Friday, 21 August 2009

Gates closing to Fortress Europe

From South China Morning Post, 21 August, an article by Shada Islam, a senior programme executive at the European Policy Centre.

Facing a worsening economic outlook and increasing public hostility to foreign workers, Europe's governments are quietly revising their asylum policies. This controversial new approach includes stricter maritime controls in the Mediterranean, including the interception of boats carrying would-be refugees and immigrants before they reach European territory.

Those caught by patrol guards are forcibly sent to Libya, the North African country used by many would-be asylum seekers as a base to set out for Europe but which is notorious for flouting refugee rights.

The tough new policy, favoured by politicians such as Italy's conservative prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, certainly plays to the public mood.

Note here: democracy is good, the likes of Shada Islam would no doubt say.  But when the δμος – the people –  come to a common-sense conclusion they don’t like, then it’s either “populist” or it“plays to the public mood” or some equally pejorative term, because we intellectuals – don’t you know – are more enlightened and know what’s best for society.

But, by keeping out young potential workers, it fails to take account of the continent's longer-term concern about labour shortages, clouding the future of ageing Europe.

True, but the needs of the labour market in Europe are for skilled workers, while those from Islamic countries, North Africa, the Middle East or South Asia are young, uneducated and unskilled.

Mass forced deportations also breach European countries' commitments to international conventions on the protection of refugees and run counter to a European Union pledge to craft a more humane policy for providing shelter to those fleeing violence and persecution.

Europe's battle to keep out the unwanted is being played out in dramatic - and often tragic - fashion in Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that, in 2008, more than 67,000 people, including African, Asian and Middle Eastern asylum seekers…

For that source read: Islamic

…tried to enter Europe via the Mediterranean, often making the perilous sea journey in rickety boats. Many are known to drown or starve to death during the voyage.

Those lucky enough to survive are interned in crowded, make-shift camps in places like Lampedusa, an Italian island halfway between the European mainland and Libya, pending a review of their asylum applications. Determined to stem the tide, however, Rome is now leading the way in sending the refugees it intercepts in the Mediterranean back to Libya. About 900 people are so far believed to have been packed off to Tripoli in Libyan patrol boats, following a co-operation agreement between the two countries.

Human rights groups, backed by the Vatican, are angry at Italy's open flouting of international rules that ban mass deportations, but Rome says its new stance is more humane because it discourages migrants from embarking on hazardous sea voyages to Europe.

Certainly, the number of refugees seeking asylum in Italy has gone down. But human rights groups fear that Italy's aggressive action marks the start of a Europe-wide move to "outsource" the bloc's asylum and migration policies to African countries, many of which are anxious to receive European funds in return for such co-operation, but which, like Libya, have not signed the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugee rights.

"Fortress Europe ... is a reality," Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, said during a visit to Brussels earlier this year. "Access to Europe is very difficult and the initial border of the EU is being pushed further and further away."

With illegal migrants in the EU believed to number about 8 million, Ms Khan's criticism is shrugged off by policymakers who view refugees as would-be economic immigrants seeking to bluff their way into Europe. Governments across Europe are restricting peoples' right to apply for asylum upon reaching European soil - and to appeal against a rejection if necessary. Like Italy, other EU countries are also increasingly ignoring international conventions that bar refugees from being sent back to countries where they might be in danger.

Reflecting the new get-tough stance, the European Commission, meanwhile, backed efforts to strengthen the EU border control agency Frontex to stop the influx of boat refugees while racist and xenophobic parties performed exceptionally well in elections to the European Parliament held in June.

For “racist party” read Britain’s BNP, which is indeed explicitly racist and a rather horrid political grouping.   For “xenophobic”, read Dutch Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders.  It’s not so much “xenophobic” (Wilders specifically refutes that charge), as it is against the Islamification of Europe; as, say I, should anyone be who has studied even a modicum of the tenets of that baleful “religion”.

As the recession bites, mainstream European politicians are also using anti-foreigner rhetoric to win votes. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown caused consternation last year when he said he wanted to keep "British jobs for British workers". Many French and German politicians increasingly make no secret of their anti-immigration sentiments.

So far, only Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden have met or surpassed a long-standing United Nations target for rich nations to provide 0.7 per cent of their income in development aid by 2015.

The current economic slowdown may help ease some of the pressure on Europe. However, given the vast disparity in wealth between Europe and Africa, despite Europe's downturn, the prospect of a better life will continue to entice many to risk the dangerous voyage to Europe.

That is probably just as well: old and ageing Europe needs skilled and unskilled foreign labour to work in its factories, farms and growing service industries.

Again, true, but the needs of the labour market in Europe are for skilled workers.  Those from Islamic countries, North Africa, the Middle East or South Asia are predominatly young, uneducated and unskilled.

Even as it implements tougher policies to keep out illegal foreigners, the European Commission is encouraging EU states to sign "partnership" agreements with developing countries to encourage the legal immigration of workers.

The commission is also behind a so-called "blue card" scheme under which EU states are allowed to open their doors to a limited number of high-skilled workers. The initiative is enthusiastically backed by Europe's hi-tech sectors.

Such workers are much more likely to come from East Asia, SE Asia and Eastern Europe, than the Islamic countries in N. Africa and the Middle East, where the education systems are so rotten that illiteracy is high and education/skill levels woefully poor.  See the 2009 Arab Human Development Report, which highlights this.

As EU governments struggle to compete in the global race for talent, they will have to work harder to convince a sceptical public of the need to create a more open and inclusive society.

An “open and inclusive society”, by all means.  That means immigrants that buy into that philosophy as well, that want to be open and inclusive themselves.

Europe's appetite for forced deportations may help leaders like Mr Berlusconi to win the next election but it could spell disaster for the long-term economic well-being and stability of the continent.

Not if the immigration is of high-skill people, or those willing to work hard and buy into the European enlightenment legacy.  The converse is true if the immigration brings in Muslims subject to the rantings of their religious leaders to exclude themselves from their host countries, to purify themselves with Islam, to fight the non-believing kuffirs, and to bring Sharia law to Europe.