Every year for more than 50 years, thousands of young African men and women leave their homes. They trek across desserts and seas, and subject themselves to the cruelty of professional smugglers for months and even years. They risk it all, including their lives, for the chance of a better life in Europe.
In the past few years, following the revolution in Libya, illegal immigration has increased dramatically; a record breaking 60,000 in the past 6 months. This recent influx has led to a divisive debate both within and among EU member states and their citizens.
On one hand, many view illegal immigration as a major threat to national identity, culture, and the economy. The politicians who cater to these beliefs have risen to varying degrees of power throughout the EU. These people would prefer to send boats packed with immigrants back and increase deportations.
On the other hand, there are those who feel the need to help. They believe in providing substantial funding to new immigrants in order to improve social integration. And they accommodate for countless asylum seekers every year.
Although African immigration to Europe does pose social and economic challenges, it is not nearly as big a threat as sensationalist media reports and anti-immigration politicians would have you believe. And while it’s true we can’t help everybody, we have an obligation as privileged societies in the developed world to provide shelter to those in need.
Comment By Baci
I have taught Asylum Seekers and most of them are playing the system, so I wouldn’t spend too much time feeling bad about their situation, if indeed it is at all true. Most of them lie about fleeing war etc and most come from cultures where families always take care of them. Harsh? Yes, but this is the real awful truth.
I have also lived in Italy for many years and have seen the ruin they have brought to this country. Crime has increased and many cities are now unsafe, even during the day. Most ‘refugees’ to Italy are young men who end up selling drugs or other illegal activity or attacking innocent women. By day they sit in cafes drinking and chatting on their latest mobile phone without a care in the world while the average working Italian does long hours and pays ridiculously high taxes and has become a second class citizen in their own country due to politically-correct pandering to liberal immigration.
If immigration had been controlled more, in Italy and over Europe, then it wouldn’t have been dragged back into the dark ages. Sicily is the best part of Italy but it has been ruined by the unprecedented influx of refugees that Italy cannot cope with and thus this impacts on the rest of Europe – 60,000 in the first half of 2014, the total number of 2011. Crazy! What pisses off the average Italian is that these people are housed and get assistance immediately, given priority above ordinary citizens who have paid into the system. Is this fair?
Most European nations cannot cope with the amount of immigrants and the drain they place on resources when there aren’t enough resources for the people already living there. The immigrants in Italy never bought tickets but rode the buses and trains for free without caring, or boldly selling illegal fake goods in the streets and often threatening people who stood in the way of them making money.
If a few hundred die on the boats then so be it, it is better they end up there than ruining countries and making them more dangerous. If you want to help people start in your own back yard, as they say ‘charity begins at home’. This how you can really make a difference.
Thanks for commenting and epitomizing the common anti-immigration argument in Europe and around the world. It’s going to make a great paragraph in an article highlighting this decisive debate.
Admittedly, many lie about their circumstances and identities. They come to Europe, end up without a job and subsequently become reliant on the state. Italy does receive a relatively large influx of African immigrants each year and this is evident on the streets of many Italian cities. Inevitably, some do turn to crime. It’s an unfortunate reality.
The truth is that the majority of immigrants aren’t coming to Italy with intentions to play the system. In fact, Italy doesn’t even offer a system to play. This lack of support is the main reason why you see them on the street, and ‘boldly’ trying to survive by selling bootleg sunglasses and such. The little aid that Italy does provide to recent asylum seekers, which usually only includes a few days of shelter while they’re in a processing center, comes predominately from EU provided funds.
In addition, the number of African immigrants who actually remain in Italy is relatively low. And those who do stay end up paying into the system like everyone else. According recent statistics by the IMO, “The migrants, who represent 7.4 per cent of the Italian population, contribute 12 per cent of the country’s GDP and pay EUR 13.3 billion annually in tax.”
Other much smaller countries such as Sweden accept and financially accommodate for far more asylum seekers. According to the OECD, 15% of Sweden’s population of 9.5 million consists of immigrants. According to the Migrationsverket, over 24,000 asylum seekers were accepted in 2013, and much more are expected to be accepted this year.
To claim that African immigration is the primary cause of Italy’s financial woes is largely unfounded .
Of the countless studies that have attempted to establish some kind of correlation, most do not support the widespread perception of a causal relationship between immigration and crime. This includes a 2010 study featured in the “Journal of the European Economic Association,” sucinctly entitled, “Do Immigrants Cause Crime?”
On another note, the only time I was ever robbed and scammed on my travels was in Italy and perpetrated by Italians.
