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There are currently 25. 4 million refuges globally; 6. 3 million of which are Syrian (UNHCR, 2018). The Syrians fleeing civil war often settle in refugee camps found in neighboring countries or, when desperate enough, are smuggled across the sea to southern coastal Europe in unsafe boats for extortionate prices. Refugees often drown in during these journeys. There is no denying that these people require the support of more stable countries, however, the question remains as to how immigration effects Europe, how much help we can afford to give refugees and what kind of policy best serves us and those needing our aid.
This knowledge allows the policies implemented by European countries to be evaluated, and alternative courses of action to be suggested. This paper argues that the impact of refugees can be both positive and negative in different areas of society, but that above a certain number, the demand refugees place on a county will put too much strain on infrastructure and resources. Therefore, I argue that a collaborative, European wide policy could help countries to support the largest number of people sustainably and serve to minimize the negative effects on individual nations. A common argument against immigration is that migrants ‘steal’ local people’s jobs. The claim states that an increased number of people results in more job competition and therefore local people struggle to find or remain in employment. However, refugees have been shown to cause employment rates of local people to rise due to the production of new jobs with NGOs (Alix-Garcia & Saah, 2010).
Furthermore, refugees earn around 79% of what native people earn, showing that they are not usually reaping the benefits of economic migration, as some people claim they are. According to a UK study, only 7% of refugees have degree-level qualifications, and only 34% of those people were employed at the time the study was conducted. It is logical to conclude that only people in lower skilled positions will experience more job competition – and that native people are more likely to have successful applications given the low employment rate of refugees. This is supported by the same study showing only a 52% employment rate for refugees (Bloch, 2007). This indicated that native people are not likely to experience much job competition, especially those in highly skilled jobs, and it is even possible that the work force will benefit from people willing to perform low-skilled manual labor jobs that are less popular with privileged local people. However, this can only be true up to a point, there will be a limit to the number of people that can be integrated successfully into the workforce. Juxta posed to the previous argument is the idea that refugees damage the economy due to their need for social welfare benefits. Whilst it is true that refugees usually require more social welfare aid than the general population, after the first year the percentage being given benefits have been shown to drop dramatically and continue to decrease every year the immigrants remain in their new country. This is possibly because integration begins to be successful (Ruist, 2015).
The Canadian government recognize the importance of successful integration of immigrants to prevent society dividing into factions, minimize conflict and to improve the quality of life of everyone living in Canada. They acknowledge that material well-being is required to facilitate immigrant’s involvement in society by better enabling their acceptance in society. Canada identify financial stability as one of the factors which is necessary to create an inclusive atmosphere so prioritize this in their legislation (Omidvar & Richmond, 2003). If a similar approach could be taken in Europe, then we would find that, although at first more money would have to be allocated to the refugee crisis, society would become more cohesive and later refugees are likely to require less state support. Many people oppose immigration for fear of a rise in violent crimes committed by religious extremists or underprivileged asylum seekers. A UK based study on the correlation between asylum seekers and crime rates, across two waves of immigration in the 1990s and 2000s, showed that there was no significant relationship between the influx of asylum seekers and an increase in violent crime. On the other hand, there was found to be a correlation between a rising number of refugees and an increase in property crime (Bell, Fasani & Machin, 2013). This provides convincing evidence for right-wing anti-immigration organizations to feed off, but Criminologist Christian Pfeiffer opposes the belief that refugees should not be accepted for fear of crime. He asserts that in most societies the group most likely to commit crime is young men. It is unfortunate that 37% of all refugees are 14 – 30-year-old men, but refugees are not simply more criminally inclined people, the influx of young men merely causes this to seem the case (Gopalakrishnan, 2017). Although these statistics do contribute to the view that the mass immigration of refugees can be dangerous, this could be minimised by better integration services.
For example, refugees themselves say that language teaching would enable people to more successfully find employment; and therefore, prevent them from turning to crime out of necessity (Bloch, 2007). The lack of opportunity and isolation from the, sometimes less than welcoming, local community may also be a contributing factor to crime but, this is something that it is possible to change. In the last few years the support for right-wing political parties and ideas has noticeably increased in Europe. Iceland dismissed their plans to apply for EU membership, the UK voted in favor of leaving the EU and far right parties have democratically been gaining influence in governments (Postelnicescu, 2016). According to Lesinska (2014) the position of Europe collectively, is changing due to a growing fear of terrorism. This fear is being manifested as a mistrust of immigrants and of people who belong to religions that are perceived as non-western. The prevalence of prejudice against immigrants has been shown to correlate with the popularity of right-wing parties; which often take an anti-immigration approach (Lucassen & Lubbers, 2011). Perhaps a way to combat this growing move towards the right, would be to educate young children about the importance of diversity and the plight of asylum seekers, alongside the employment of integration strategies as a priority to prevent the separation of society and encourage the assimilation of refugees into the community; so that they can be seen to create a positive impact.
