Why Does Europe Struggle with Migrant Integration?

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10th Apr 2019 Human Rights Reference this

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The recent flow of immigrants into Europe can be attributed to political instability in the homelands of the refugees involved. This situation is referred to as a crisis, both within the European borders and internationally. The crisis has caused complications for the European Union as a whole, which lie in the amalgamation of viewpoints on the subject within EU member states. The main point would be that the immigration crisis has opened up discourse of anti-immigration attitudes and sentiments from some EU nations, which does not harmonize well with what the European Union’s overall stance on the subject is or should be.

The political make up of Europe can attribute to why the immigration subject is more complex in comparison to North America. Although, there has been rhetoric within some North American governments that support anti-immigration ideology, there are some differences from Europe that makes its case more increasingly politically delicate. This paper moves to present these differences by assessing the political distinctions between Europe and North America. Additionally, it will analyze the effect of radical-right parties in Europe and anti-immigration sentiments. It will also point to relevant similarities, such as how the discourse on the immigration subject compares in some European nations and the United States. Furthermore, it will analyze how the current state of affairs within Europe prove the subject of immigration to be increasingly intricate and complex beside North America.

The EU Migrant Crisis

Due to unstable conditions in the home countries of the migrants, many people have fled from their respective several regions to seek refuge in the European Union. This situation has caused for the European Union to be granted with what is often recognized as their greatest challenge since the debt crisis.”[1] Essentially, the problem is that the European Union has to deal with a large amount of people migrating into various EU nations, and that is something that they have not had to deal with in the past.

Another important point in order to paint a picture of the situation, is the coverage it has within the media. The media has had a focus on how migrants are putting themselves in danger in the process of migrating. Some people have even died in an attempt to make this journey into Europe. An unfortunate example of this was reported in The Guardian as, “two young brothers and their mother were among at least 12 Syrians heading to Greece.”[2] The route that these people lost their lives on is one that is extremely dangerous. Geographically, they had no other choice in terms of how to get into Europe from Syria.[3] All in all, migrants are too often putting themselves in danger during their migration travels and this proves how desperate they are in seeking asylum, considering they put themselves and their children in such danger.

Furthermore, “the number of illegal border-crossing detections in the European Union started to surge…at the onset of the Arab Spring.” Events such as the Arab Spring uprisings and the ongoing Syrian civil war have produced instability in many nations in the Middle East and Africa. This instability has essentially coerced the people it has affected to seek migration to the European Union in order to take refuge from the chaos.

It has been pointed out that in a sense, the European migration crisis could and even should be attributed to Western inaction in the Middle East. As of March 15, the Syrian civil war has officially entered into its 7th year, with a death toll of 470,000. There has been some Western intervention but none on the front lines to stop the fighting.[4] Syrian refugees initially fled to neighboring nations such as Turkey and Jordan, but more so made their way to Europe. It is important to recognize that people most often do not leave their homes unless they feel as though it is not absolutely necessary and the best option. 

Moreover, because of the variety of stances on the migrant situation within the EU there is confliction for the EU in finding a policy that will deal with the migration crisis in an effective and coherent manner. This is an attributing factor to why the subject of immigration is politically delicate in Europe over North America. An example that proves this delicacy could be seen with the nation of Hungary. Hungary has faced criticism for past actions it has had against incoming migrants. The New York Times reported, “The Hungarian riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at hundreds of migrants…The use of force by the Hungarian authorities, a turning point in the migration crisis, drew criticism from the United Nations”[5] This event highlights the tensions of individual nations within the EU and with the European Union as a whole. Also, the reaction to this event caused for varying attitudes and overall confusion for European leaders in terms of understanding what the unified solution to the migrant crisis is and it was seen to intensify animosity among nations.

Within this context, it is noteworthy to point out that the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has recently published a report in support of immigration and integration. This can be seen as an effort to shift how the situation is framed from the level of individual nations and more towards the EU as a whole. FRA director Michael O’Flaherty can be quoted saying, “the migrants living in the EU are not part of a “crisis”, but an integral part of our society. We need a new narrative that stresses the benefits that migrants…bring to our societies…integration is key to our security and to our democracy.”[6]

