to address these fundamental drivers of displacement – be it armed conflicts, human rights abuses, or environmental degradation – the cycle of refugee crises will continue unabated. Mere border control measures are insufficient to resolve these deep-seated challenges (“Has the World Learned the Lessons of the 2015 Refugee Crisis?”, Establishing – and practising – absolute justice and protecting the God-given rights granted to all humans is crucial for preventing such forced displacements that violate the sanctity of human life. 

It is unfortunate that in the current day and age, absolute justice is often spoken about, but no steps are taken to accomplish it. It is to this fact that Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa spoke: “Only in Islam do we find such an unequivocal and peerless principle of absolute justice, and it is a cause of great regret that even modern-day Muslim governments are failing to govern according to this Islamic standard.” (“Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Germany”,

Ultimately, the persistent flow of refugees, despite restrictive policies, emphasises the need for a more comprehensive approach. This approach should prioritise addressing the root causes of forced displacement rather than focusing solely on gatekeeping the border. The first step in such an approach will require acknowledging the role that Western policy decisions have played in shaping these crises in the first place.

Major drivers of this human migration include armed conflicts like the devastating war in Syria that displaced over six million refugees and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which created a massive new refugee crisis in Europe. Persecuted minority groups like the Ahmadi Muslims facing violence in Pakistan, Algeria and Indonesia have also been forced to flee their home countries. Additionally, climate change-induced drought, famine, and natural disasters, as well as economic deprivation and lack of opportunities, continue to push many to seek better lives elsewhere, sometimes at the cost of their lives!

These mass movements have strained destination countries and fueled anti-immigrant populist backlashes.

In the EU, asylum applications exceeded 100,000 for multiple months in 2022, with over 1.1 million new applications lodged across the bloc – an 18% annual increase and the highest level in seven years. Additionally, 4.4 million Ukrainians received temporary protection status, compounding the arrivals in need of asylum. This sustained inflow has overwhelmed reception capacities and processing systems, enabling far-right parties to weaponise migration fears through hardline rhetoric. (“Number of Refugees to Europe Surges to Record 1.3 Million in 2015”,

The US has oscillated between Trump’s restrictive policies and Biden’s insufficient efforts to address root causes in Central America driving migration.

While discussing the impact of migration on host societies, it is crucial to consider the perspectives of both residents and newcomers. The balance of rights and responsibilities is vital to successful integration. Reflecting on this balance, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, the worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, addressing the 43rd Annual Convention (Jalsa Salana) in Germany in 2018, emphasised the reciprocal nature of this relationship:

“… Another major concern for existing citizens is that hosting refugees is a huge financial undertaking by the state. In this regard, no immigrant should enter another nation with a sense of entitlement; rather, they should ponder over what they can offer the local society. I have said many times before that immigrants should consider themselves indebted to the nation that has accepted them.” (“Muslim Migrants and Integration”, 

The self-serving policies of Western nations have directly fueled the relentless flow of migrants across the globe. Military interventions and support for conflicts in regions like the Middle East and Africa have devastated local populations and opened borders to warlords and human traffickers, driving millions to flee their homes in search of safety.

Unless Western powers correct this pattern of prioritising their narrow interests over human lives, the unrelenting migration crisis will only intensify. Mere expressions of concern after unleashing such catastrophes are woefully inadequate. Western nations must take responsibility for the turmoil they have instigated and work towards lasting solutions that address the root causes of displacement. A genuine commitment to human rights and regional stability is paramount, rather than pursuing policies that breed conflict, oppression, and the forced exodus of vulnerable populations. Only then can a cohesive global framework emerge, one that secures borders while upholding humane treatment and economic integration of migrants. Failure to reckon with the West’s culpability will perpetuate a vicious cycle of instability, brain drains, radicalisation, and mass displacement now at record highs.

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