A European anti-immigration feeling ?

, by translated by Nelly Tsekova

A European anti-immigration feeling ?

In a survey conducted in June 2011, Ipsos found that Europeans have quite a bad perception of immigration, compared to other countries in the world.

On top of the list were countries such as Germany, Turkey and Belgium - priding on diversity and traditionally welcoming immigrants.

Sweden and Poland were the only European countries that didn’t have an anti-immigration feeling majority

Majorities in most EU countries surveyed agreed that immigration had made it more difficult for citizens to find employment and “placed too much pressure on public services,” such as health care and education.

The results of this poll, while not pleasant, are not surprising.

Unity in diversity, really?

In 2000, the European Union adopted ’United in Diversity’ as its motto, a reference to the many and diverse member states in terms of culture. EU’s motto seems good on paper but practice shows otherwise.

The recent events in North Africa which lead to migration influx towards Europe have put EU’s adequate acting in times of crisis to the test. EU governments agreed on a series of measures to strengthen the bloc’s external borders and prevent illegal migrants from North Africa from reaching European shores and seeking jobs.

The European Commission in July approved Italy and France adopting their own measures to deal with an influx of migrants from Tunisia earlier this year, stating they’re in compliance with EU rules but deemed them as disrespectful to the “spirit” of the Schengen agreement.

In April 2011 the first annual limit on non-EU workers came into force in Britain, with employers being able to bring 20,700 workers outside the EU instead of 28,000 in 2009.

Earlier in August, the European Commission accepted Spain’s request to restrict the number of Romanian workers seeking employment in the country in order to protect its labour market.

The far-right Danish People Party kicked off its electoral campaign in September with a call to toughen border regime.

Each of these examples contradicts one of the founding principles of European democracy – the free movement of people.

From despair to where? Or immigration as means of survival

Immigration is a decision that more and more people are making every day. And it’s not an easy one. Whether they choose to leave their current situation for personal, social or economic reasons (in this case the word ‘forced’ is more appropriate) once the decision is made there is a long road ahead for those setting out for destinations far and unknown in search for a better life.

Immigrants are often accused of robbing the locals of their jobs, benefiting from social welfare systems without paying taxes, forming criminal gangs.

Indeed, that can be the case, but we’ve got to see from the point of view of the immigrants to gain a better understanding:

Immigrants can be exploited for cheap labor and taken advantage of because of their position and need. Immigrants are the victims of racism and hostile behavior. The negativity towards illegal immigrants sometimes transfers to the law-abiding legal immigrants thus creating stereotypes and prejudice. Immigrants are often blamed for the overall bad situation of a certain community. And last but not least - many lose their lives trying to get to the ‘promised land’.

Immi-great!

While there are undoubtedly drawbacks for the host country – we shouldn’t forget that there is also a positive side to immigration for both the immigrant and the country in which he is settling. For example, immigrants will often do jobs that people in the host country will not, or cannot do. This way, the newly arrived workers will fill labour shortages and boost the country’s economy. If they are skilled immigrants they can even pass their knowledge and experience to other citizens.

When made to feel welcome in the country, immigrants can contribute immensely to the diversity of society, creating a multicultural society that puts tolerance and understanding in first place. The well being of immigrants in the host country improves the overall image of the country which is the best advertising one could get.

As with ever other complex issue there’s always the possibility of turning immigration into a purely political issue. But what is certain is that if we continue to do this we will complicate it even further and deepen the divide between immigrants and citizens. Securing national borders with barbed wire and police will not stop immigrants, they’ll just find another, more dangerous way of entering the country. Steps should be taken for encouraging legal immigration which will be benefiting for both sides. Let us not forget that at the end of the day we’re all human beings each with its own hopes and fears. So instead of building up barriers we should be breaking them down and showing the world that unity is strength.

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