06:48 GMT02 December 2020
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    BRUSSELS (Sputnik), Luc Rivet - Europe has been struggling with the effects of hard-to-control immigration in the last few years, which, among other consequences, has contributed to the rise of right-wing and far-right parties touting a hardline approach to immigration.

    Beginning of Immigration

    The problems started to become visible for most Europeans in 2015, in the wake of the "Arab spring," a hopeful uprising of the peoples in the Middle East that started in December 2010 in Tunisia, but went sour by 2011 with the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the whole of the Middle East in disarray, millions of displaced persons in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and a civil war raging in Yemen. In 2015, the constant flow of migrants to Europe, coming via Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria or via the Mediterranean to Italy and Spain, became a flood. Hundreds of thousands were on the march.

    These people included asylum seekers, coming from the Syrian and Iraqi war zones, but also economic migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, and some hostile agents, including Daesh terrorist group militants disguised as refugees.

    Most were Muslims. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the top three nationalities of entrants in 2015-2016 were Syrians (46.7 percent), Afghans (20.9 percent) and Iraqis (9.4 percent).

    Nearly 60 percent were adult males over 18 years old and only 17 percent were females. The European media, very much left-oriented, pretended for many months that these refugees were mostly families until the European Commission had to admit that 60 percent were economic migrants, and most were young men seeking a brighter future in Europe.

    Belgian national public broadcaster RTBF organized an "information" operation on the humanitarian crisis on September 30, 2015, wherein they presented refugees as families with children, while migrants were essentially young males.

    Spiraling out of Control

    Many of the migrants, hoping to reach Germany, failed to make it there, many drowned in the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Europe, at the mercy of Libyan smugglers. Amid an upsurge in the number of sea arrivals in 2014, several European Union governments refused to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Frontex's Operation Triton in November 2014. In 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel exacerbated the rapidly increasing reluctance of European citizens confronted with the migrants’ influx by saying that the migrants were welcome in Europe, or at least in Germany, surprising even her closest ally, the very conservative Bavarian CSU party.

    READ MORE: UN: Tens of Thousands of Migrants Have Died en Route to Europe Since 2000

    Migrants were sleeping in parks and everywhere in Munich and other German cities, so the country closed its borders, admitting de facto, like Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and other states, that the Schengen agreement of free travel in Europe was not tenable anymore, at least "temporarily."

    The terrorist attacks in France, then Brussels, Germany, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe throughout 2016 and 2017 were also an indicator that terrorists had been imported with the flow of migrants and that dormant cells existed.

    In France, the port city of Calais, located across the English Channel from the United Kingdom, hosted a growing camp, dubbed the "Jungle," where life was appalling for its roughly 10,000 inhabitants, hoping to cross over to the United Kingdom. The camp was dismantled by the authorities in 2016, but some of the migrants stayed in the vicinity of the city.

    Some other regions, such as the Italian island of Sicily, also found themselves hosting migrants in transit.

    "Sicily had become a transit camp, with hundreds of thousands of Africans, walking idle in the smallest villages and depending upon the aid provided by the Italian state," Aldo Carcaci, a Belgian member of parliament from the People's Party, and Sicilian by origin, told Sputnik.

    Europeans Vote Against Immigration

    For European citizens, enough was enough. Despite lenient speeches by the people in power, such as the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who proclaimed that the influx of migrants was "a great chance for Europe" or Merkel’s "Wir schaffen das" (We can do it), wrath was everywhere. In election after election, new populist parties scored higher and higher, reaching 10 to 30 percent in most European countries.

    The sentiment culminated in a resounding defeat for Merkel, who lost 1 million votes and for the Social Democratic Party of Germany at the legislative election held in September 2017. The hard right anti-migrant party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), entered the 709-seat Bundestag parliament with 94 seats, making it the third largest party in Germany. All Merkel could say in a bleak mood on the night of the election, is that her party "would try to gain the voters back from the AfD with good policies." Too late for Merkel, who is now about to head a weak coalition with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

    One month later, in October 2017, Austria elected a young Conservative chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, who formed a coalition with the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPO). Prior to that victory, in 2016, the FPO candidate, Norbert Hofer, lost by a very slim margin in the second round of the presidential election. This would have been unimaginable four years ago.

    Everywhere in Europe, parties on the right or the far right of the political spectrum have made headway: in Sweden, with the Sweden Democrats led by Jimmie Akesson, in Denmark, in the Netherlands, in France with Marine Le Pen, coming second in the presidential election in 2017, in the group of Visegrad countries: Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, all now run by right-wing or conservative governments and refusing steadfastly to accept any migrants in negotiations with the European Union.

    The main fear of European citizens is losing their jobs to migrants or, at least, seeing salaries go down because of the pressure of this massive arrival on the job market; soaring costs of social security, since migrants have received aid from the funds to which they have not contributed, and the cultural fear of losing the Christian identity of their society, now that large numbers of very visible Muslims walk the streets of European towns.

