Why did so many embark on leaky boats, rather than present themselves as ordinary economic migrants? Because they have no marketable skills, little education and no jobs waiting for them upon arrival. What many do boast is a troubling insularity borne of loyalty to fundamentalist Islam
Many, perhaps most, of the difficulties and malaise currently being experienced by the West, including Australia, stem in large measure from two factors: the unprecedented increase in population in the Third World, and the replacement of secular, universalistic ideologies, especially Marxism, by religious fundamentalism. Neither underlying trend has been widely discussed here, and the aim of this article is to examine these factors on the context of Australia’s policy towards immigration and political extremism.
The statistics of population increase throughout the Third World in recent decades are simply staggering. Although everyone is aware that there has been a worldwide population explosion, and that this has occurred primarily in the underdeveloped world, in all likelihood few know just how astronomical this increase has been. Here is a table of the populations of various randomly selected Third World countries in 1950 and today (numbers in millions):
1950 2015 % increase
Afghanistan 8.2 26.6 324
Bangladesh 45.6 158.5 348
Brazil 53.4 204.1 382
Cambodia 4.5 15.4 342
China 563 1369 243
Congo (Kinshasa) 13.6 71.2 524
Egypt 21.2 88.3 417
Haiti 3.1 10.9 352
India 370 1269 343
Iran 16.4 78.2 477
Liberia 0.8 4.5 560
Nigeria 31.8 183.5 577
SouthAfrica 13.6 54.0 397
Venezuela 5.0 30.6 612
Zimbabwe 2.8 13.1 468
These extraordinary rates of increase, which have occurred in virtually every Third World country, have taken place even in states which have experienced local man-made and natural catastrophes—in Cambodia, for instance, whose population has more than tripled since 1950 despite Pol Pot’s genocide; in Afghanistan and Liberia, with their endemic wars and conflicts; in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), where monsoons kill tens of thousands virtually every year. The main reason for this phenomenal rise in population has been the availability of Western medicine—the one form of “Western imperialism” whose “shackles” are never to be “thrown off”—as well as the integration of the economies of most Third World countries into the international economic system. Without the West, no Third World nation could have supported more than a fraction of its current population.
While this great rise in numbers has occurred everywhere in the Third World, it is probably in Africa where it has been most marked. The total population of the African continent increased from only 229 million in 1950 to 1,125 million in 2014, with profound consequences. Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville), the capital of the so-called Democratic Republic of the Congo, consisted a century ago of a series of fishing villages. In 1947 its population was only 136,000, less than that of Geelong today. By 1970 it had climbed to 1.3 million, while today its population is 7.8 million, only slightly less than the population of London. Delhi’s urban area now numbers 25 million, and is the second largest urban conurbation in the world, behind only Tokyo. Not far behind are the urban areas of Mexico City (21 million), Mumbai (21 million), Cairo (18 million) and Dhaka, Bangladesh (17 million). The metropolitan area of Delhi has a greater population than all of Australia.
As a general rule, the rate of population growth in the Third World has been inversely proportionate to economic development and per capita income, with the highest rate of population growth almost always occurring in the poorest, most backward countries. Of the fifty-two countries in the world whose population increased by 2 per cent or more a year from 2005 to 2010, thirty-two are in Africa (headed by Liberia, whose population increased by 4.5 per cent a year, despite its genocidal civil war), while ten are in the Islamic world. At the other end of the scale are most Western countries, as well as the states of the former USSR and Japan, whose populations have hardly increased at all or, in some cases, have actually declined.
By and large, and not to put too fine a point on the matter, much of the Third World remains a cesspool of benighted backwardness, endemic corruption at every level of society, constant wars, and shattered hopes for development and improvement, with sub-Saharan Africa almost always at the bottom of a very deep barrel. For example, of the sixteen countries in the world with the lowest access to private sanitation facilities, fifteen are in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the thirteen countries with the lowest access to improved drinking water, eleven are in sub-Saharan Africa. Among the 35 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS around the world, 25 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, compared, for instance, with 1.6 million in Latin America. Forty of the fifty countries in the world with the lowest per capita incomes are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Claims that the developed world is neglecting the Third World’s economic growth are dubious. In 2013 the developed world gave US$135 billion in foreign aid to the Third World, with the United States donating $32 billion, Britain $18 billion and Australia $4 billion. Independence came to most former colonies in the Third World between fifty and seventy years ago, obviously ample time to have shaken off whatever were the negative effects of European rule.