The Effect of the Radical-Right

Political orientation plays a major role on views of migration. 9 In eight of the ten EU countries surveyed by Pew research, it was found that those who identified with the political right are more concerned about refugees as a threat than those on the political left. 9  This fact was seen more evidently in France, where 61% of those who place themselves on the political right say that refugees are a major threat, compared with only 29% of those on the left.[7] Furthermore, the “third wave” of “right-wing extremism” can be seen as a response to mass immigration and the multiculturalism that comes with this, particulary in Western Europe.[8] Moreover, it is found that immigration plays much less of a role in North America and in Central and Eastern Europe, according to Cas Mudde. This can be attributed to how radical-right parties share a core ideology of nativism, authoritarianism, and populism and these three ideological features are closely related to the political issues of immigration, crime, and corruption. Proving that immigration a prominent feature of radical-right parties.[9] 

In the eyes of nativist, radical-right parties, migration is seen as a direct threat to their country’s nationhood. Case Mudde explains that there are four frames in which West European radical-right parties use in propaganda for their nativist movements.[10] The first being the cultural frame, in which migration is seen as a threat to “the cultural homogeneity of the home nation.” It can be found that nativists believe migrants are simply unwilling to assimilate into a new culture, which will have an effect on nationhood. Nativists believe that as an influx of migrants enter their nation; the core of native culture is threatened. [11] 

Another example to look into, in terms of this would be the recent Netherlands general election. This election was framed in the media as a test for anti-immigration sentiment in Europe.[12] This is because major parties in the running have extremely xenophobic and anti-immigration discourses involved with them, such as the Freedom Party. The Freedom Party moved to ban immigration and asylum seekers from Muslim countries.[13] With all of that being said, the European stance on migration varies among the countries within the European Union. Additionally, the varying reactions of neighbouring countries to the most recent Netherlands general election aids in proving the political delicacy and complexity of immigration within the European Union.

The second frame is on religion. Considering that the immigrants seeking refuge in the EU often come from different religions (mainly Islam in today’s situation), it is often referenced to in arguments by right-wing nativist groups. In this context, it is appropriate to mainly focus on Islam, as this is the religion that is most commonly referenced to by the right. Nativists consider Islam to be a fundamentalist religion and some leaders even deny the possibility of a “moderate” Islam.[14] The overall argument is that Muslims threaten key aspects of Western democracies such as the equality and gay rights.[15]

Additionally, it was found that negative views of refugees tie with negative views of Muslims in 8 of the 10 EU countries surveyed, once again by Pew Research. Those who have a more negative view of Muslims are also much more concerned about the threat they may bring to their country. For example, in the United Kingdom, 80% of those who have an unfavorable opinion of Muslims say refugees leaving Iraq and Syria are a major threat to their country. [16] Furthermore, this research found that majority of Europeans “do not view growing diversity as making their countries better.” 17 Furthermore, in two nations in particular (Greece and Italy) there were more than half of those surveyed, which said, “Increasing diversity makes the country a worse place to live.” In contrast, it was found that 58% of Americans believed growing diversity makes the United States a better place to live.[17]

The third frame is security. Nativist parties use this argument in saying that “immigrants become criminals because they have been uprooted from their natural environment.” [1]7 It was also found that many Europeans are concerned with influx of immigrants and that it will increase the likelihood of terrorism for the host nation. Those who voice concern about the prospect of increased terrorism include Hungary (76%) and Poland, (71%) with a median of 59% across 10 EU nations. [18]  In Germany, the Netherlands and Italy majority of people also think refugees will increase terrorism in their country.

 The fourth frame in nativist discourse is economic. In this frame, immigrants are depicted as a financial burden to the host society, as they take jobs away from the natives.[19] This is often combined with the agenda in which welfare programs must only be for the natives of the country. Overall, a median of 50% across the 10 EU countries surveyed in the Pew research study believed that refugees are a burden to society. Nativists believe that the migrants take jobs and social benefits that would have been available to the native citizens without immigration. Alternatively, in Sweden and Germany it was found that majorities say the opposite. In this case, they believe that refugees make their country stronger and provide hard work and talent for their country.

North American Comparison

Unlike European Union nations, Canada and the United States are recognized as countries for immigration. This is a key difference between Europe and North America and it plays a role into why immigration is much more of a heated debate and in the forefront of European politics. Countries like Canada and the U.S. accept migrants in large amounts annually, but the difference is that they are prepared to regulate the influx of immigrants. This leads to the annual number of new immigrants to more constant in comparison, which makes it less of a political issue or crisis in comparison to Europe.

