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.