To be sure, some Third World countries have developed and prospered beyond recognition, among them South Korea, and especially China. After ridding itself of Nehru socialism, India has emerged as a high-tech centre, while even some African countries like Kenya are prospering. Nevertheless, the enormous population bulge which has occurred throughout the Third World has produced an army—almost literally—of millions of impoverished people, especially young men with near hopeless prospects, who either turn to extremism and violence, or attempt to emigrate, legally or not, to the developed world.
This vast array of the dispossessed is probably greater in number today than at any time in the past, while communication and ease of transport are greater now than at any time in the past. As a result, a tidal wave of immigrants has entered the West, often by illegal means. Throughout Europe (and to a much lesser extent here, because of our stricter immigration rules) whole areas of many major cities have been flooded with Third World immigrants, making these areas virtually unrecognisable to those who had lived there before. This has been facilitated by most governments, but in particular by left-wing governments, keen to prove their anti-racist and politically-correct credentials, while using the (automatically left-wing) votes of the immigrants as an increasing component of their electoral base, which (as with the Labour Party in Britain) would otherwise be constantly declining. In Britain, there are apparently now nearly three million Muslims, as well as several million others from the Third World. In size, this wave of immigration has no historical parallels: for example, in 1930 there were only 300,000 Jews in Britain, after—at the time—relatively heavy immigration from eastern Europe. Similar post-1950 migration waves exist in most European countries, with their governments unable or unwilling to halt them. Indeed, Western Europe may become the first place in history to commit suicide through political correctness.
These demographic trends would be alarming enough, but they have occurred alongside what is arguably the most important political transformation of the recent past, but one whose importance is virtually unnoticed: the virtual end of widely held belief in secular, universalistic ideologies, especially Marxism, and their replacement as popular causes, everywhere but in Western Europe and in most other Western countries like Australia, by a religious fundamentalism and extremism that is deeply engaged in politics. The end of communism in Europe and its effective end in most of Asia have led to the end of Marxism everywhere as an ideology attracting new or young supporters in either the West or the Third World.
In the West, the Left by and large has transmigrated to some variant of the Green movement, which has many of the radical ideological aspects of previous Marxism, but without its hard edge and rigour or its central direction from Moscow or from a local communist party. But in the Third World (and, to a lesser extent, in the United States), the vacuum left by the end of communism has given fundamentalist religion a new lease of life, most obviously and violently in the Islamic world. Whereas fifty or sixty years ago most disaffected students and youth throughout the Islamic world would have embraced some variety of Marxist insurgency, usually mixed with a strong dose of anti-colonialist nationalism, and with Islam present, if at all, as a subsidiary loyalty, now most turn as a matter of course to one or another variety of Islam, each generally more extreme than the next, in a kind of Dutch auction of barbarism. Islamic fundamentalism has, of course, been paralleled in many other cultures—by the rise of the BJP in India, by various Buddhist movements in South-East Asia, by Charedi Judaism in Israel, and, in a sense, by the “Moral Majority” in the United States.
By and large, however, the rise of religious fundamentalism has been entirely absent from the West, which is incorrigibly secular and where there are few signs of any religious revival. In Russia and Eastern Europe, however, religion and religious practice have made remarkable comebacks since the end of communism (and, indeed, before that). In Russia the Orthodox Church has, de facto, been restored to its pre-1917 position after seventy years of persecution, with thousands of churches reopening since the fall of communism. (One little-known but potent example of the sheer resilience of religion in Russia may be found in the career of Georgy Malenkov (1902–88), one of Stalin’s most loyal underlings, who served as Premier of the Soviet Union between 1953, when Stalin died, and 1955. Malenkov was purged in 1957 and fell into complete obscurity. In his later years, however, he became a devout member of the Russian Orthodox church, and served as a reader (the equivalent of a curate) and as a choir singer, an official church position. When Boris Yeltsin died in 2007, he was the first Russian head of state to be buried in a Russian Orthodox funeral service since Tsar Alexander III in 1894.)
