May 20, 2019

Waves of migration will only grow larger

A migrant caravan crosses from Guatemala into Mexico. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

In recent years, the accelerating cross-border flow of migrants fleeing violence and poverty has remade the politics of Europe and the United States.

What to watch: A startling new study from Stanford University warns that the conflicts we've seen to date may just be the opening act of a much larger and more dangerous drama.

Here's the study's argument in brief:

  • In 2007–2008, a drought wiped out the livelihoods of huge numbers of Syrians living in the countryside, forcing them into already overcrowded cities. This forced internal migration created stresses that combined with existing problems to create social unrest, a harsh government crackdown and then a civil war.
  • The war created an exodus of millions of desperate Syrians toward neighboring countries and then to Europe, where more than 1 million of them landed in 2015.
  • This wave of refugees, joined by migrants from other places, sparked intense fear and hostility among some in Europe, creating opportunities for politicians to win support with vows to stop the flow. That's a major reason why xenophobic populism has become Europe's fastest-growing political phenomenon.
  • In 2014–2018, an unusually severe drought hit Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Years of erratic weather, failed harvests and a chronic lack of jobs decimated entire villages in all three countries and created strong incentives for migrants to try to reach the United States.
  • The arrival of these migrants at the U.S. southern border further polarized the politics of a country already divided over immigration, racial tensions and lost manufacturing jobs.

Now a look to the future.

  • The report warns that populations are set to explode in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Central America in coming years.
  • The working-age population of sub-Saharan Africa alone is expected to increase by nearly a billion people between 2020 and 2060. Over time, we're likely to see "regional demographic explosions of young people."
  • In coming decades, overcrowding in these places will exacerbate desertification, water shortages and urbanization. Mounting ecological stresses will provoke violent political conflict, forcing more people to hit the road in search of a better life.

In other words: The combination of extreme weather patterns and growing populations of young people in poorer countries will combine to create more migration, more political anger and a greater risk of conflict within and among countries.

But, but, but: The study's authors say this bad news is not inevitable. Good government, in both poor and rich countries, can help avoid this risk.

  • If poor countries invest more in education, they can create jobs and other opportunities that persuade many more people that they can build a safe and prosperous future, for themselves and their families, where they are.
  • It's in the interest of rich countries to help. And governments of rich and poor countries can work together much more effectively to slow the advance of climate change. If they do, say the study's authors, both sides will benefit.

Sign up for Signal, a thrice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 5,463,392 — Total deaths: 344,503 — Total recoveries — 2,195,325Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,653,904 — Total deaths: 97,948 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.