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 3 days 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 3 days 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 3 days 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 3 days 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 3 days 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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2 Comments

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

  2. Kaiser 14 hours 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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