The central place of fundamentalist religion, and religious violence, in the contemporary world is, of course, strongly associated with militant Islam, the source of most murderous violence and terrorism today. In the past, there were successful and unsuccessful attempts to introduce Western liberal reforms into Islamic states, most obviously by Kemal Ataturk in Turkey. Much less well known were the efforts by King Amanullah Khan in 1929 to introduce far-reaching reforms, including the emancipation of women, into Afghanistan, of all places; for his pains he was immediately deposed by conservative tribesmen and clerics. The Marxist regime which held power there between 1978 and 1992 also attempted to institute the same range of reforms, in the context of Marxist repression, but was also overthrown. Arab nationalist dictators like Nasser and Saddam Hussein also imposed many secular reforms, sometimes with persisting results, sometimes not. Today, however, the importance of fundamentalist religious ideologies in the Islamic world is clearly greater than ever.
Islamic terrorism is most apparent in the Muslim world, both as a result of Sunni–Shi’ite rivalry and as a means of persecuting non-Muslim minorities. But it has been brought to the West by the tidal wave of Muslim immigration during the past forty years or so, a major component of Third World immigration to the West. The presence of significant numbers of Muslims in the West is entirely novel—there were few Muslims in the West before the 1950s—and has occurred as a component of the vast population increase throughout the Third World, by much higher birth-rates than among the majority population, and by some conversions to Islam.
Bearing all these points in mind, what can one say about Australia’s approach to immigration? By and large, it has been fairly sensible compared with Europe, and its points-based system has often been recommended for copying elsewhere. The Australian points system effectively prohibits the migration here of those without education, marketable skills, job offers or family connections, and thus—in theory—rules out unskilled and semi-skilled would-be migrants from the Third World (or elsewhere). Generally, of course, Australia’s post-1945 immigration is seen as a model of success.
But it is far from perfect. We arguably admit far too many migrants. In 2013-14, Australia admitted 190,000 migrants (up from 100,000 in 2003-04) and 13,500 refugees, a number which is due to rise to 20,000. In contrast, the United States, whose population is thirteen times larger than Australia’s, admitted 990,000 legal migrants in 2013 and only 58,000 refugees. If Australia allowed in the same per capita number of immigrants as the United States, it would have let in only about 76,000 migrants and 4400 refugees; both figures appear far more reasonable, given the current state of our economy. The negative impact of high levels of immigration on, for example, the cost and availability of housing here, is discussed all too infrequently, and seldom or never by prominent politicians.
Australia’s generosity stems in part from nostalgia for the very successful immigration of the post-war decades, when there was a consensus that Australia had to “populate or perish”. But those days are over. After the Second World War, Australia was one of only a handful of countries which had already industrialised but was not laid waste by the war. The world wanted what it produced, and Australia was crying out for unskilled and semi-skilled labour for its factories, mines and farms. Protected by high tariff walls, for decades Australian unemployment rates seldom exceeded 1 per cent. Today, it goes without saying, all that has changed. Australia has no tariff protection, little manufacturing industry, competition from every corner of the globe, and an unemployment rate stubbornly stuck at over 6 per cent.
Old-style New Australians: A migrant family enters their hostel accommodation for the first time in 1965
In those days, too, an immigrant family settling in, say, Carlton in Melbourne, often worked literally down the street or a ten-minute tram ride away in the Melbourne CBD. Today, poorer immigrants and refugees are forced to live in remote, under-serviced ghetto-like suburbs such as Dandenong in Melbourne, on the outer fringes of now vastly larger metropolitan areas, often unemployed—and perhaps unemployable—for years on end. (Recent refugees to Australia remain unemployed on average for four years—which means that half are unemployed for even longer.) Unskilled and semi-skilled jobs are scarcer than in the past and ought, as a matter of elementary fairness, to go to Australians who need the work, not to those brought in from abroad, except in limited and controlled numbers.
Refugee immigration here still remains in the wake of the first Rudd government. In an act of sheer folly, that government mandated onshore refugee processing, thus facilitating the birth of a new and vast industry: people-smuggling. This demented policy was reversed by the second Rudd government, but not before 50,000 illegal immigrants entered Australia and 1200 died at sea. Under the present government, the number of unauthorised boat arrivals has declined from 50,000 to zero, once it was made absolutely clear that any such arrival would be sent to Papua New Guinea, Nauru or Cambodia, and that none would be allowed to settle here. This decline in such numbers to zero is prima facie evidence that the overwhelming majority were not refugees but economic migrants, attempting to come here to better themselves.
