What is the right way to handle the migration flows in Europe?

Attitudes and policies toward migrants are a relevant issue across countries and continents. The issue of migration is amongst the most divisive of our political epoch, and there is constant debate about the practical and moral challenges of migration policies.

One philosophical question at the forefront of debate is whether states have the right to determine or select which incoming migrants have the right to asylum. Proponents of a selective intake have argued that this can help to protect existing cultural, economic and political communities from outside influence. In response, critics argue that the background and circumstances (such as birthplace) of potential migrants should have no bearing on their freedom of movement.

Practically, it is a challenge to properly categorize incoming people. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that certain privileges or entitlements are tied to certain categories or statuses. For example, asylum seekers are generally accepted, refugee cases must be treated in accordance with the UNHCR regulation, and rejected (but not deported) individuals can retain a subsidiary status. Legislation and bilateral agreements also offer possibilities such as migration for the purpose of family reunion, or for labor.

On a logistical level, it is difficult to establish an effective system for processing migrant applications. Issues include creating registration centers and procedures, offering shelter while applications are being processed, and the especially pertinent issue of where asylum seekers should be resettled once their applications have been processed. The refusal of several EU states to accept their assigned quota of refugees has made the issue of resettling migrants especially difficult.  In Europe, additional issues are the role of the protection of the external borders by Frontex, the role of traffickers and NGOs, and the (mostly encouraging) effect of social media on the decision making of potential migrants.

For those incoming people who are legally accepted (and for some who are not), it has to be determined what the aim of their stay is: is the best approach for Europe to encourage incoming migrants to adapt, to integrate, or assimilate?  Should the option of ‘returning home’, for example after a civil war has ended, be kept as a real one?

All these issues are potentially and actually disruptive in many societies. Populist movements have bolstered their support around allegations of government mismanagement of immigration. What are both ethical and legitimate, but also effective, responses that  governments should consider?

– Klaus Segbers

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 4 months ago

    Angela Merkel's most current policy is the only possibility now: coordinated EU policy under joint rules because of human rights and demographic considerations, but a free will to agree through the election of national governments or referenda if ther are national political difficulties to implementation. Global migration is a reality but the level of adaptation to it is different. One of the best examples is Hungary that curbed international migration and challenged EU policy towards refugees. Anyone who visited Budapest beyond central area understands that certain changes in the Hungarian government policy is only the question of time. So, the direction is right but the implementation of policy may not be forcefull and careless to concrete circumstances.

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  2. Justas Paleckis 4 months ago

    Differences in attitudes regarding refugees and other migrants from the Middle East and Africa are restoring dividing lines between the "old" and "new" EU member states. The attitude of Western Europe, which is mainly affected by the influx of migrants, is nevertheless more idealistically sympathetic while Eastern Europe’s - pragmatically unsympathetic. The agreement which was reached a few years ago on the allocation of refugees in EU countries reflected the EU's detachment from life, wishful thinking, even a certain hypocrisy. It was absolutely clear that for refugees Eastern European countries were unattractive because of differences in benefits, living standard, also climate. That's what happened. For example Lithuania has received 450 refugees. Today 95 percent of them are in Germany, the Nordic countries and France. Another thing is that many citizens of the new member states, unfortunately, are hostile to the Muslims. Populist parties use it. However, European solidarity can not be achieved by adopting rulings that are firm only on paper. If the real solutions are not achieved, one has to admit that the EU is disunited on this issue. Then the Western countries (even within them there are very serious disagreements) would operate in one way, and the Eastern countries - in the other.

