Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World – Doug Saunders, Allen & Unwin 2010 A$32.99
Review By Xavier Rizos for Cosmos Magazine
Doug Saunders tries to understand what drives Chinese, Indian, Polish, Turkish or African peasants to become urban migrants, leaving their villages and rural lives to knock on the doors of the world’s cities.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO work 10 hours a day, seven days a week, own 29 possessions (including four chopsticks and a mobile phone), live in a dormitory and be able to count on your hands the number of times you’ve been alone in the same room with your spouse?
For millions of urban migrants across the world, the answer is ‘yes’. They have been voting with their feet by leaving their villages and rural lives to come and knock on the doors of the world’s cities.
In his book Arrival City, Doug Saunders, European bureau chief for the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, tries to understand what drives Chinese, Indian, Polish, Turkish or African peasants to take on these parallel journeys, as if driven by the same force.
The result is an insightful book somewhere between a travel diary and an anthropological study. Saunders visited migrants in Brazilian favelas, African shantytowns, French banlieues and Turkish gecekondular and observed that, contrary to popular belief, those ‘arrival cities’ are far from being dead ends.
THEY ARE VIBRANT COMMUNITIES at the fringe of wealthy cities and serve as launchpads to those migrants hungry for social elevation whose “migration might not be one of happiness, but is one of hope”. They certainly don’t see themselves as losers, and have more hunger to succeed than the millions who have already arrived.
Saunders makes vividly clear that this wave of humanity is a global phenomenon that will not be dented by immigration policy, whether hardline or soft. In a globalised, free-market world, if you want cheap goods and services to move across borders, you might have to accept that people do as well.
The author analyses the upsides and downsides for both migrants and destination countries. He finds that nations that make migration a success do themselves a favour by boosting their economies and social fabric. But they also help poor nations indirectly: for example, Bangladeshis living abroad annually send back almost US$11 billion – a vital supplement to the foreign aid the country receives.
Saunders, in his critical appraisal of a global trend, reaches the same conclusion as the most fervent refugee advocate, but via a different route: compassion, it seems, is also rewarded economically.