All at sea with new-syle multiculturalism
During the Second World War, European Jews —who, after 1940, were forbidden to leave Nazi-occupied Europe, prior to genocide—who managed to escape had to spend the war years in unpleasant places like Mauritius and Shanghai. Despite this, every Jew in Nazi-occupied Europe would have given literally all they had to escape to Mauritius, Shanghai or anywhere on earth beyond the reach of the SS. Not one would have declined to leave Europe because their destination would not be New York. So, if they are in mortal danger, why are today’s boat “refugees” so reluctant to migrate to Papua New Guinea and Nauru? The evident inference is that they are not in mortal danger, but want to come to a wealthy First World country like Australia in order to better themselves and their families.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to migrate to Australia for its economic benefits and the promise of upward social mobility for oneself and one’s family—I have personally twice been an economic migrant for these reasons, and so have millions of other people—provided that the migrant stream is carefully controlled, the pace not set by smugglers, and that would-be migrants do not lie about their status. So why did so many do exactly that rather than apply to come here as ordinary economic migrants? In many cases, because they know that they have a zero chance of success: they have no marketable skills or requisite education, let alone a job waiting for them upon arrival, and would certainly be denied admission as ordinary migrants. In contrast to the barriers set up for would-be economic migrants, refugees to Australia need have no skills of any kind, or speak English, or even be literate. They are a small and unfortunate component among the hundreds of millions in the Third World who see themselves with no futures where they are.
It is not generally realised just how widespread deception actually is among would-be migrants. According to official government statistics, of those who applied to come to Australia as refugees under the Special Humanitarian Program in 2012-13 (the most recent year for which there are statistics) 78 per cent were refused admission: their claims to being “refugees” were invalid. For almost all recent years, the percentage of such applicants denied admission as “refugees” has also been in the 78 to 85 per cent range. Presumably, all or most of these are simply poor, unskilled inhabitants of Third World countries who want a better life, but can only realistically be admitted to Australia as refugees, which they are not.
Like every other Western nation, Australia is faced with an entirely new danger from Islamic terrorism, almost always the product of a revived Islamic fundamentalism. It is self-evident that Islamic terrorism presents a clear and present danger to Western democracy that must be suppressed by any means. While with a few prominent exceptions Australia has been free of this plague, we currently have a Muslim population of nearly 500,000, ten times as many as forty years ago, a figure which has escalated astronomically in the same way as in Britain and Europe.
There is, of course, no unified Muslim community, which is composed of people from a wide variety of national cultures from the Balkans to Indonesia. (In fact, most Arabs in Australia are probably not Muslims, but Lebanese Christians and Egyptian Copts.) Most Muslims here are, like anyone else, simply minding their own business, while it must be stressed that the vile and barbaric aspects of Islamic fundamentalism—honour killings, female genital mutilation, systematic discrimination against women, and so on—have no necessary relationship with Islamic terrorism. Nevertheless, the clear and immediate threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism is one central reason why Third World immigration here, fanned by an ever more astronomical population of the impoverished in the underdeveloped world, should be carefully controlled and curtailed; any would-be immigrant from the Third World who presents the slightest threat to our security ought to be automatically barred from coming.
Although there is an apparent consensus among the two main parties as to the dimensions of our immigration policy, the organs of the Left, such as the Greens, the Fairfax press, the ABC and various left-wing groups, are constantly pressing for more open borders, regardless of the impact of any such policies on Australia, and regardless of their electoral poison. As usual, the sheer perversity of the Left, with its permanent zeitgeist towards national suicide, is its most notable feature.
What then can be done about the population of the Third World, its endemic poverty and, in many cases, hopelessness? Realistically, Australia can do virtually nothing to ameliorate conditions there beyond what it does at present with its foreign aid, aid workers, and the provision of training and medical care. Australia has no control over the internal affairs of any Third World countries, with the possible exception of some local neighbours with which we have traditional ties, such as Papua New Guinea. Nor is there any obvious international solution to the problems of the Third World. Australia can, basically, only put up the drawbridge and hope for the best.
William D. Rubinstein, formerly a professor of history at Deakin University and at the University of Wales, has written widely on many topics.