As mentioned, the North American immigration subject differs from the European one yet, there can be arguments to prove that some North American countries relate to European nations. With that said, the stance on immigration is not identical within the U.S. and Canada, just because they are both North American nations. The topic of illegal immigration is one that is commonly seen on the United States’ public agenda. Especially, with the most recent rhetoric of, “make America great again,” pushing for legislation for the building of a wall on the Mexican-US border, and blatantly pushing to ban Muslims from entering the US. Now, just imagine if there was a “North American Union,” where Canada and the U.S. were member states. How much more politically sensitive would the immigration subject be in today’s North America if that was the case? Essentially, the varying stances on immigration by the European Union’s member states make it increasingly difficult for the Union to come to a cohesive consensus.

Conclusion

Although, there are examples of similarities between Europe and North America, because North America does not operate through the same hybrid system of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making as the EU, the topic of immigration is one of increased complexity for Europe. The EU acts as the comprehensive body of its 28 member nations. However, European Union members have a variety of stances on the immigration subject, which has made for immigration to be a sensitive topic within the EU.

It would be seen as arbitrary to the ideals of the European Union if it bans migrants from entering its nations. Having said that, the difficulty with integration and migration is in the nativist and anti-immigration ideologies that are within some European nations. As mentioned, the Freedom Party, in the Netherlands’ recent election pushed for anti-immigration and leaving the EU. This is just one example but it works to show the nativist discourse that is occurring within some EU nations.

Conclusively, if the radical-right ideology gains enough support, the response to the migration crisis could to ban immigration. This type of political conversation has already begun to stigmatize immigrants in some way and that may only persist if it takes over in precedence. On the other hand, if the European Union supports immigration, European nations who are against this will want to separate themselves from the EU. This is where the difficulty and sensitivity lies for the European Union. It would be a lot better for the EU to find a solution, in which all of their constituent nations agree upon, however, the rise of the radical-right in some EU member nations has created a discourse of otherness and an overall negative view of migrants. This could lead to have an unfavourable effect on the coherence of the European Union. With all of this considered, it can be concluded that the topic of immigration within the European Union is easily irritable in comparison to North America due to the political makeup of the European Union and the discourse created by the radical right.

References

  • Dolezal, Martin, Marc Helbling, and Swen Hutter. “Debating Islam In Austria, Germany And Switzerland: Ethnic Citizenship, Church–State Relations And Right-Wing Populism”. West European Politics 33, no. 2 (2010).
  • Elgot, Jessica. “Family Of Syrian Boy Washed Up On Beach Were Trying To Reach Canada”. The Guardian. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 14, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/03/refugee-crisis-syrian-boy-washed-up-on-beach-turkey-trying-to-reach-canada.
  • “Europe’s Migration Crisis”. Council On Foreign Relations. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 14, 2017. http://www.cfr.org/refugees-and-the-displaced/europes-migration-crisis/p32874.
  • Lyman, Rick. “Europe Lacks Strategy To Tackle Crisis, But Migrants March On”. Nytimes.Com. Last modified 2015. Accessed March 15, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/world/europe/europe-migrants-refugees.html.
  • Mudde, Cas. “Extreme Right Parties In Western Europe”. Acta Politica 39, no. 3 (2004).
  • Mudde, Cas. “The Relationship Between Immigration And Nativism In Europe And North America”. Acta Politica, no. 4 (2010).
  • “Netherlands Election”. Reuters. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017. http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/NETHERLANDS-ELECTION/0100320E4KT/index.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Social#section/parties.
  • Poushter, Jacob. “European Opinions Of The Refugee Crisis In 5 Charts”. Pew Research Center. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 21, 2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/16/european-opinions-of-the-refugee-crisis-in-5-charts/.
  • “Protection Of Migrants’ Rights And State Sovereignty | UN Chronicle”. Unchronicle.Un.Org. Last modified 2013. Accessed March 17, 2017. https://unchronicle.un.org/article/protection-migrants-rights-and-state-sovereignty.
  • Said-Moorhouse, Lauren. “Dutch Election: Europe’s Far-Right Populists Fail First Test”. CNN. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/europe/netherlands-dutch-results/index.html.
  • Specia, Mega. “6 Years Of Civil War In Syria”. Nytimes.Com – Video. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/middleeast/100000004986266/syria-conflict-seventh-year-civil-war.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FSyria&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection.
  • “Taking The ‘Crisis’ Out Of Migration: Integration In The EU | European Union Agency For Fundamental Rights”. Fra.Europa.Eu. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017. http://fra.europa.eu/en/press-release/2017/taking-crisis-out-migration-integration-eu.
  • “The EU In Brief – European Union Website, The Official EU Website – European Commission”. European Union Website, The Official EU Website – European Commission. Accessed March 16, 2017. https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/eu-in-brief_en.
  • “This Map Shows The Routes Of Europe’s Refugee Nightmare — And How It’s Getting Worse”. Business Insider. Last modified 2015. Accessed March 15, 2017. http://www.businessinsider.com/map-of-europe-refugee-crisis-2015-9.
  • Trofimov, Yaroslav. “Europe And U.S. Pay Cost Of Inaction Against Syria’s Assad”. Genocidewatch.Net. Last modified 2015. Accessed March 14, 2017. http://genocidewatch.net/2015/09/22/europe-and-u-s-pay-cost-of-inaction-against-syrias-assad/.
  • von Beyme, Klaus. “Right‐Wing Extremism In Post‐War Europe”. West European Politics 11, no. 2 (1988).