Does it really matter whether they’re fleeing violent conflict or not? They’re fleeing something, often extreme poverty, and risking their lives to do so. Statistically, poverty, and the malnourishment and disease that accompanies it, is the greatest killer in Africa and the world. Is this not enough reason for them to seek asylum?
Because We’re Better Than Them & It’s Not Our Problem
We can easily label them lying freeloaders and use them as a scapegoat for Italy’s financial mismanagement and declining share of world markets. We can assume most of them are selling crack and heroine, and attacking innocent women, and dragging Europe back into the dark ages. We can adopt a hardline anti-immigration stance, deport everyone, and never have to deal with another African immigrant begging on the street again.
It’s easy and we feel justified doing so because we, the developed Western world, are the winners. It doesn’t matter that we started the game with a thousand 500$ bills. In this monopoly game of life, we’re still winning and that makes us morally and culturally superior…no?
Plus it’s so much easier to simply forget about the poor people across the sea who threaten our way of life.
The Larger Picture
Ultimately, Mr. Baci’s comment helped to confirm two larger underlying issues. The first being Europe’s insecurity surrounding falling birth rates and slow economic growth rates. The second being the extent of inequity both within European societies and between the Global North and South.
Finding A Way Forward
We can’t simply ship them all back and build walls. There’s nothing that can be done to completely prevent illegal immigration. And even if we could, is that really the kind of world we want to live in?
In an age of ever increasing interconnectivity and interdependence, our ‘backyards’ include those poverty stricken regions in Africa, the shores of Sicily, and in our communities where recent immigrants are trying to integrate into new societies. We can not, as global citizens, ignore this problem.
We must instead increase discourse and work to develop sustainable policies. Policies that allocate sufficient funding towards integration efforts and dissuade illegal immigration in the first place.
One such policy that will soon be up for vote in the Swedish parliament is to allow people to seek asylum from their home countries. Such policy would provide people with an alternative option and most importantly hope. It would surely dissuade countless from risking their lives.
Another policy, or program rather, that I one day hope to develop surrounds a global youth travel opportunity. Ideally, this would give people from any country the opportunity to travel the world visa free for a specified amount of time. Prospective candidates would need to meet certain requirements such as sufficient funds and a written statement of intent. They would also have to agree to return home after their travel period or risk some kind of punishment.
Most African asylum seekers are young, they want freedom, they want the chance to explore and seek out different possibilities. I believe a program such as this would discourage illegal immigration for many young people. I also think it would be a great way to promote intercultural relations and and the exchange of ideas.
To Mr. Baci
Whoever hired you to help teach and foster social integration for asylum seekers made a terrible mistake.
If you’re reborn in a conflict stricken region in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the few hundred who die on the boat while seeking a better life in a new place then, as you’ve said, so be it.
Let Me Know What You Think!
Yes, you are right Sweden know how to deal with the problem effectively. I have a friend who claimed Asylum there over 10 years ago and had the exact kind of experience you describe. It is not only rich Northern countries that know how to tackle immigration well but for example Morocco has few immigration problems because they tackle it effectively too, and they are a developing country.
I would like to quote Jonathan, “The countries that stood up on their own two legs will not be able to support millions of asylum seekers without collapsing”. This is exactly what is happening right now and will impact all our futures. Yes, genuine refugees have rights not those who scam the system. But, surely the citizens from developed countries also have rights after paying taxes into their own system. They have a right to get the best health care, edcuation etc. They should not be pushed aside to make way for people who are fresh off the boat. Mass immigration will impact on your families and friends in your own countries gradually. You will hear more and more of people you know getting less rights in their own countries. It could be your elderly grandparents, for example, who have worked all their lives and now can no longer be a patient at their regular doctor’s surgery, where they and their illnesses are known, and have been going for decades, and now have to go to a surgery much farther away, and they are not so mobile or have transport problems, just to accommodate new immigrants to the area. This didn’t happen to my family but it happened in the UK recently. Or if one of your relatives needed urgent surgery or treatment, but had to wait because the waiting list was now 2 years instead of 6 months due to immigration, would you honestly say the same to them about your views on immigration? Most western/ developed countries are already unable to cope with pressure on the system and help the people who have already contributed. So, collapse is inevitable.
