The right wing nationalist wave is still spreading across Europe. Economic crisis and austerity yet again proves to be breeding ground for ideas stretching further and further into the far right. In those, just slightly more difficult, times many countries seem to be tempted by the idea of detaching themselves from the rest of the world. Many people tend to seek a reason for shrinking economy and socio-political decline. That reasons often get face of the ‘other’ – immigrants who come to steal our jobs and abuse our welfare system (most probably in the same time).
In the UK, after extremely successful European Elections, UKIP won its first and soon after second seat in the parliament. In the run up to the Rochester by-elections UKIP’s candidate Mark Reckless (who in September was still a member of the conservative party) managed to position himself on the right of his own far-right party suggesting that migrants from other EU countries, who have legal right to live and work in UK, should be asked to leave. It’s needless to say that he went on to win the by-election.
Immigration is often used as a scarecrow – something to blame for countries internal issues, something that is supposed to sell the papers and attract voters. This is well reflected in a research recently published in Poland – another country that, for obvious reasons, I find particularly important. The study focused on Poles’ awareness of socio-political issues in their country and discovered that on average Poles believe that 1 in 7 residents of this country is an immigrant. In reality 1.75% of population was born abroad… that’s 1 in 57. One may say that this is just an innocent mistake, I see more than that. Completely wrong idea about the number of migrants is a reflection of certain anxiety, fear that there is already too many of ‘them’.
Both of these events happened in one week – the same week Barack Obama decided to put new legislation in place allowing 5 million illegal immigrants across USA to come out of shadows and get 3 year work permits without the risk of being deported. It is clear that this far from a perfect solution – they will not have access to free or subsidised healthcare, there are at least further 6 million immigrants that still have to lead their lives fearing deportation and finally it is not clear what is going to happen with all those people after their 3 year work permit expire. This is, however, an approach so strikingly different than current European path. One that in my opinion, is also by far more moral, effective and simply beneficial both to immigrants and to the nation they arrive in.
Why can’t Europe develop a healthy approach to migration and instead constantly feels threatened by them? Is it because economically Europe and the US are in completely different places? With US economy powering full steam ahead and European still struggling to recover from the crisis? Are we only prepared to accept immigrants when we the economy is performing well and we feel financially secure? Or is it because Americans because thanks to the history of their nation are more aware of the benefits of accepting migrant?