Saturday, June 17, 2006

Immigration: EU pulls up drawbridge to Fortress Europe

Recently, this blog has had many posts on the subject of immigration (here, here, or here) – we think it is one of the major issues of the decade both in France and in the U.S. and it’s only going to get more complicated.

It is also a very divisive issue as the situation in
France examplifies. It is all the more difficult that it is hard to draw a line between idealism and pragmatism.

Yesterday, the French upper-house (le Sénat) approved the new immigration bill makes it harder for unskilled migrants to settle in France and abolishes the rights of illegal immigrants to remain after 10 years. The new immigrants will have to sign a contract agreeing to learn French and to respect the principles of the French Republic. It also makes it more difficult for them to bring their families over to join them.

It is worth noticing that the bill was softened and the new version now makes it easier for illegal immigrants whose children attend school in France to stay than previously planned. This is a result of the recent wave of civil and political disobedience spreading across France against the government crackdown on immigration. While opinion polls show that a majority of French people support expelling illegal immigrants, there has been a backlash against the move to expel young schoolchildren (often born in France and speaking only French), to their parents’ country of origin. (as we mentioned before parents and teachers have been taking turns to harbor children who are threatened with deportation and who have gone into hiding.)

As we have said before this is not strictly a French problem. Europe as a whole is facing similar difficulties as the US.

  • The conservative governments of Denmark and Austria have introduced tougher immigration measures in recent months to keep the support of populist right-wing parties.
  • The Netherlands, which has shed traditional tolerance to pass some of Europe's toughest migration laws, began in March making would-be immigrants study the Dutch language and culture for up to 375 hours in preparation for a $400 (216 pounds) exam.
  • Along with France, Italy and Germany also recently adopted new laws which oblige would-be immigrants to study the language and culture of the host country.
Last Thursday, the EU summit agreed that immigrants must adhere to European values if they want to settle in Europe:

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said after EU leaders discussed migration: “There are certain things that lie at the heart of Europe and if people want to be part of Europe they should sign up to these things. We all agreed on this,". (Reuters)

While the Bush administration plans to increase border control in the US – the EU is also considering a permanent EU system to improve maritime border security and surveillance – something called “rapid border intervention team”.

The EU's external border security agency, Frontex, which is based in Poland, already has a second unit in the Canary Islands to help Spain coordinate efforts to deal with the thousands of illegal immigrants who have crossed by boat from Africa in recent months. France and Britain are among the countries supporting those efforts, supplying boats and other equipment after Spanish officials appealed for help. (IHT)

Italy and Malta are also anxious about illegal immigration and, according to EU officials, have pressed for an EU-wide solution.At the same time demography experts insist (here) that the EU needs immigrants to compensate for an ageing population and a decline in birth rates so a proper joint migration policy is much needed.

A similar discussion is taking place in Australia and of course in America.


At 03:21, Blogger Woozie said...

Are we copying them or are they copying us?


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