Multiculturalism is a “socio-intellectual movement that promotes the value of diversity” (Fowers & Richardson, 1996, p. 609). Fowers and Richardson believe that if we are only familiar with one culture then we understand only a small section of society. They therefore argue that a multicultural society is more interesting, and people have more dignity, tolerance and rights. This shows that we can create a more multicultural society by accepting refugees into our states and through their integration into European society native people will be exposed to a different perspective which may encourage open-mindedness and empathy. However, some people argue that social cohesion is a foundation of the secure society is built on the existence of shared values – which may be undermined by multiculturalism. Racial variety is especially attributed as a source of insecurity and an increase in the distrust between members of a community (Letki, 2008). Although shared values are important, it is possible to respect and learn about a different culture without abandoning one’s own culture’s values. I would even argue that teaching refugees about our values, for example through children attending local schools, will help them to better integrate into society. It is important to understand that refugees do not seek the destruction of western culture, they are searching for an escape from conflict (Baubock, 2002). German law states that, anyone fleeing their home country as a political refugee should be given asylum.
This is based on the principle that no one should be persecuted as a result of their political beliefs or religion. In response to this open policy around 10,000 people immigrated to Germany a day in 2015 – most of which were Syrian. This policy is well-meaning and accounts for the fact that were the situation reversed, German people would expect to be able to leave Germany; indeed German Jewish people did during World War two (Law Library of Congress, 2016). However, public services and infrastructure in Germany are struggling to keep up with the demand they are being placed under. For example, refugees integrated into mainstream German society require general health care. It is unknown whether they will utilize hospital services more than German natives, but it is obvious that a greater quantity of people will be visiting hospitals. A contributing factor to the rise of health care needs is the prevalence of mental health disorders, in refugee minors particularly, and resources are available to help people struggling in this way (Gopffarth & Bauhoff, 2015). It is clear from this example that refraining from placing limits on the number of refugees a country is willing and able to take can have negative consequences so a balance between compassion and logistics needs to be found.
According to the UK government website (GOV. UK, 2015) the UK has promised to admit 20,000 refugees by 2020, alongside an unspecified number of unaccompanied minors currently living inside refugee camps. This number is woefully low, it equates to the same number of people as settled in Germany in two days in 2015. However, the UK is keen to point out that it is the second largest contributor of money to the refugee camps around Syria (Law Library of Congress, 2016). The UK opted out of the EU’s voluntary refugee program – which was designed to encourage collaboration between European countries and spread the people requiring help more fairly across Europe. The UK defends its policy by arguing that encouraging people to cross the Mediterranean Sea by dangling the prospect of a better life in Europe before them, is morally reprehensible. People die regularly on these journeys and it is more important to contribute money to refugee camps, so that people can be safe, but return home more easily as soon as possible and experience less of a culture shock (Spectator, 2017). I admit that it may be true that this would minimize the number of sea crossings. However, refugee camps are unlikely to be stable places for children to thrive and grow. Studies based in Africa have shown that refugee camps can degrade the health of the nearby native population and cause price inflation for food products. This may lead to a lower quality of life in the surrounding communities (Alix-Garcia & Saah, 2010). It should also be understood that when fewer refugees are granted asylum and border controls are made stricter this only serves to increase the fees smugglers can charge to transport people into Europe – it is unlikely to prevent desperate people from making the journey.
The lack of official routes for asylum seekers can result in a greater security risk for the host countries and less effective integration (Dullien, 2016). Dullien (2016) criticizes the way that Europe has dealt with the refugee crisis and proposes the formation of the ‘European Refugee Union’. He believes that the distribution of refugees throughout Europe currently is problematic. Some European countries, with the economic capacity to do so, have settled large numbers of refugees in their territory: for example, Germany and Sweden. However, other countries with the economic ability to do the same, have made very little contribution to the crisis in this way: like the UK. On the other side of the issue are those countries like Italy and Greece who lack the economic stability but have, nevertheless, allowed a disproportionate number of asylum seekers into their country. Dullien’s proposal would allow Europe to act as one unit in combatting the refugee crisis. He argues in favor of a fair, efficient, sustainable and collaborative system where by each country would only accept as many refugees as it has capacity for and would receive monetary compensation per refugee to facilitate their integration into society. Using this approach, he believes that we could accept more refugees than we currently have, and it could be done in a way which allows for far less negative impact. The merit in the idea that there are negative effects to immigration, particularly of refugees, must be admitted.
For example, countries can experience an increased property crime rate, a rise in social welfare claims, fuel for the growing trend of right wing uprising and the possibility of decreased trust within communities. However, it has also been demonstrated that with the necessary mechanisms in place, developed European countries can do their moral duty in providing safety to asylum seekers, without compromising their societal values or infrastructures. The negative implications of immigration can be minimized. Firstly, through the employment of improved integration services.
For example, providing English language training and helping refugees to search and apply for jobs. Secondly, through the education of the native public regarding issues of war and politics which cause people to flee their homes and the differences between economic immigrants and refugees. It is essential for young children to understand that alternative cultures exist in order to promote their future tolerance of people who differ from them (Karuppiah, 2011). Thirdly, by integrating sperate European policies regarding asylum seekers into a collaborative European system, the economic and political burden of the refugee crisis can be shared more fairly. This will also enable more refugees to be given aid, for integration to be more thorough and effective, and for the costs of integration services per country to be minimal.
Moreover, this paper has provided evidence for the idea that European societies can benefit from the immigration of refugees. They provide a young work force willing to do manual labor tasks, they contribute to a diverse and interesting society and increase the population’s exposure and knowledge of other cultures, foods and religion – hopefully resulting in an increased tolerance for the unknown in native people.
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