EU Must Change Its Immigration Policy, Experts Warn | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.04.2006
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EU Must Change Its Immigration Policy, Experts Warn

Rather than building the walls around "Fortress Europe" higher, as many EU politicians favor, migration experts say the EU needs a new progressive policy on immigration -- for its own good.


The boat is full according to many EU politicians, but migration experts beg to differ

More than 64 million people from poorer countries have found a new home in the EU. Many EU politicians have said enough is enough and are ready to do whatever is necessary to keep any more immigrants crossing the borders into Europe.

However, while many continue to risk their lives to get into the EU and as the borders of "Fortress Europe" become increasingly difficult to scale, some experts are proposing a "selective opening" approach to dealing with the influx of immigrants.

Migration is currently seen as a security problem by most governments, according to Thomas Faist, a migration expert at the University of Bielefeld. He says that for a change in approach to be successful, that perception has to change. "Migration is a sociopolitical problem; and it is an economic problem," Faist said.

He has criticized those EU politicians who have used the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to justify a crackdown on immigrants. "The terrorists of 9/11 were well integrated, mobile people not typical migrants. In this respect, we must move away from the catch-all policy where everyone is a threat to one of selective opening."

Abschiebung von Immigranten nach Senegal

Only those perceived as useful are let in

How would such a policy work and how would progressive migration experts convince the heads of state to at least consider it? Most EU leaders follow the same thinking as the French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who says: "We don’t want any destitute immigrants, but only those who are especially equipped to contribute in significant and lasting ways to the development of France in the world."

Allowing in only 'useful' immigrants helps no one

Human rights activists and development agencies believe this view to be outdated. "We must prevent the 'brain drain' from these developing nations," said Günter Bonnet of Germany’s Economic Development Ministry. "If we don’t stop the elite from leaving these countries, they will become a wasteland and will not be able to save themselves."

Immigranten in Spanien

Europeans fear an influx of immigrants

Besides, a small hand-picked group of highly qualified immigrants cannot solve one of the biggest problems in the EU -- namely that the population of Europe is rapidly ageing.

By 2015, a third of the people in Europe will be older than 50. The future of Europe depends on immigration. Migration experts already warn about future competition within the EU for immigrants if policies are not changed now.

Nevertheless, many Europeans are afraid that migrants will take work away from them. These fears are valid and should be taken seriously, says Ulla Mikota of the federation for third world aid policy of German non-governmental organizations.

Europe should see the benefits if migration, say experts

However, she said, the EU should be realistic. "The threat is not about workplaces because many illegal immigrants are unable to get work," she said. "There are many more illegal immigrants living on benefits than on earnings from work."

Mikota demands that EU politicians create more possibilities for people from other continents to immigrate legally into the EU. "We live in the time of globalization and the liberalization of markets and it is quite normal that people move around, not just from poorer nations."

"Europeans have to learn to see immigrants not as a menace but as a chance."

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