    European Commission Optimistic

    The political divide between the opposite sides of the spectrum was particularly clear on this issue, as soon as the crisis broke out. Left parties tend to defend the "open arms" policy, welcoming migrants, while the right-wing parties want to stop the influx, send migrants back home, even giving them money to go back.

    In that respect, the minority Sweden socialist government has understood its error of opening the gates wide to migrants in 2015, since they welcomed the largest number of migrants per inhabitant. Sweden pays rejected asylum seekers up to 1,000 euros ($1,220) for individuals and 3,000 euros for families to go home. Spain and the United Kingdom offer 2,000 euros to leave the country and Finland offers 1,500 euros. France increased the corresponding sum temporarily in 2016, from 650 euros to 2,500 euros. This explains why migrants hop from one country to another, to get the best deal.

    READ MORE: European Governments 'Complicit' in Migrant Abuse in Libya, Amnesty Int'l Says

    The European Commission is pleading for cash payments that would at least be consistent across the European bloc.

    But what is striking is the gap between what the national governments proclaim: a reluctant yes to refugees, but a profound no to economic migrants, and what the Commission think tanks urge. The most visible of these "self-lobbying" organizations is "Friends of Europe," whose ranks are populated by armies of ex-commissioners, members of the European parliament, business leaders and prominent national politicians. George Soros is, of course, very present, with his "open society" lobby.

    In terms of migration, "Friends of Europe" states that Europe and its members should not make a distinction between refugees (asylum-seekers) and economic migrants. They should all be welcome, for economic long-term reasons. The organization also claims that the minimum wage (where it exists) should be suppressed, to make migrants more employable, after their necessary training in the host country. This is precisely what the workers (and their unions) are afraid of: the dismantling of guaranteed salaries and social security. Sputnik asked the author of the "Friends of Europe" positions on immigration, Giles Merritt, founder and secretary general, if it was pure provocation.

    "It isn’t. It is a waking-up call. We must realize that we come to the end of a white Christian Europe. We are actually looking at a demographic earthquake: Africa will have 1 billion more inhabitants in two decades, and the European population is shrinking steadily. We must open our borders wide to migrants or will see the gentle death of Europe," Merritt said.

    For "Friends of Europe," the economic value of migration is obvious.

    "Even if it is emotionally rejected by Europeans, it is good economic policy. Aging Europe needs new blood. We have acute labor shortages, and the training effort, though high, will pay in a decade. Merkel was right to welcome all these migrants in 2015-2016," Merritt said.

    As for the Islamic threat, feared by many, Europe is not "suffering from Islamic terrorism."

    "It is statistically small. It is true that we see an influx of young untrained and even religiously hostile migrants, but we can’t leave them where they are. Since most migrants will be Muslims, we’ll have to change our perceptions. We can’t paint Islam as Islamic terrorism. It only makes things worse between the communities," Merritt said.

    Right-Wing Parties Wary of Immigration

    It is difficult to find the ultimate hard line for migration-related issues. One can be surprised for example at the harshness of the attitude of the very Liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) in Germany. The German liberals were successful in the legislative election with their proposal to repatriate migrants and refugees.

    This is a complete change for the traditional asylum policies: it is "temporary asylum." Their program on immigration is very close to that of the AfD, which is also afraid of losing the Christian culture of Germany, mainly through the "family reunion" policies, that bring some four-five more migrants for each asylum-seeker accepted. None of these "new Germans" have ever contributed to German social security, but they become net receivers.

    In Western Europe, all parties on the right of the political spectrum have warned of the dangers of opening the floodgates of immigration. Some of their warnings have been carried using racist undertones, but actually very rarely, despite wild "Nazi" accusations by political opponents.

    Most traditional center and left parties are constantly chastising the "social withdrawal" of Europeans, their "self-isolation" and refusal to welcome and embrace migrants.

    "The press constantly speaks of fundamentalisms [in the plural], as if there was any other form of dangerous fundamentalism but Islamism. Some even want to change the [religiously neutral] Belgian Constitution, to re-affirm neutrality. It is pure hypocrisy: no other community than Islam has ever threatened peaceful co-existence or the rule of civil law," Nicola Tournay, the director of communications for the Belgian People's Party, said.

    All these conservative parties blame the European legislation, the Dublin regulations, designating the states responsible for hosting migrants, and the human rights policies of the Council of Europe, that tie the hands of governments in terms of stopping the flow of migrants.

    The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which does not belong to the European Union but to the Council of Europe, has become, through years of nominations, a very left-leaning court in the decisions it takes. European states complain that the Court protects undocumented migrants and overrules any state’s decision to extradite, expel or repatriate such arrivals. This is very far from the original doctrine which the court is expected to adhere to, only referring to physical and mental torture exceptions for such repatriations.

