We all come from Africa, where 100,000 years ago a woman called Eve lived on what is now Lake Turkana in Kenya. Her DNA can be found in all of ours, spread across the world during humanity’s first exodus: uncertain and barefoot, we wandered northeast across the Middle East, lost each other splitting west to Europe and east over Asia and the Bering Strait, before heading south for millennia through the Americas. Our walk to populate the world took 3,500 generations to complete.
Today, you could walk the same route in about two years, but despite our shared genetic code, you’d need 26 visas and two local sponsors, and still have to provide five sets of fingerprints, proof of vaccination for yellow fever and meningitis, a blood sample, and a retinal scan. Moving around didn’t always provoke such scrutiny: Malaysia was the first country to use biometrics for border control in 1998, capping a decade of unprecedented distrust for migrants in which the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency filed its first reports on immigration as a national security issue and 78 governments worldwide introduced new legislation to reduce the flow of foreigners. Now, one in three countries worldwide use biometrical surveillance to slow and control human traffic at their borders.
But nothing can keep us from moving house. Over the past quarter century, the world’s migration rate has actually doubled. Today, around 232 million migrants live abroad and, according to a 2012 Gallup poll, 90 million more are packing their bags while you read this. When you are ready to walk with them, lose your identity first: destroy ID cards, passports, and medical records. If you come from nowhere, no one will be able to send you back to where you started.