Friday, May 17, 2013

Immigration in the Cote d'Ivoire

Interestingly, immigration seems to be at the heart of the Cote d'Ivoire's recent conflicts.  The story is, in some ways, similar to that of the U.K. in recent years, where years of open immigration contributed to economic growth and cultural enrichment, but also to a deep-seated resentment of immigrants when the economy turned bad.

After independence, the Cote d'Ivoire maintained an open, business-friendly economy, and allowed in many immigrants from its poorer neighboring countries who were happy to participate in the "Ivorian miracle."  The Ivorian miracle, according to Lonely Planet, "was foremost an agricultural one," and immigrant laborers played a large role in allowing the economy to thrive.  But when global commodity prices crashed in the '80s and '90s, the economy stagnated.  And, as so often happens, the stagnant economy caused many citizens to focus their frustrations on the wave of recent immigrants.

This eventually led to the civil war.  The government spent the '90s passing jingoistic laws debating the concept of Ivorian ethnicity.  Christian Bouquet describes how universities and government began to "reflect on the definition of a new identity concept with a view towards 'scientifically' establishing the criteria of Ivorian citizenship."  Politics descended into ethnic factionalism, which lead to a coup and almost a decade of "crisis" and frequent small bouts of violence.

Stories like these make the U.S.'s centuries long open immigration policies all the more remarkable.  Although the U.S. story is obviously a unique one in that the government's pro-immigration policies were made much, much easier by the thousands of miles of "available" and "unoccupied" land on its western frontier.

The recent experience of the Cote d'Ivoire, the U.K. and Scandinavian seems much more common.  Are there any other examples of countries that have opened their borders to immigrants and not seen a spike in hostility towards immigrants?  Canada seems like a decent candidate in this regard.


  1. I nominate Australia and China as candidates, though both (like Canada) share the US advantage of having plenty of room for newcomers.

  2. Yes, I was going to say that Australia doesn't count, since it is so similar to the U.S. But I actually don't know enough about them to have an opinion on the current situation. Canada seems more comparable to the current U.S. They have a ton of available land, but not much of it in places where anyone wants to live, and I imagine that most immigrants come to the cities and compete for jobs. But lots of Canadians probably leave for the U.S., so they may like immigrants since the average person might be more aware that they need to recruit people.