    Utopian Ideas Ignore Reality

    For French author Laurent Obertone, whose best-seller "La France Orange mecanique" has just been published in paperback, "the attitude of the lobby group ‘Friends of Europe’ and of the European Commission is classical."

    "By pretending that demographic and migratory phenomena are unavoidable, they hope to dissuade Europeans from opposing them. At the same time, the European citizens are conditioned to accept the loss of their national sovereignty. It is presented as being ‘for a good cause,’ with a form of blackmail, of reference to nationalism and the darkest hours of our history. European citizens are obliged to accept everything," Obertone told Sputnik.

    The writer noted that the scheme appeared to be quite successful.

    "As I have written in my books, moral hysteria is driving us Europeans, and this type of competition: who will go the farthest in this form of progressist approach and transnational good-heartedness? It is self-fulfilling if it is not confronted by anything other than its own failure. It will unfortunately have the time to heavily damage our societies, maybe irreversibly," Obertone said.

    "Progressism," similarly to all Utopian ideas, does not take reality into account, according to the French writer.

    "But reality will also radicalize itself, in the other direction. Things will get complicated and it is difficult to predict what the result will be … Everybody knows that the "Vivrensemble" (Living-togetherness between communities) leads us to the worst, but many seem resigned to have to suffer it," Obertone said.

    READ MORE: Flow of Migrants From N Europe to Germany Up 35% in Jan-Oct 2017 – Reports

    In Central Europe, at least, the dissatisfaction with Brussels' "good-heartedness" toward all migrants can be seen. The conservative government of Poland, threatened by the European Commission with the "atomic bomb" of losing its voting rights in the European Council, managing the European Union, has shrugged its shoulders at Brussels.

    Brussels believes that the Polish government threatens democracy with its judicial reforms, its reform of the public broadcasting houses and its refusal of allowing migrants in. Warsaw has defined a humanitarian policy with the Caritas Poland charity, that stresses help to migrants in their country or zone, not in Europe. Poland invests in medical centers and family reunion training, but close to the Syrian border, ready to help the resettlement of Syrians in their own country, once the war is over.

    Polls taken by the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) indicated clearly just before the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, when many UK citizens said no to Europe, that they saw the appalling inefficiency of Brussels’ policies aimed at stopping the flow of migrants. Brexit proved yet another reaction to unwanted immigration.

    In most European countries, the reaction of traditional parties to the rise of the far right, usually opposed to ungoverned migration, has been to deny and ignore. Populist parties are presented as the devil. It is evident in Sweden, where the Sweden Democrats (SD) is probably the largest party in the country but cannot form an alliance with the conservatives, paralyzed by what appears to be political correctness. With the breakthrough of the Austrian government in Vienna, the winds of change are blowing.

    Repopulating Europe

    The decreasing size of the European population leads to a somber mood across the continent, with migration emerging as a possible solution to replenish the dwindling workforce.

    In many countries, high (or rather slightly better than very low) birth figures only show the vitality of the Muslim community, where the number of children per family is still very high. For countries such as Germany or Italy, the birth rate situation is comparable to the effect of the Great Plague of the 17th century, that wiped out entire populations. Apart from the effects of immigration, the German population is actually declining fast. Tax levels have never been so high, so couples feel that both husband and wife have to work and cannot afford to raise two children or even one.

    In 2012, the German Federal Institute for Population Research issued a sobering report. For many Germans, establishing a family has taken a backseat to a career. The report concludes that "children no longer represent a central aspect of life for all Germans."

    By 2050, it is estimated that only 70 million people will be living in Germany, down from today's roughly 82 million. Without a major change in the birth rate, very low at 1.4 per woman, or a mass inflow of up to 24 million new immigrants, the population will be shrinking, according to United Nations forecasts.

    Since the beginning of this decade, Berlin has increased monthly government subsidies paid to families with children, benefits for parents who stay home to care for newborns, work leave payments for new fathers and an expansion of national day care services, but despite these efforts, the German birth rate has remained the same for the last 40 years.

    Germany’s Grand Coalition estimated last year that Germany needs 12 million people over the next 40 years as imported labor force. It means 300,000 migrants per year, plus the families after reunion, which would result in a minimum of one million arrivals per year.

    Family reunions were at the heart of the coalition talks between Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance and the SPD. Last week, the German lawmakers voted to lift the suspension on family reunification for migrants under the so-called "subsidiary protection," those who do not qualify for a refugee status, but have been allowed to stay in Germany because of the danger they face in their home countries. This status may be given to people who escaped wars in their countries, but cannot claim that they are personally targeted and will have to return once the conflict is over.

    Germany introduced the two-year freeze in March 2016, and later extended it until July 31, 2018. The new law passed by Germany’s lower house will allow family reunions starting from August, although the number of new arrivals will be capped at 1,000 per month.

