Both the United States and EU have decided to tighten their already strict immigration laws. The measures to tackle illegal immigration introduced in the new immigration bill in the United States in many ways resembles the flaws already made in European Union.
The new bill includes the use of force by troops and police to stop immigrants from entering the United States. There are also plans to build a 700-mile fence on the Mexican border. All these measures have already been tried in EU with results of death and misery.
Last autumn, Europeans were shocked with news about African immigrants being killed in Spanish enclaves in Morocco while trying to reach European soil. Later, the Moroccan government expelled these migrants to the Sahara desert without food or water. Since December, these mostly Sub-Saharan African immigrants have changed their departure point from Morocco to Mauritania after the EU pressured Morocco to tighten its border control. The Red Cross estimates that more than 1,000 people have died since the beginning of this year trying to enter “Fortress Europe”.
The United States is still the ultimate honey-pot that immigrants from below the border want to reach, but many, especially Africans without contacts in the States, start their new lives in Europe. Escaping poverty, hunger, wars, political persecution, and unemployment, these immigrants try to reach “the land of milk and honey”. Unfortunately Europe doesn’t seem to stand up for its reputation. During last autumn’s riots in France, a young Frenchman said: “When you’re an immigrant here, you’re just stuck in your shit. Does it really surprise you it’s going up in flames?”
The other similarity I find in immigration policies of both the U.S. and EU is the hypocrisy; even though western nations are dependent on immigrant labour to do jobs westerners don’t want or simply filling the void in the labour market, politicians refuse to grant them any benefits enjoyed by the legal workforce. The naturalisation of immigrants’ status would benefit both sides. The government would know who’s living within its borders and could collect tax revenues; the immigrants would be granted a safer work environment and at least the minimum wage.
If you’re well educated and already well off, you’re welcomed in Europe. To others, Europe would rather say “bye, bye”. Tony Blair seemed to be one step ahead of Bush, when announcing the UK’s new immigration policy, which will put educated people at the top of the list when granting citizenship. Uneducated labor is welcomed only as long as their work contracts in the UK are valid. This seems to be the idea of European immigration policy in general. Europe wants all the benefits of immigration without the responsibilities.
The same policy favouring educated people actually increases the total flow of immigrants. The brain drain from sub-Saharan Africa is already at an alarming level. As mentioned in an article of Al-Ahram “…In Ghana, it was recently revealed that more than 200 nurses, trained at the taxpayers’ expense, left the country in the first two weeks of 2003….” Just a few days ago, Brian Everett, assistant general secretary of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in Britain, told IPS that “…The consequences are, put simply, that the losing nations do not have the skill base to educate their young people and develop their own economies…”
European politicians are currently not addressing the core problem leading to mass immigration. They are actually making things worse by undermining development in the global south. The ideal situation for everyone would be to work and live in one’s homeland. To put fences and military in the way of desperate people is useless, cruel, and short-sighted.
The same article in the weekly Al-Ahram described the thinking of European politicians in 2003:
“…The European leaders in Thessaloniki contemplated deporting illegal immigrants to transit camps outside Europe. Italy’s extreme right-wing Northern League leader, Umberto Bossi, even had the audacity to suggest that the Italian navy use cannons to prevent African migrants from reaching Italian shores…”
This may sound like a cruel joke, but unfortunately it’s not far from what is already happening at the EU borders.
The EU has placed border fences both on its borders and within the EU. Refugees and immigrants are welcomed to Europe by placing them into detaining centers or foreigner camps (.pdf), often similar in conditions to prisons. Because of the bad image this creates for Europe, the EU has started subcontracting this practice (.pdf) to North-African countries like Libya.
To make matters even worse, several countries, including Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, have deported unwanted immigrants with deadly force. During last autumn’s immigrant conflict in Spain-Morocco border Amnesty International said:
“…The evidence we saw showed that law enforcement officers used force which is both unlawful and disproportionate, including lethal weapons. They injured and killed people trying to cross the fence. Many of those seriously injured inside Spanish territory were pushed back through fence doors without any legal formality or medical assistance…”
The director of Amnesty International’s EU office Dick Oosting added,
“…The present dire situation in North Africa, where people trying to gain entry to EU territory are reportedly being shot dead, or even dumped in the desert without food or water, relates directly to pressure exerted by EU countries to strengthen fortress Europe…
…Shamefully, EU Member States are shifting the burden of refugee protection to other countries which may be ill-equipped to deal with the ever increasing numbers of displaced people. In the process, international commitments to humane treatment and the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ are being violated. The overall effect is not only to strain the EU’s own credibility, but to threaten the very integrity of the international refugee protection system…”
The right way to solve immigration problems is by fixing the causes of this desperate immigration. Instead of building fences between people, politicians should put more effort into fighting poverty and reaching the Millennium Goals of The United Nations.
Xenophobia is on the rise in Europe with politicians leading the way.