But by fixating on the sufferings of the young, we ignore the bigger picture: what makes immigration such a difficult issue for today’s democracies to resolve is the attitude of the old.
Ours are the first major societies in history where the elderly dominate the youth simply by weight of numbers. Stretching back to ancient Greece, democracy was always primarily a politics for young people. The constitutional safeguards that were put in place sought to protect against their excesses.
Now many aging Western societies are in desperate need of an influx of youth. This is particularly true for Southern European countries like Italy and Greece, where falling birth rates mean that the population is rapidly getting older–which is exacerbated by relatively high levels of emigration. Greece has seen hundreds of thousands of its most ambitious young people go to live abroad since the start of the financial crisis in 2008. Young people move. Old people stay put.