17th Oct 2019


Immigration… a danger or a ray of hope?

  • Aleksander Abram - the EU must be ready to sponsor asylum camps in safe third party countries (Photo: Aleksander Abram)

Immigration has become something of an obsession in European debate recently. The whole uprising of EU scepticism, popular or not, cherishes rejecting immigration in all shape or form.

Dutch politicians talk of a "flood," Italy speaks of a "wave," and some right-wing Austrian and Polish crusaders predict the "revolution." I think it is time we asked ourselves if the newcomers constitute a real danger or rather a ray of hope for our aging European population.

Read and decide

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It is undeniably true that people are coming to European shores. Large-scale labour-driven migration into Western Europe started roughly in 1960. Since the late 1980s, the number of people applying for asylum has also increased. In 1984 there were only 104,000 applications in Western Europe. This figure grew to 692,000 in 1992 and then declined during much of the 1990s, only to climb back up at the beginning of this century.

It is not possible to stop it – even if we wanted to. The US, for example, which spends enormous quantities of financial resources under the new Homeland Security Legislation, is unable to. But more importantly, why would Europe want to stop immigration?

Declining European population

Its population is set to decline over the next 50 years – Italy, for example will lose 28% of its population by 2050. In order to maintain its working age population, it would either need to start allowing in more than 350,000 immigrants per year or keep its citizens working until they are 75.

That very inability or simple reluctance of EU governments to recognize the reality and to act promptly is what should be scaring us – rather than the idea of unstoppable immigration.

The EU is in such disarray when it comes to immigration policy that the first step towards any solution would probably be to gather in a coffee shop to break the ice. Then, maybe standardization of the law. I would even go further: what about creating an EU institution responsible solely for dealing with immigration? What about an all-encompassing database holding information about all registered alien-residents? What about joined goals, and priorities, and future planning systems?

The EU needs immigrant labour

The Union finds itself in a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, the EU needs immigrant labour, and as a democratic power advertising the "International Bill of Rights", has to accept a number of refugees. Conversely, it faces its own inability to regulate the immigrant workforce, and help its quicker assimilation. What should it do?

One of the solutions encompasses the development of a number of recruiting stations abroad, which would take and process applications of people wishing to come and work in Europe.

The UK could have its nurse shortage problem dealt with by a particular station that recruits nurses to come and work in the country. The same could be done for regions looking for engineers, road workers and farmers.

The US, for example, recruits doctors for 5 years of service in a remote area, such as Alaska, conferring the right to become a permanent resident. Australia, New Zealand and Canada also do just that.

Such an approach would not only allow Europe a little bit of macro-control, proving a quicker solution to labour shortages, and a more profound picture of those who come into the Union, but it would also encourage potential immigrants to gain special skills and so contribute to development in their local area.

Sponsoring asylum camps

By sending that signal, you create hope that if they attain a particular level of experience, they have a chance to move legally to Europe.

Europe needs to provide a better set of assimilation incentives such as easier access to education, and professional improvement programmes, and encourage the currently settled resident-aliens to try out for opportunities across various member states.

As far as asylum applicants are concerned, the EU must be ready to sponsor asylum camps in safe third party countries, which would check the validity of applications. Other options, naturally, are more development aid, debt relief, and, most significantly, fair trade.

The EU will need to be better equipped to prevent conflict and keep the peace in trouble-spots around the world. If we really want to scale down asylum settlement in Europe, we need to address issues of African or Asian conflicts for example. But we have even yet to see the EU reaching any consensus on Iraq.

How far behind are we?

ALEKSANDER ABRAM - Polish academic, currently pursuing graduate studies in agricultural economics at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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