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Let's Start A Conversation: World in motion

Gordon Boyle

Across the world there is increasing noise about people on the move. Most noise is coming from the US and Europe. Does all this noise reflect reality? Let’s have a look at the big picture.
There is evidence of humans moving out of Africa 230,000 years ago. It was not until 130,000 years ago that movement of humans out of Africa markedly increased with movement across the Red Sea from modern day Djibouti to Yemen.
At the same time, humans were moving across the Mediterranean to Europe from North Africa. Then 70,000 years ago, there was another movement out of Africa, this time towards Asia. It was not until 10,000 years ago that humans transited from hunter gatherers to settled communities because of the birth of the agriculture revolution.
Today, we are still on the move with around 350 million living in countries that are not their country of birth. In Toronto, 51 per cent of the population was born outside Canada. Outside of Wales, the biggest Welsh speaking population in the world is in Argentina. People of Greek origin in Melbourne, Australia, account for 47pc of the population and are the biggest urban Greek population outside of Greece.
More recently, after a rebellion in Scotland against the English in 1745, out of a population of 260,000 the Highlands of Scotland witnessed 160,000 people cleared from the land and forced to leave in order that English landowners could replace them with sheep. A century later, the English did not help a resistant Irish population who suffered a famine due to a potato harvest failure. As a result, over 1m died and a further 1.5m emigrated, with many of them moving to the US and Canada.
At the end of the 19th century, due to the restrictions imposed in Russia, 2m Jews were forced to get on the move. The impact of the First World War and the Second World War resulted in more people on the move and in the 1950s, mostly due to the aftermath of the Second World WAr, there was another rise of people on the move. As a result, 2pc of the population of Scotland today is of Italian descent. There was also close to 60,000 people welcomed to England to help rebuild the country after the war. The ‘Windrush scandal’ hitting the headlines today is all about these people being denied a British passport, although they have spent decades living and working in the UK.
In 1973, more than 80,000 people of Asian descent were given 90 days to leave Uganda. Presently, 20m people in Africa are displaced with 90pc of them internally displaced.
Many of the rest are trying to get to Europe. There are close to 6m displaced Syrians with 2m in Turkey, 1m in Lebanon, 1m in Jordan and around 1m in Europe, with a total population of almost 750m.
Finally, back here in the Gulf. Out of the 31m Indians living and working outside of India, almost 10m of them live in the GCC.
I’m sure we all agree we are all enjoying the substantial benefits the Indians welcomed by the GCC governments provide when it comes to our quality of life.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at