Inmigration policy in the European Union

The refugee crisis

The refugee crisis has been one of the key issues for the European Union in the year 2015 and everything points to it remaining one during 2016. Germany took in 1.2 million refugees in 2015 (i.e. more than 1% of the country’s population) and the German minister of development declared a few days ago that some 10 million refugees could be heading for Europe at this very moment. These two pieces of news highlight the state of emergency in which the outer borders of the Union are engulfed, a state of emergency which requires a firm, coordinated and solidary response by all Member States.

Before we set out our position on the matter and as an unnegotiable basis for this debate, we would like to make clear that we firmly condemn any form of racism, as we consider it incompatible with the values of tolerance and respect to diversity, which are at the base of the European Union. Any racist act or attitude should be punished to the fullest extent of the law as it is contrary to the Union’s values.

From our point of view, the refugee crisis that Europe is presently going through is another symptom of the lack of coordination in the EU when it comes to these issues and the reluctance of the European politicians to adopt the necessary measures to solve a problem that threatens to create deep cracks in the European foundations. We consider that, given the present situation, it is imperative that a debate be opened on a European level concerning the refugee policy currently implemented in the EU.

In our view, the present wave of refugees creates the following problems:

a) Abuse of the refugee figure: it is a corroborated fact that citizens from certain countries are using the present wave of refugees to enter the EU illegally. To give just one example, according to the December 2015 report on asylum from the German Agency for Immigration and Asylum , among the ten nationalities seeking asylum the most in Germany during the year 2015 are Albanians (53,805 people), Kosovars (33,427 people), Serbs (16,700 people) and Pakistanis (8,199 people). These are all countries in which there are no armed conflicts at the moment. This situation is a good example of the abuse of the figure. The EU cannot accept that “economic refugees” try to enter the Union illegally by pretending to be refugees fleeing an armed conflict;

b) Explosion of the budgetary line items destined to finance refugee care: as an example, Germany has announced that between 2010 and 2014 it has spent 1.7 billion Euros on its refugee program. It is important to point out that this amount does not cover the costs for such purpose for the year 2015, which the German Government has estimated at 10 billion Euros;

c) Pull effect: if the EU continues to accept refugees in an unlimited fashion, the pull effect will do nothing but increase and we will be making the job of the human trafficking mafias easier. This will lead to more immigrants and refugees reaching our territory and doing so in a way that puts their safety and physical integrity at risk. An annual quota system for refugees needs to be imposed, establishing a priority for women, children and elders, as risk groups. Such a policy does not seem to be followed at the moment, as, according to the official data from the German Agency for Immigration and Asylum, men constitute the majority of the refugees having entered Germany in 2015. Indeed, they are a majority in every age group except for the over 65 and represent a quota of over 70% among the 18 to 35 group, according to the data of the report on asylum from December 2015. More than two thirds of asylum seekers are men and 71.5% of the total are under 30 years old ;

d) Security risk: according to German media, the number of refugees having entered Germany without being properly identified is of about 300,000. In our view, this represents a security risk for the European Union. As a result of not doing in depth background checks on those entering Europe seeking asylum, we have no information on their activities in their countries of origin, there even being a chance that some of these people may have fought in the ranks of DAESH. Two clear examples of what we are saying are the assaults on women by groups of men among which you could find refugees, which took place on new year’s eve in Cologne, or the case of the Sirian citizen who tried to launch an attack on a police station in Paris in January this year and who had been given asylum in Germany and lived in a refugee shelter in the city of Recklinghausen;

e) Effects on the European labor market: in an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit in October 2015, Hans Werner Sinn, president of the IFO Institut, explained that Germany should take the refugee crisis as an opportunity to establish an Agenda 2020 (in clear reference to Chancellor Schröder’s reform package of the early 00’s, the Agenda 2010) and that Germans should work longer for less pay in order to reduce the effects arising from the refugee crisis. In our opinion, these statements by such a reputed economist as mister Sinn show the risks that could materialize should the EU continue to accept more refugees than its real capacity allows for. We believe a debate without taboos is necessary on the subject in the European Union, so that citizens are aware of the consequences the acceptance of a significantly large amount of refugees by the Member States and their incorporation to the labor market, can have on their work conditions.

