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