Saturday, August 13, 2011

A common immigration policy for Europe?


I have a Tunisian friend here in Ireland and we were talking about our experiences of living in a foreign country. We both are foreigners but the difference is I am an EU citizen. I was stunned when I discovered that even though he is legal in the country, has his own shop and business and has a visa for Ireland, he can not travel freely to other EU countries. 

Each EU state has its own immigration laws and deals with third countries, and while he wanted to visit Cyprus or Greece, he changed his mind when he learned that he needed to go through the process of applying and paying for a visa. He instead went to Turkey that has an agreement with Tunisia on traveling and immigration.


While I understand that such laws are put to place to control and perhaps monitor the movement of non EU nationals withing the union, I feel that in some cases they are wrong. This man has set up a business. It is unlikely that he will decide to move around with no reason in Europe, and end up in a country that has already too many immigrants (aka France). 

I understand that some countries do not want to take on their solders the mistakes or irresponsible immigration policies of another EU state. But if you think about it, that underlines once more the disunity of EU states and who is really losing from this mess? I this case was definitely Greece and Cyprus that have lost out in tourism. 


Wouldn't be better to have a harmonized EU immigration policies, that will allow people like this Tunisian man, that are legal in one country and have businesses, to travel freely within EU? Wouldn't be better to have common immigration laws, that will allow all EU nations to take, share and cooperate in finding the required workforce needed, from the specific countries, or skills and educational background that they think is best to attract their workforce from?

Another example of bad immigration management and disunity among EU states is the situation that I witness in many EU states; the "ghettoization" of their immigrant communities. In some areas, let's say of Dublin, we see a high proportion of unemployed immigrants, that either their are not allowed to work because of their status in the country, or they had worked when the country was booming, but now are unemployed. An unemployed immigrant is harder to employ when things turn bad. 

There are regions of Dublin, for example Blanchardstown  and Tallaght, that are packed with immigrants claiming social welfare. Though some may be entitled to it as they have worked in the past, the image that many locals see is that they are paying for those people to live in their country. The thing is, that when the economy was doing great, nobody really minded or perhaps cared. Now that things are bad, it is more often to see the public opinion asking for solutions.

But why have immigrants in a ghetto in Dublin, or any other European city? Why not encourage them to move freely in other EU countries, instead of their partners importing new immigrants from Africa, Asia or Latin America; we could use or share those who are already in Europe, not import new ones in other countries and expanding the problem there too. 

In other words, create a common European employment market. If one country does not need a certain number of immigrants of some specific skill anymore, allow or encourage them to relocate elsewhere in Europe until they find somewhere or something suitable for them. The experience that they will take from one country to the other, will stay in Europe through them, and there will be no need to keep importing people from outside Europe, unless we need them!


The European Blue Card program that was initiated and perhaps an EU workforce embassy in every region of the World, trying to find the suitable workforce for each country would offer control and overseeing on who is entering Europe and for how long. No illegal immigrants would be accepted, and FRONTEX would work on that. But instead of that what do we get?

 Many fragmented European immigration policies, that former colonial powers (Britain, France, Holland etc) want to maintain in order to use immigration as a tool for influence over their former colonies. Therefore, we can not have a united response on immigration especially when each country does not trust the others, that they will implement the laws that will be voted for.


So in that way, we are condemning ourselves in having immigrants that we do not longer need or can integrate and absorb into our societies. Ghettos and further alienation is taking place then in many of our cities, resulting in riots in Paris (and recently London?). 

Instead of having an always mobile workforce of both EU and non EU nationals that will cover our employment vacancies all over Europe, wherever and for how long they are needed, we prefer to keep paying for benefits to people that would perhaps love to work and contribute. But because of the prejudices and narrow mindedness of our political elites, they are trapped in our societies and we are trapped with them.


When someone has nothing to offer to a country's economy anymore, or his/her skills are no longer needed, why keep paying him/her with benefits for years damaging the country's economy? If another EU state needs their skills that they have accumulated over the years, why not encourage them to move there and keep contributing and supporting their families back home, instead of threaten them with deportation. 

And to avoid deportation they are becoming desperate to get the citizenship of a state that has no real plans for them anymore! Keep creating second class citizens; a tactic that not only is meaningless, but dangerous too!

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