Today, almost 250 million people don’t live in their country of origin. That’s more than 3% of the world’s population. A population of that size as an independent state would be the fifth most populated country in the world.

According to a McKinsey report, immigrants contribute a sum close to 6,500 billion euro (10% of world GDP) to the planet’s wealth, the equivalent of the GDP of Japan and France put together, €3,000 billion more than the GDP of their countries of origin put together.

“Despite the anxiety and the controversies that surround them”, the report continues, “transnational migrations are the normal result of a more interconnected world and what is now a world labour market”.

McKinsey makes a distinction between two immigrant categories: voluntary (or economic) migrants, which account for 90% of the total; and refugees and asylum seekers (approx. 25 million people), who therefore only account for 10% of the total, in spite of appearances. This should make us realise that when we focus on asylum seekers, we are only considering a marginal aspect of the global issue. Ninety percent of migrants move for economic reasons and it’s therefore this aspect that should be analysed in greater depth if we are to get to grips with the reasons behind the major flows in recent years.

The United States is the leading destination of migrants (47 million), though the European Union (with Switzerland and Norway) is the most receptive land (58 million), if we also include intra-European migration. Today, migrants represent 15% of the entire population of the United States, 13% of that of Western Europe and even 48% of the population of the Persian Gulf states.

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that in the US, over half of the people with PhDs who work in the STEM sectors (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are immigrants.

What’s more, according to the McKinsey report, the financial contribution of migrants to the development of their countries of origin must also be factored in. In 2014, immigrant transfers back to their families totalled 580 billion dollars and have become the primary form of development funding, far greater than any public aid. These flows are considerable for India (70 billion dollars), China (62 billion) and the Philippines (28 billion).

Finally, the report tells us that “many scholarly reports and studies have shown that immigration on the whole does not affect the jobs or the salaries of indigenous workers”. However, with equal qualifications, the salaries of immigrants are lower by between 20 and 30% compared those of native-born workers.

The report ends with a stimulating provocation. Despite the economic social picture outlined above, immigration continues to be viewed as a plague, a tragedy that risks overwhelming the identity and peaceful coexistence within the developing worlds’ countries. This may be the case, the McKinsey analysts admit, but seeing as it continues to take place might it not be smarter and more pro-active to work on its positive aspects?

In these days, with a populist-sovereignist government in Italy, the pointless debate is raging on the supposed effectiveness of making a show of muscle to our invaders, with supposedly miraculous effects, which turn out to be marginal. Once again, let’s let the numbers do the talking: there are 5 million regular migrants in Italy, and within 20 years, they will become 20 million. They produce 9% of our country’s wealth, despite the fact that integration policies are structurally flimsy and chronically late in implementation. Most foreigners live in Rome (550,000) and Milan (450,000), and throughout the country, there are over half a million companies managed by immigrants. According figures published in the 2017 Statistical Dossier on Immigration(IDOS) , the estimated legal foreign presence in Italy amounts to 5,360,000 people overall with a volatile yearly increase: +20,000 in 2016 and +260,000 in 2017. This total number is much lower, IDOS points out, than the Italians living abroad, who number 5,385,000 according to consular figures (up by over 150,000 in 2016, compared to 2015).

The dossier also indicates that the overall wealth produced by foreigners in Italy amounted to approximately 127 billion euro in 2015, and where integration is concerned, some best practices are being followed, but mainly thanks to enlightened local administrators.

According to the dossier with regards to the immigrant issue, “Italy is like a building site where the works are late and often haven’t even started”. Even on the reception front, there are few best practices being adopted.

So where do we go from here? Considering that we certainly can’t start sending back all the ships that approach our coasts since we’d be outrageously violating the most elementary rules of international law, we should seriously try to build up structural policies while also working on emergency measures to implement over time. Let’s briefly outline what these emergency measures might be:

- joint European procedure for asylum applications. The best way to ensure that refugees don’t dart dangerously from one European country to the next is not to build fences, something that encourages the more dangerous forms of human trafficking, but rather to find a way so that the management of asylum applications is handled and shared at a European level, assigning the same rights to all refugees.

- a fairer and stricter redistribution and resettlement policy for refugees and migrants within the EU with major sanctions for any country not respecting its quotas.

- reception centres in the EU’s countries managed at community level and not by the individual states.

- agreements with countries of origin and transit, involving on-site collaboration by organising reception facilities and protection. The EU should allocate greater funds to countries in the Middle East that welcome large numbers of Syrian refugees. According the UNHCR, 1.9 million Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey, 1.1 million in Lebanon and 630,000 in Jordan since the start of the conflict in 2011. The drop in landings in Greece and Italy in 2016 and 2017 (-86%) is strongly influenced by the EU-Turkey agreement, signed on 18 March 2016, which has virtually closed off the Balkan route for migrants.

- A European border and action guard that should not be a mere coordination of national forces but an actual European coast guard. This way we would avoid migratory flows heading for the weak link in European borders (i.e. Italy and Greece). With greater resources, one could set up a much more efficient satellite, naval and drone surveillance network to avoid humanitarian tragedies and fight illegal trafficking across the Mediterranean.

These are the structural measures that can no longer be postponed:

- EU minister for migrations,

- Political solution to the civil war in Syria and bringing peace to Libya.

- Describe immigration correctly by enhancing the positive macro-economic impacts. Europe is home to less than 10% of the world’s population, produces 25% of its GDP and spends almost 50% of global welfare spending. These are costs that are no longer sustainable. By 2020, the level of the GDP could rise by 0.25% for the EU as a whole, and by between 0.5 and 1.1% for the three main destination countries (Austria, Germany, and Sweden), thanks to the contribution of immigrants, provided integration is successful.

Brussels should make itself heard, and European capitals should answer.