Coronavirus-related economic crises in the Third World could spark an “unprecedented” migration surge towards the United States, federal officials are warning.
Fragile economies in Latin America and elsewhere could suffer catastrophic damage as the impact of global lockdowns and their resultant effects ripple outwards from wealthier, more stable nations.
“You’re going to have millions and millions of Latin Americans out of jobs, with governments too broke to provide even the meager social safety nets they have,” a senior official told the Washington Examiner. “How do you measure the number of refugees that come out of that level of devastation? You can’t put a number on it, but it’s reasonable to say that it would be completely unprecedented.”
“Confronted with unprecedented violence and chaos in the region that we are directly tied to, do you try to wall yourself off from the region? Or do you launch unprecedented amounts of aid and assistance to try to rebuild the region and rebuild its institutions so that you basically don’t have to live in fear of the consequences in the region?”
John Barsa, acting Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said his agency is working to anticipate major issues on the horizon in underdeveloped nations.
“If there is economic collapse in a given country, it is only natural that there will be migration flows to places where the economy is more robust,” Barsa said.
“Are we concerned about the economic impacts that this might have, which could lead to migration? Absolutely.”
Barsa contrasted the immediate challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis against the long-term consequences, likening their relationship to thunder and lightning.
“You’ll see the flash first, and then, later on, you’ll hear the thunder,” Barsa said. “So the here-and-now challenge is on the global health systems and keeping people alive. But the after-effects, the second- and third-order effects, the economic effects, may be the more lasting ones.”
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