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  3. Barbara Dietz 4 months ago

    To start with, migration is a much broader issue as recent European debates which primarily focus on refugee movements would have us believe. For decades, low- and high-skilled labor migrants have contributed to the economic advancement and cultural enrichment of European countries, although this did not come without costs, as for example recurring distributional, labor market and social conflicts between immigrants and natives prove. In contrast to voluntary movements, refugee migration has to be understood against the background of repression, war and force that leave people no choice other than flee their homes. In Europe, the admission of refugees is a humanitarian obligation, based on the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. It is well known that European Union countries differ fundamentally in accepting these humanitarian obligations, although they have signed the respective conventions. Possible policy solutions to this dilemma are improved burden sharing and solidarity with EU countries receiving the most first arrivals and asylum-seekers and the introduction of compensatory payments for those EU countries that are not willing to shelter refugees. Further, European Union countries may enter into policy exchange with sending and transit countries, supporting the local aid for refugees and engage in peace-building and development efforts. While border security and the fight against human smuggling are obligatory (including return procedures for rejected asylum-seekers), legal alternatives for people who qualify as refugees may be formulated such as expanded humanitarian admission schemes or enhanced family reunification. With a view to future migration challenges, European Union institutions and European governments are well advised to promote a coordinated immigration policy which is of the one part based on labor market and social requirements and of the other on legal and humanitarian obligations. This must be backed by integration policy measures, that most importantly enable migrants to support themselves to mitigate the social and cultural risks of labor and refugee movements.

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  4. Nikoloz Tokhvadze 4 months ago

    Informing public and encouraging open, direct civil discussion, in my opinion, has no alternative. Unfortunately, on both sides of the spectrum of the European Governments - be it pro-migration or anti-migration - attempts to manipulate the public opinion are prevalent. Non-representative sentimental images on one side and equally non-representative spotlighting of cherry-picked migrant crimes on the other - are polarizing the society.
    Taking advantage of vagueness of many migration-related terms and often intentionally conflating them to fit to own narrative (most widespread being refugees vs. migrants), is yet another tool often employed for influencing the public opinions. Both, hasty generalizations or unlawful interchangeable use of dissimilar terms are often further perpetuated by the Media due to click-baiting, ideological convictions or simple ignorance.
    Removing unnecessary normative taboos and fostering informed public discussions with high tolerance for spectrum of different opinions, will create “the marketplace of ideas”. The government lubricating the civil discussions can generate the feeling of inclusion of ostensibly ostracized groups, remedy the social division and diminish the sway of the populist movement.
    The next step would be addressing the migration issue with the set of solutions and ideas distilled through the transparent and unsubsidized discussions.

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  5. Lwin Cho Latt 4 months ago

    Some people see migration as a threat to politico-socio-economic life of the receiving countries. But we should sort out who are economic migrants or political ones. How can we try the legally accepted people to be integrated into host country’s public sphere? Marginalization in cultural, political, and economic lines still challenges to solidarity politics in which identity issue cannot be separated. Migration crisis in Europe has reflected the rise of populism in the migrants-receiving countries and the surge of populist there has still continued. Politicians have sought for their votes and power via public anti-immigration sentiment, ethno-centric nationalism, sovereign authorities, cultural codes, religious doctrines, and security and values concerns that result the emergence of populist parties. So, to my best understanding, the migration problem is often being politicized by nationalistic populists as a social disruption as well as a political threat. Approaches to ‘go home’, ‘send them home’, and ‘refugee redistribution quota’ are not the best deals for stopping migration flows into Europe. Concrete policies such as domestic migration law and legitimate actions such as legal protection on new citizenship are important to be considered that can also be best way to break down the populists’ idea on immigration as a problem.

