The influx of uninvited and unwelcome migrants has begun in earnest this spring.
Long predicted since the time of Malthus, the population problem that the world has refused to tackle - out of fear to injure religious and racial sensitivities-- is finally exploding literally on the shores of Italy, Greece, Thailand and Australia; and on the desert U.S. border with Mexico.
Today we have 7 billion people on the planet -up from 3 billion in 1960 -- and at this rate we'll reach 10 to 15 billion in fifty more years.
No matter how poor and undeveloped people are, they seem to be aware that there is a better life sweeping floors in London or Stockholm than in tilling rented land in Nigeria or squatting in idle villages and detention camps in Burma.
Thousands are at sea heading for the promised land of high wages and their only leverage is that without getting a place to land, they will die before our eyes on television.
Jean Raspail predicted this human wave in 1973 in his apocalyptic and politically incorrect novel "Camp of the Saints" in which a million poor people from India and Africa simply board hundreds of boats and head for Europe.
The Europeans, softened up by well-organized NGO activists, guilt and competition among Christian churches to welcome the human wave, simply surrender to the Third World horde in his shrill and sarcastic send off of humanity's future.
Today, the scenes in the Andaman and Mediterranean seas of boats crammed with dying migrants are sprung from the pages of that French novel.
Tens of thousands of people have put to sea in flimsy boats. They have paid human traffickers thousands of dollars each for an often deadly passage that brought 200,000 migrants to Europe last year and left thousands more dead at sea. We still do not know how many of the migrants are seeking safety from repression or conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Burma and Somalia; or a better life away from their homelands in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
What can the world do about these people?
First - we cannot do nothing and allow them to remain on boats as the Thai, Burmese, Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have done. Some reports say the Burmese migrants were forced by the smugglers to remain below decks squatting inches apart with little water or food - reminding me of the slave ships to America in the 1700s. Up to 20,000 people facing these severe conditions are mainly Bangladeshi or ethnic Rohingya that Burma has relentlessly persecuted for the past few years.
Thai naval ships and Indonesian fishermen have supplied some of the boats with food, water and fuel and pointed them out to sea away from their coasts. But the smugglers have already abandoned the boats without mariners to run them.
Second is to find an immediate place for the people on boats to disembark and find safe harbor. Even a camp on an island - the Australian solution - provides a merciful improvement to weeks at sea in search of a place to land, especially with the tempestuous monsoon rains about to hit in June.
Third, any operation to intercept and rescue migrant boats should not become a magnet attracting tens or even hundreds of thousands to take to the smuggler boats. To blunt the magnet effect, migrants should be landed in North Africa, Indonesia or other Third World places that provide security and access to relief assistance.
Four - the UN High Commission on Refugees should provide legal investigators to interview every migrant as rapidly as possible. Those who can demonstrate they have a "well-founded fear" of religious, ethnic or political persecution if they return to their home country will qualify for refugee status and can apply for resettlement in third countries; those who cannot demonstrate such "well founded" fear are seen as economic migrants and should expect to return home. Getting the migrants to abandon their dreams of a life in Europe could be sweetened by substantial cash grants to restart their lives at home. Israel already is offering unwanted African migrants $3,500 each as well as a plane ticket to a third country. But in a sign that even well funded and well meaning solutions may fail, one African migrant reportedly took his cash to leave Israel but then headed to the human smugglers in Libya where he died at sea trying to reach Europe.
Finally, solutions must be found to this challenge to humanity's future:
a. Population growth must be curbed, no matter what the fundamentalists in America or the priests in Rome believe. Free birth control to limit family size should be available and encouraged no matter what the country or religion. Accepting, designing and implementing population control programs should be a mandated qualification for full membership in the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund. We impose trade sanctions to block nuclear bombs. We can also use it to block the population bomb.
b. Development of agriculture, industry and education must reach the sources of this desperate migration. We long hoped to staunch the flow of Haitian boat people landing in Florida in the 1980s by US investment, technology transfer and jobs. But it never happened because greedy elites simply consumed the money or jealous thugs seized the irrigation, road materials and improved coffee plants.
c. So the final piece of the puzzle is human rights. Even if a country does not directly persecute minority ethnic and religious groups, extreme poverty, ignorance, disease and hunger are a soft form of persecution that drives people to take any risk to escape.