We suggest the following measures in order to set an appropriate asylum policy in the EU:

a) Setting a maximum yearly quota on refugees and focus on the most vulnerable groups: during the last few years, the EU has accepted an excessive number of refugees, truly many more than those which can be cared for, something which is pushing our hospitality infrastructures to the brink. We suggest an annual quota be set which truly represents the EU’s hosting ability and which focuses on risk groups (women, children and elders) and not on men, as is currently the case (cf. German Agency for Immigration and Asylum data given above);

b) Reduce the amount of refugees hosted in Europe, assisting them instead in camps in their region of origin: We believe that it would be more appropriate for the EU to shelter the refugees in camps in their country/region of origin. This would allow us to avoid the integration problems which the refugees face upon their arrival in Europe and would help them to be closer to their countries of origin. These camps should be financed through the EU’s budget to ensure that all Member States contribute proportionally towards this joint effort. Such camps should be manned by European personnel and afford refugees a decent and secure stay. Additionally, the EU Member States should strengthen their development cooperation to fight against poverty and thereby contribute to reduce the flow of migrants;

c) Human and logistical support for the Balkan states: some of the Balkan states are especially suffering the consequences of the refugee crisis due to their geographical position. A notable example of this is Macedonia, around whose borders thousands of refugees have gathered in the hopes of reaching the European Union during the summer months. We suggest that the EU offers both human (through the deployment of European soldiers and personnel) and economic support, as well as technical resources to those countries so that they may secure their borders and organize the flow of refugees before they reach the EU. It is in our interest that those countries dispose of the means necessary to secure their borders and therefore be in a better position to control the wave of refugees;

d) Reform Frontex: We need to increase Frontex’s budget, as well as provide it with additional material means and personnel, so that it may collaborate in managing the refugee crisis, as has already been noted by the European Commission. Furthermore, we believe that the plans laid out to provide Frontex with autonomy to help Member States manage emergency situations in the flow of refugees, even where the Member State in question does not consent to such intervention, are extremely positive. The safety of the EU’s external borders is a common problem that requires a joint and solidary response on the part of all Member States;

e) Thorough controls: there have been a number of reports indicating that many refugees have entered the EU without being properly identified (there is talk of about 300,000 in Germany), as we have mentioned earlier. In our view, no refugee should enter the EU without having been properly identified;

f) Return of refugees to their countries of origin: during the past few days, we have been reading statements on the part of European politicians advocating for the improvement of refugee’s employability. Our understanding of the refugee figure is that they are people who require help during a certain time, due to war and political persecution in their country, but who should return to the latter once the circumstances that led them to come change. We are skeptic about the possibility of the refugees finding work in the EU, [given the lack of a valid degree, or simply the lack of training/given the low level of education of many of them (16.1% of Syrian refugees do not know how to read or write and 34.5% of them have only received the most basic education, according to a study carried out in Turkey) , or the lack of a valid degree. This could lead to an increase in structural unemployment, or even an excessive offer of workers in unqualified posts, which would have negative consequences on wage levels and employability. We also consider that the countries of origin will need all the help they can get for reconstruction once the conflict ends and, therefore, we do not consider the loss of millions of inhabitants remaining in Europe appropriate;

By way of conclusion we would simply like to note that we defend that the EU assist refugees of war-torn countries, as we believe in a solidary EU that assumes its international responsibilities and helps to solve the problems of the world. What we strongly reject is the current way of handling things, as we believe this could lead to serious problems in the future, as has been described. In the present article, we have tried to present a battery of measures, which we consider adequate for the EU to retake control of the situation in this issue. We hope a debate is opened amongst citizens, institutions, governments and socio-economic operators, allowing for the EU’s asylum policy to be better defined.

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