    German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that the compromise decision was a mix of "humanity and accountability," but some of the German political forces worry that the seemingly low cap might turn out to be the beginning of a larger influx of migrants into the country.

    "I do not see how the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) could – at least on a legitimate basis – select just a few thousands out of millions of refugees to bring ‘close relatives’ to Germany, as Minister de Maizière suggests. This supposedly minor figure – 1,000 per month – will only open the gateway for an incalculable and uncontrollable mass migration for decades," Joerg Meuthen, the spokesman for the AfD party, told Sputnik.

    The 1000-a-month number chosen by Germany’s new coalition government seems "random," Christian Lindner, the head of the FDP, said in a statement sent to Sputnik.

    "Either you open the family reunification for hardship cases and well-integrated people, as the FDP wants. Or you are completely against it, like the AfD. That's heartless. You can also be in favor of everyone being able to bring his family to Germany, like the Green party is — whether integrated or not, having work or not, having a residence perspective or not. That's naive, but it's an attitude," Lindner said.

    The decision of the CDU/CSU union and the SPD, however, appears to be "a formula compromise without real justification."

    In February last year, the Bundestag voted to speed up deportation and introduce mandatory fingerprinting of migrants who committed crimes. It satisfies and reassures law-abiding citizens, but the main question of whether Germany need 300,000 new workers a year for the next 40 years, just to compensate for population decline, keeps resurging.

    Cost for Taxpayers

    Family reunions weigh heavily on social security systems in host countries. The elderly parents who have never contributed are heavy net consumers of healthcare and the schools will need additional funding to help migrants’ children bridge the language and culture gaps. The entire society has to take care of the new arrivals, and the yearly cost is very high since the state services estimate the potential number of relocated family members at 4.8 persons per migrant. The original migrant or refugee is, in most cases, an unqualified worker, whose social security contribution does not make him or her a net contributor to the system, but a receiver.

    "Besides the unpredictability of the sheer number of additional migrants and its associated costs, this particular family reunification would significantly undermine any incentive for integration and willingness for return. Instead family reunion will aggravate the threat of an even further spread of parallel societies," the AfD spokesman told Sputnik.

    For the liberal FDP party that made a comeback in the latest election, partly on the strength of its migrant policy, the fundamental right to asylum for individually persecuted persons is inviolable, but they also emphasize the high costs to social security.

    The FDP wants Berlin, rather than Brussels, to choose whom to give the permanent residence in Germany. The country needs qualified and hard-working people to maintain prosperity in the future and immigration decisions should be based on an employment contract concluded with a German-based employer.

    In addition, the FDP wants to create a points system in which people from all over the world can apply for immigration to Germany based on their educational level, age, language skills and professional qualifications.

    The surveys show the declining support for the current migration policy among the German population, but most mainstream media "still stay on Merkel’s track and try to allay the population’s reasonable fears and concerns on mass migration," according to Meuthen.

    Europe's Depression

    The Germans are not alone in feeling down: one could call it the "great depression." The European citizen is depressed, cheerless, does not trust politicians, whose popularity has never been so low. The press is also trusted less and less.

    The decreasing size of the population is one of the factors contributing to the depression among the Europeans. The situation with birth rates is different in the Muslim community in Europe, where many women do not work, and the community is very paternalistic, is extremely different from the European societies where they live.

    The perception of these sociological differences has saddened Europeans. A recent poll in Belgium (Noir Jaune Blues – Black Yellow Blues) shows the depth of depression, as 77 percent of French-speaking Belgians do not feel "at home" in their own country. Seventy-four percent say openly that Islam is not a tolerant religion, 67 percent believe there are too many migrants, 66 percent feel "invaded," 60 percent feel the Muslim community is a threat to the identity of the country, 51 percent think that migrants are not integrated, even several generations after their arrival. Figures show similar attitude to migrants everywhere.

    Brussels City has just seen the departure of a Hong Kong company, Gobee.bike, providing bicycles for hire, and competing with the public system "Villo!" They are leaving Brussels, but also the French city of Lille and other cities "because of vandalism." They do not have such a problem in Hong Kong: their bikes are respected and used as they should be. Not so in Brussels, a city where "the youth" (in other words, young second or third generation immigrants) have burnt and looted shops three times just before Christmas in the very center of the capital of Europe and vandalize public places. This raises the question of what is now considered normal.

    Citizens do not want to voice their anger or opinion too loudly, since political correctness is now controlled in most Western European countries by organizations financed by the state, fighting against "racism" or curbing attacks against "minorities." Therefore, people keep their opinion to themselves. It is only at rare moments, in polls, for example, that they express themselves openly, and even so, the polling institutes are "doctoring" the results of the far-right National Front (FN) party in the polls in France, because many FN voters do not dare confess their choice to the pollsters.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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