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback: As immigration continues to roil publics, what’s a poor government to do? – the kaiser's chateau

  2. Kaiser 4 months ago

    Dr. Segbers has raised the key topic behind today’s upheaval. For without the immigration issue, there is no Brexit, there is no AfD, no Trump. But the issue and its questions are framed quite top-down in this post, as are some of the answers provided by the commentators.
    Questions regarding immigration intake, determinations of immigration status, etc. seem to skirt the larger issue behind the immigration conundrum.
    What is missing is a recognition that a fundamental shift is underway in the West. This has become the age of anger, in which the system is seen out of balance, and greater oversight and more effective management of immigration isn’t going to change that.
    Suffice it to say that when the U.S. president laments at how immigration is negatively “changing the culture” of Europe, he does so confident that millions share his sentiment.
    Hence it’s quite difficult …
    Well, read the post:

    https://thekaiserschateau.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/as-immigration-continues-to-roil-publics-whats-a-poor-government-to-do/

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  3. ZhouYan 3 months ago

    Migration is an longtimeproblem for many countries, especially for European countries. Dr.Segbers gives his opinion that whether states have the right to determine or select which incoming migrants have the right to asylum. Additionally, legislation and bilateral agreements also can be a big problem with this issue. As far as I am concerned, states have the obligation to legalize or make a bilateral agreement to deal with it. Firstly, some byproducts from migration like employment, social security, housing problem and so will be a tricky problem to tackle. Those problems are hard to give a best way to slove, and the key to migration needs to find the root of problem, states need to find out true troubles that bother migrants. Plus, legalization is a thoughtful way to make migration regularize. In the same time, by doing this, it will be an effect way to deter the spread of terrimist partly. Last, facing the gray problem and the high-price labor. The migration will be a solution to excite the process of European economic.

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  4. Zhu Rui 3 months ago

    First of all, all of the citizens as well as European government have to reach a consensus that migration issue in Europe will never be solved in a short period but with a mediate and gradual way to be settled. On the one hand, the large population of refugees from African, middle east, middle Asia(Pakistan) cannot be prevented completely not only because of the huge population but also due to the humanitarian reasons. Therefore, it may be a plausible method for the government to advocate their citizens to not only concern about their own interests but the tragic circumstances that these immigrants are going through. And apart from those advocation towards the citizens, the nations should also develop a thorough process to accept immigrants including the classifying them to help them to find the most suitable jobs and the places to live as well as some organizations to take care of them. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that if more and more immigrants are being settles in European countries, there would be increasingly number of refugees who wants to seek a better life from their hometown. Consequently, the current situation should be handled from the root of those immigrants, which means that if the refugees are willing to stay in their own countries, the issue will never be a problem for EU. But just as mentioned in the beginning, these conditions can only be changed moderately by assisting the immigrants in their homeland with joint efforts from developed countries. To be more specific, European countries can help to build those countries with poor condition and help the citizens there directly like establishing factories to create job opportunities and so on. And maybe this can make a win-win outcome for the local citizens and the European countries. Although it still takes a long way to go, it may be the most effective approach.

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  5. George Al Hihi 2 months ago

    Before we talk about good ways to reduce the flow of refugees and migrants to European countries,it must find out what are the reasons that drive them to escape their home countries of origin in illegal ways,so the wars and the injustice that they face.As long as the values and goals of the European union are to offer freedom,security and justice,let the Europe Union be an intermediary in the peace process with human rights organizations and the united nations and to preserve the freedoms and dignity of migrants and refugees.The EU plays an active role internationally and also has the responsibilities at the regional and global levels and therefore must be intermediary in the peace process for countries suffering from wars and instability and provide assistance before to handle the migration flows in Europe.

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  6. MP 2 months ago

    In the context of his State of the Union address, Jean-Claude Juncker, Commission President and, thus, head of one of, if not the most powerful organ of the European Union, stated that: “Solidarity is the glue that keeps our Union together.”

    However, it is precisely this solidarity which is missing when it comes to the handling of migration flows. On the one hand, this stems from diverging interpretations of so called European values and norms such as “solidarity”. On the other hand, from the fact that national, legal provisions concerning migration differ from member state to member state.
    Thus, in order to create effective, solidary European measures, the elaboration of common categories and legal provisions is to be seen as a necessity. It has to be defined under which circumstances, an individual is to be considered a refugee, a migrant, a person who is to be granted subsidiary protection and so on. Only if such a common legal basis is given, the development of an effective system for processing migrant applications on a European level becomes a possibility.