Increase in crime is not and will not be the only problem these host countries will have to deal with, also, threat to health and reintroduction of diseases that we have long eradicated. It is very hard to reeducate people from countries where personal and public hygiene is not so important. I will give you a real example from my Asylum Seeker teaching days. At the time we had to instruct the students on careful hand washing and using antibacterial hand gel from dispensers that had be immediately installed all around the college due to an outbreak of a particular virus at the time. I read all the pages of the government health guidelines and explained in detail and simply to those who did not really understand. Most of them did not take it seriously and continue as before. Crouching on a western toilet, doing their business, not flushing or cleaning the cubicle for the next person and not washing their hands after. Old habits die hard I guess. The school cleaner told me countless incidents where she had to clean up after them and she reminded them how to use the toilets correctly and they did not take any notice. Public restroom hygiene is just the tip of the iceberg. Not to mention excessive spitting in public and coughing and spluttering without using tissues or being hygienic about it and considerate to those around you on a bus, train in a store queue. I am not saying that all people from such cultures are unhygienic/ will be spreading disease but there will be an increase in health problems.
The Runaway Guide says
you’re making yourself look worse and worse
I like your blog, been reading for many years now. However you disgust me with your comments, like a typical liberal person.
If someone doesn’t agree with you, like Baci, then he’s the bad guy. You and your lots are always right aren’t you ?
Saying that mass immigartion is causing problems is a bad thing ? Yes Europe should open its borders and let everyone in, lets all share and love ! As if citizens of Europe don’t have the RIGHT to disagree. If someone does, he’s “worse” and racist !
You say 15% of Sweden are imigrants. And you think it’s a good thing ? Look a bit at the future, these 15% will be 30% and so on. What will happen to Sweden ? Its culture, its history, its heritage ?
I’d love to see you host 5 migrants IN YOUR HOUSE. Give them food and shelter, give them money. Now that’s REAL HUMANITARIAN effort here. Would you like it ?
And don’t DARE to complain if they destroy your belongings or steal your money, that would be racist !
You think you’re the good guy, smuggling your friend to Sweden, while you travel the world care free. You don’t even pay taxes in your home country. You actually BENEFITED from Europe to afford this lifestyle.
I don’t care if you don’t publish my comment, nor will I respond to future comments, because you will find a way to deny what I’ve said with politically-correct, liberal, brainwashed arguments. I don’t want to waste anymore of my time. See I have a job to pay rent, pay taxes so the migrants can come here, sit all day and claim all the benefits. It’s their RIGHT isn’t it ?
But how dare I complain !! What a travesty to complain about this issue.
The Runaway Guide says
Sorry you feel that way and for the problems you must obviously be going through.
Hi Just wanted to ETA…there is now an imminent threat of Ebola in the UK and probably into Europe and the US. It will appear in the West at some point, along with other eradicated diseases. This is not hate, it is a fact. Seeing how horrific a virus it is, can you still say immigration is a positive thing??
Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said the disease was “potentially a major threat” to Britain because the increasingly “interconnected” nature of the world meant disruptions in far-off countries can have a major impact.
This is an expert opinion!
The Runaway Guide says
Sir Walport’s comment is anything but a revelation. Since they invented the airplane diseases have had the potential to spread to distant countries. Should we get rid of airplanes? Prevent everyone from leaving or coming in? I don’t see how this is relevant to immigration.
The Runaway Guide says
It’s not going to be an immigrant that brings the virus, if it does come at all. It’s going to be a citizen returning home after visiting West Africa. The news thrives off of viewers like you.
While my knowledge in this field is not worth bragging about, i’d still like to mention a few things.
As Leif, i do agree that building walls and saying it’s “their problem” is not a solution – nor a world we want to live in.
But on the other hand, i disagree that loosening immigration laws will improve anything apart from the few more thousands that will be accepted and housed. I say this because there is only so much a nation can house asylum seekers. The countries that stood up on their own two legs will not be able to support millions of asylum seekers without collapsing. According to recent studies, in Denmark, 7% of the population are migrants, but they take up 22% of “kontanthjælpsmodtagere”(Literal translation is: Cashhelpreceivers, it is a significant pay check every month) and take up 38% of government provided support. (http://www.dst.dk/pukora/epub/upload/16601/indv.pdf )
This “openness” has indirectly caused the tax to become one of the world’s highest, up to 60% for high earnes in Denmark.
This high tax to provide for the weak, has also caused many of the high-ranked danish workers to flee from this burden of paying to others. (http://di.dk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Downloadboks%20-%20lokale%20filer/2008/OPINION/DI%20Indsigt/DI%20Indsigt%20Hojtuddannede%20flytter%20fra%20skatten.pdf )
And what will happen to the country if these numbers keep growing and there will be an overflow of people that need help and a diminishing number of people with the ability to support by paying abnormally huge taxes?
