Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dealing with immigration in Europe.


Immigration is one of the topics that the European public opinion is highly divided over. Immigrants, from both outside and within the EU, are transforming the social, economic, demographic and political reality in each country.

A lot of the negative public opinion that focuses on the immigrant communities can be blamed on groups or media with a populist agenda.

Immigrants bring both positive and negative changes in a country, but if we had a well functioning immigration policy we could limit the negative ones. Sadly, our governments failed so far to achieve harmonization among all EU member states' immigration policies and this fact is exploited by populist or far-right groups that oppose multiculturalism, immigration of the EU itself.

Immigrants bring economic growth by working and being exploited. They have to pay each year around 1,000-3,000 € just to stay in the country plus work unpaid overtime, just because they have no rights as workers. Rights that we as EU citizens take for granted. Many of them that enter an EU country with a student visa, they got to keep studying and thus paying another at least 3,000 € per year for college fees that they do not really need.

They have to pay higher taxes than the natives and other EU citizens, plus they may only find employment by doing jobs that the natives won’t take with any salary offered just to stay in the country. Jobs that they would like to do, are not available for them because of their visa restrictions. In other words, most of the money they earn for their low paid job goes back into the economy, either by paying for their visa, college, rent and higher taxes.

Refugees are a totally different case than legal migrants. The problem with this group is that they are not allowed to work and contribute, while they would love to. The reason for them to come to Europe is to find employment. Yet they are given a payment of around 19.80 € per week to live in the case of Ireland, or put into camps in the case of Greece and they are banned from certain "exclusion zones" for the "protection of the locals," in the case of Switzerland. (Spiegel Online).

The unfortunate thing is that Europe can not accept all in and integrate them. We do not have the capacity, either social or economic to accommodate the ever increasing numbers of asylum seekers arriving in Europe. And it proves very costly to keep them in "centers of hospitality," where they are placed until their fate is decided. First we need to create a common immigration policy to attract immigrants from countries and with skills that we need and are useful to us.

As for the problem of illegal immigration, perhaps we should stop invading the countries of origins of the people arriving as refugees, or meddling with their affairs so we won’t have to receive them. Most of the illegal immigrants or refugees coming into Europe from Greece are from Iraq and Afghanistan and that itself states something.

Another problem, the one with the Roma Gypsies that many Western European countries are struggling to deal with, is of a different nature. Their communities are often the victims of discrimination all over Europe and that perhaps has made them a bit insular, closed societies with their own way of doing business and life style.

That is partly because they are refusing to adapt to our way of life and partly because the discriminating they are facing. Their integration and the ending of their stigmatization should become a priority for EU policy makers. They are after all native Europeans, they have been living among us for centuries.

We should not put all immigrant groups in one bag, each one is different. Some immigrants we need, some we don’t and for some we can not do anything about them but to try and integrate them. So we need to develop a comprehensive, fair and functioning immigration policy to attract and keep the ones who we need, just like other countries like Australia and Canada are achieving.

This policy should prosecute individuals and companies who employ illegal immigrants or immigrants from the newest EU countries, in order to exploit them. They are making a profit and they are the ones to blame, not the immigrants for the lack of contributions into our welfare state. These people work and while they are not paying taxes, they offer their labor to local employers.

If they need to get hospitalized, it should be these employers that should pay for their expenses, as they are the ones who make lots of money by underpaying these people and by not covering their social insurance. That is in fact one of the main arguments that many of those who oppose immigrants from other poorer EU or non-EU countries, are putting forward against immigration.

They claim that since these people have never contributed to the State by paying taxes, then they should not be receiving housing or social welfare, draining our fragile system. But why don't they never point the finger to the local employers who employ them? As long as they offer these jobs to the immigrants in order to make profit, these people will keep coming because they are needed by employers throughout Europe that seek them.

When we are discussing about issues arising from immigration within the EU, we have to realize that we can not stop the free movement of people, that is one of the main freedoms for EU citizens. We could though, make it compulsory for all EU citizens to be paid the same salary in any given country.

If any people coming from the new EU states would receive what a native worker would as a salary, they would not be preferred by the local tax evading employers. It would make no difference to them to employ a Polish and Romanian worker from a British, Irish and French. In that way, we keep both the free movement of people and we limit the exploitation of the immigrant and native workers, limiting the tensions between the two communities.

Since none of the above logical measures have been adopted, it is clear that immigration into Europe, or within it is a modern kind of slavery. Migrant workers are largely allowed into our countries to be exploited, so the native employers can make greater profits. And that is why we can never form a fair and comprehensive immigration policy, since it is not in some people's interests and so we should stop blaming the migrants themselves.

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