    Furthermore, it is also essential to inform the public and to encourage a societal discourse, which takes both into account, the concerns of European citizens and the positive cultural, economical and political impact of migration.

    The results of this societal discourse as well as scientific findings, national interests, but also the rights of migrating individuals should be considered in the process of elaborating of common legal provisions.

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  7. Hadil Battrawi 2 months ago

    Europe is considered as one of the most popular destinations for migrants for so many reasons. For instance, the geographical location considered as the closest developed region to MENA, -the exporter source of migrants- . Due to its economic and political stability, immigrants see in European countries as the most secure destination that they can flee to, after a war has burst out.
    European countries play great role in international humanitarian responsibility, by helping immigrants who has flee either due to conflicts or other different reasons, through their strategies and respect to human rights. However, the specifications that EU has make immigrants feeling that they are blessed that they have reached countries that provide them these rights and securities. Moreover, Europeans might see in giving their countries citizenships to migrants as threats, because they are feeling as they are competing with migrants over the rights that they have been fighting for, for ages.
    European countries are taking different steps to control migrants flow to Europe. For instance, I believe that, part of helping migrants and insure that they will go back to their country of origin, is by not giving them citizenship. I suggested that for so many reasons, because giving them the passport will force the government to have them in the country forever, because adopting the citizenship makes them considered as civilians, which will make it harder for the country to export their "citizens".
    However, not giving them passports doesn't mean that they should live as second class citizens, or treating them bad. A country can establish a strategy in giving them documents, or official papers that provide them all the rights that a country provides to its citizens, such as health services, work permeates, education and voting, and also a document that allows them to travel and move inside a country and out. By following this strategy, and hosting migrants for a period of time until the conflict in their country is solved. This strategy also is the most logical and ethical way to do, in their role in international responsibility, and encourages the idea of “returning refugees home” after the conflict has ended, without affecting their own security, and keeping refugees safe during the war, to make sure they will go back to their country safe and sound –in my opinion- .

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  8. Svenja L. 2 months ago

    First of all, we have to acknowledge the fact the the global migration regime, manifested in the 1952 Geneva convetion is failing. Originally designed for people fleeing the Soviet Union it is simply not equipped to deal with todays patterns of migration caused by so many different reasons, most of them not relating to "individual persecution" which would grant people the right to asylum. Under the current refugee regime, refugees are facing three options: encampment, urban destitution and risking their lifes on a dangerous journey to Europe. In accordance with Oxford scholar Alexander Betts, I want to suggest four ways to fix the global refugee system.

    1. Enable Refugees. Particullarly, grant them the right to work and freedom of movement. Studies on refugees in Uganda which runs such a liberal policy find, that refugees engange in extensive economic activities, rather than relying solely on humanitarian assistance beyond the emergency phase.

    2. Economic Zones. If countries do not feel able to open up their labour market, economic zones might constitute a valuable alternative. For example, there is a economic zone close to Zaatari. Enabling refugees to work in such camps, one can alleviate pressure from urban job markets while still contributing to the host country's economic development an equipping refugees with the necessary skills for post-conflict reconstruction in their home countries.

    3. Preference Matching. Both on the international and the national level, matching refugees' skil sets with the needs of the host community rather than going purely by quota would benefit both oarties.

    4. Allow for asylum applications from abroad. In fact, it is highly unnecessary and therefor irresponsible for European countries to ask people to spontaneously arrive on its borders in order to apply for asylum. Rather, one should allow refugees to apply for humanitarian visa in embassys/ consulates in countrys neighbouring the conflict zone. Not only could this save lifes, but it would also undercut the entire smuggler industry plus reduce the chaos that we are still seeing in countries on their outer borders of Europe.

    I suggest everyone to watch the following TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLIfeGflNp8

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