I do believe the west has a responsibility for the poor and struggling nations – however – not through open and loose immigration laws. I think that in order to relief some of the problems, they have to be solved from the core. Western nations have to support and aid struggling nations to increase quality of life, but only if they are willing to. Maybe a group of experts on economy, society, politics and business founded by the EU could support and draw out plans on how to improve quality of life – and only spend the required amount of funding to help the society grow.
I guess my thought of line goes from “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Meaning that we should help them grow an independent nation.
The Runaway Guide says
thanks for commenting.
I’m not promoting an open immigration policy nor a closed one, I’m saying we need to create better policy. Policy that gives people fishing poles!
I totally hear you, it’s a very tricky situation.
“If you’re reborn in a conflict stricken region in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the few hundred who die on the boat while seeking a better life in a new place then, as you’ve said, so be it”.
The Runaway Guide says
I hate to burst your bubble but while such programs of integration for asylum seekers are well meaning, in reality they do not work. most immigrant communities whether Chinese, African, Romanian, Polish, Indian, Muslim do not integrate and stay within their own communities in their host countries.
The experience I had teaching Asylum Seekers was actually an eye-opener since like you I had been wanting to make a difference, however, more experience teachers who had decades of experience of dealing with Asylum Seekers background ‘stories’ had much stronger views about this topic. They advised me not to be taken in by their yarns and take whatever they say with a pinch of salt!
I have friends who have made new lives for themselves coming from the third world but they never decided to sell drugs, mug anyone or just commit crime. They struggle but found their freedom the honourable way.
One city in Italy even gives refugees the option to take 1000 Euro and use it to get home. An area outside the train station was plagued by crime and antisocial behaviour by immigrants for years; when they closed down the betting shop, it all went away overnight. The city has local business owners on night patrol to ensure their shops and the city centre remains safe since many had front windows smashed and even torched when they expressed opinions against illegal street sellers who arrogantly sold cheaper good right in front of their businesses. When these illegal street sellers are confronted or tourists are warned they will be the ones fined by the Finance Police if they buy any illegal goods, these very ‘freeloaders’ get extremely aggressive and turn on you with abusive language, even when politely reminded that they pay no tax and have no legal right to be making a profit on the street when hard-working Italians have their business taken away from right under their nose on their very doorstep. How do I know? From personal experience and talking to endless Italians about this situation, reading newspaper articles about individual local crime mostly carried out by immigrants, whether illegal or legal. Even when they get legal documents nothing changes. On one island there are 1000 immigrants who have been given work visas as ‘care workers’, when actually they are involved in the black economy (and no that isn’t a racist reference). they know they can easily obtain this type of visa and continue their illegal activities in peace. My views are based on real life experience having travelled extensively all over Italy and talked to thousands of people from different walks of life. This is Italy’s current economic and social reality.
PS Just wondered about the legalities of respinning someone’s blog comments in a personal article! Will you be using my comments only for this blog or do you plan to insert them in another global publication or in your book??
“Thanks for commenting and epitomizing the common anti-immigration argument in Europe and around the world. It’s going to make a great paragraph in an article highlighting this decisive debate”.
The Runaway Guide says
Hey Baci, from my experience here in Sweden, I’d say it’s working rather well. When people are granted asylum they are enrolled in language classes and given an employment counselor. I’ve met many people who, after 3 to 5 years are now fluent in Swedish, work a decent paying job, and are saving for cars and houses. I would say it’s working very well actually. Sure they often live in communities, but what do you expect? And what’s wrong with that? They’re not living on the fringe of society without support like in Rome. Instead they’re contributing members of society and they became that way by an initial bit of help by the state.
No joke immigrants in italy are upset. Most of them have already been processed in Italy and are now stuck in a country where most people feel the same animosity towards them as you.
Regarding your comment, I think it’s safe to say that when you comment or put anything out into the internet it’s free game. I’m not sure what you mean by re-spinnning as I copied and pasted it word for word. It’s not going into any kind of publication but if it does, your real name isn’t associated with it.
Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon says
I particularly liked your message to Mr Baci at the end. :)
The Runaway Guide says
Thanks :) What goes around comes around ne?
Wesley @ Wesley Travels says
We can´t do anything about it, but I think the people deserve a better life and like they say charity starts at you´re on backyard. We all deserve the best in life! No matter which religion or which country we are all from. We are all people and we are all the same.
The Runaway Guide says
Cheers to that Wesley! We are all people!