Future remains bleak for them in Europe

With the negative aftermath of the Arab Spring, ethnic cleansing in African states and chaos havocked by the terror group Islamic State spreading all over, several European countries think they face an imminent threat from the unaccountable influx of refugees and migrants, especially the illegal ones.

Europe has been one of the key destinations for them because of its economic prosperity and liberal democratic societies. It attracts people mostly from West Asia and Africa, given the geographical proximity between these continents. Many cross over to Italy, which is the gateway to other European countries and others to UK and Germany because of the developed economic barometer. Refugees also move to these countries because of the universal welfare system and the affinity one feels due to the ‘already settled’ migrants and refugees in these countries.  In the case of UK, the education system is another factor of attraction.  However, due to 9/11 incident, the economic recession, fear of demographic imbalance, the recent upheaval of the Arab Spring with its after effect of the influx of Syrian refugees and the menace of IS  have led to a fear within the Europeans towards refugees and immigrants. Europe feels threatened by these groups which no longer are seen as a positive factor or a contributor in the European society.

In any host country, refugees and immigrants who have the right to receive access to employment, social security, education and the court system, are no longer receiving that kind of benefits. They are becoming a huge issue to the developed countries including in Europe. It is because of the various challenges it has posed in terms of security: societal, economic and internal. 

 Globalisation and economic liberalisation, which were supposedly to bring the world together, have made it complex. With the setting in of the  economic recession that engulfed the world, especially the West, since 2008 and the end of the Cold War, have impacted in a negative manner on humanity. With the end of the Cold War, a number of smaller wars such as border disputes, asymmetrical warfare between states, state versus non-state actors, atrocities in the name of ethnic cleansing, and communal riots have increased leading to an augmentation in refugees and immigrants.

At the societal level, immigration is seen as a societal security threat as it challenges a state’s traditional national identity and core values. For example, European societies, which were homogenous, are becoming heterogeneous in nature.
Problem is not about the transformation of the societies but the rigid conditions that are increasingly getting attached to immigration in the name of religion, culture and identity.

There is a trend that has been noticed within these groups of the inability to integrate or assimilate with the host societies, leading to a negative effect of fear towards the instability of the particular country. For example, non-assimilation of the Turkish immigrants (becoming rigid with their Islamic identity) in the European societies is also a factor in the refusal of its European Union membership.

The Europeans, with the rise of political Islam and Islamic fundamentalism leading to extremism and terrorism, are sceptical towards immigrants from these countries. 

In the economic sector, the remittances and the job market both in the high collared and labour markets are posing a threat to the Europeans especially after the recession.  Internally, terrorism, internationally organised crime, mafia, smuggling, drugs and narcotics trafficking have posed a threat to Europe leading to tighter border control and immigration policies. 
Negative trends

Multi-culturalism and heterogeneous societies are becoming negative trends in Europe due to the increase in religious and cultural fundamentalism and extremism. Although immigrants bring new ideas, technological knowledge and expertise contributing towards the host society’s development, refugees and immigrants have become a threat in Europe with economic recession, religious fundamentalism and right-wing politics of conservatism (protecting one’s identity, ethnicity and culture) etc. These have strengthened the inhuman treatment towards these groups.

Pope Francis during an address to the European Parliament on November 2014 asked Europe to ‘open the arms to refugees’ and not allow ‘allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery’ after the incident where scores of immigrants were drowned while trying to reach Europe through the Italian island of Lampedusa from Africa.
Looking at the trend on how right-wing political parties are gaining popularity based on anti-immigration and euro-scepticism due to economic recession and religious terrorism/fundamentalism, conditions will remain bleak for refugees and immigrants in the near future. However, if European governments do not resolve this matter prudently through checks and balances, then the security threats, especially internal and societal, will amplify. 

Pope Francis (while addressing European Union parliament): "There needs to be a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery. The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance."

David Cameron, Prime Minister, Britain: "We will act "with the greatest urgency" in offering the "most needy people" in Syrian refugee camps a "home in our country.”
“We will be coming forward with a scheme to help the most needy people in those refugee camps and offer them a home in our country.”
 Barack Obama: "Together we can build a fair, effective and common sense immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants..The authorities will go after felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a Mom who's working hard to provide for her kids. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

 (The writer is a Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi)

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