[1] “Europe’s Migration Crisis”, Council On Foreign Relations, last modified 2017, accessed March 16, 2017, http://www.cfr.org/refugees-and-the-displaced/europes-migration-crisis/p32874.

2 Elgot, Jessica. “Family Of Syrian Boy Washed Up On Beach Were Trying To Reach Canada”. The Guardian. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 14, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/03/refugee-crisis-syrian-boy-washed-up-on-beach-turkey-trying-to-reach-canada.

[3] “This Map Shows The Routes Of Europe’s Refugee Nightmare — And How It’s Getting Worse”. Business Insider. Last modified 2015. Accessed March 15, 2017. http://www.businessinsider.com/map-of-europe-refugee-crisis-2015-9.

[4] Mega Specia, “6 Years Of Civil War In Syria”, Nytimes.Com – Video, last modified 2017, accessed March 16, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/middleeast/100000004986266/syria-conflict-seventh-year-civil-war.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FSyria&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection.

[5] Rick Lyman, “Europe Lacks Strategy To Tackle Crisis, But Migrants March On”, Nytimes.Com, last modified 2015, accessed March 15, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/world/europe/europe-migrants-refugees.html.

[6] “Taking The ‘Crisis’ Out Of Migration: Integration In The EU | European Union Agency For Fundamental Rights”, Fra.Europa.Eu, last modified 2017, accessed March 16, 2017, http://fra.europa.eu/en/press-release/2017/taking-crisis-out-migration-integration-eu.

[7] Poushter, Jacob. “European Opinions Of The Refugee Crisis In 5 Charts”. Pew Research Center. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 21, 2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/16/european-opinions-of-the-refugee-crisis-in-5-charts/.

[8] Klaus von Beyme, “Right‐Wing Extremism In Post‐War Europe”, West European Politics 11, no. 2 (1988): 1-18.

[9] Cas Mudde, “Extreme Right Parties In Western Europe”, Acta Politica 39, no. 3 (2004).

[10] Cas Mudde, “The Relationship Between Immigration And Nativism In Europe And North America”, Acta Politica, no. 4 (2010).

[11] Dutch PVV leader Geert Wilders often refers to a “tsunami of islamization”

[12] Lauren Said-Moorhouse, “Dutch Election: Europe’s Far-Right Populists Fail First Test”, CNN, last modified 2017, accessed March 15, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/europe/netherlands-dutch-results/index.html.

[13] “Netherlands Election”, Reuters, last modified 2017, accessed March 16, 2017, http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/NETHERLANDS-ELECTION/0100320E4KT/index.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Social#section/parties.

[14] Martin Dolezal, Marc Helbling and Swen Hutter, “Debating Islam In Austria, Germany And Switzerland: Ethnic Citizenship, Church–State Relations And Right-Wing Populism”, West European Politics 33, no. 2 (2010).

[15] Cas Mudde, “The Relationship Between Immigration And Nativism In Europe And North America”, Acta Politica, no. 4 (2010).

[16] Poushter, Jacob. “European Opinions Of The Refugee Crisis In 5 Charts”. Pew Research Center. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 21, 2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/16/european-opinions-of-the-refugee-crisis-in-5-charts/.

[17] Poushter, Jacob. “European Opinions Of The Refugee Crisis In 5 Charts”. Pew Research Center. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 21, 2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/16/european-opinions-of-the-refugee-crisis-in-5-charts/.

[18] Poushter, Jacob. “European Opinions Of The Refugee Crisis In 5 Charts”. Pew Research Center. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 21, 2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/16/european-opinions-of-the-refugee-crisis-in-5-charts/.

[19]  Cas Mudde, “The Relationship Between Immigration And Nativism In Europe And North America”, Acta Politica, no. 4 (2010).

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