How to deal with immigration in Europe? Solomonsmfield via flickr

Immigration is one of the topics that most divides European public opinion. Immigrants, both from within and outside the EU, are transforming the social, economic, demographic and political reality in each country.

A large proportion of the negative public opinion regarding immigrant communities can be blamed on populist media and political groups. Immigrants bring both positive and negative changes in a country, and a well functioning immigration policy can limit the  latter. Sadly, harmonization among EU member states' immigration policies has failed so far, a fact that is exploited by populist or far-right groups that oppose multiculturalism, immigration, and the EU itself.

Immigrants bring economic growth by their work, but also by being exploited. Each year, they have to pay around 1,000-3,000€ just to be allowed to stay in the country. They work unpaid overtime, because they have no rights as workers - rights that we, as EU citizens, are taking for granted. Many of them enter the EU with a student visa, which they got to be able to study and thus pay another 3,000 € (at least)  per year for college fees. Immigrants pay higher taxes than nationals and other EU citizens. They may only find employment among jobs that locals do not want, and accept any salary offered just to stay in the country. More suited jobs are not available for them because of visa restrictions. Most of the money they earn in these low paid jobs goes back into the economy via visa charges, college fees, rent and higher taxes.

Refugees, now are a totally different case. The problem with them is that they are not allowed to work and contribute to society, when it is really all they are asking for. The very reason they come to Europe is to find employment. But they are given 19.80 € per week to live in Ireland, put into camps in Greece, or banned from certain "exclusion zones" for "protection of the locals" in SwitzerlandThe sad thing is that Europe cannot accept and integrate them all. It does not have the social or economic capacity to accommodate the ever increasing number of asylum seekers that arrive in Europe. The "centers of hospitality", where they are placed until their fate is decided, are proving very costly. What Europe needs is a common immigration policy that would attract immigrants with skills that it needs and are useful for it. As regarding the problem of illegal immigration, perhaps we should stop invading the countries of origin of the people who then arrive as refugees, or meddling with their affairs, so we won’t have to receive them later. The majority of illegal immigrants or refugees coming into Europe from Greece are from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that facts itself states something. 

The problem of Roma Gypsies, that many Western European countries are struggling with, is of a different nature. They have often been the victims of discrimination and that is what has made them insular, closed societies with their own lifestyle and way of doing business. Their integration and ending of their stigmatization should become a priority for EU policy makers.

We should not put all immigrant groups in one bag - some immigrants we need, some we don’t, and regarding some we cannot do anything but try to integrate them. We need to develop a comprehensive, fair and functioning immigration policy to attract and keep the ones we need, just like other countries, like Australia and Canada, have done. Such a policy should prosecute individuals and companies who employ immigrants in order to exploit them. They are the ones to blame for making a profit on the back of immigrants who then cannot contribute into our welfare state. They work, and while they are not paying taxes, they offer their labor to local employers. If  they ever need hospital care, employers should pay the expenses, as they are making lots of money by underpaying them and saving on their social insurance, anyway. In fact, that is one of the main arguments of those who oppose immigration from poorer EU or non-EU countries. They are claiming that since an immigrant has never contributed to the State by paying taxes, then he should not be receiving housing or social welfare, and draining our fragile system. But why no finger is ever pointed to the local employer who took advantage of him? As long as they will keep offering this kind of unfair jobs, immigrants will keep coming.  

When discussing issues that arise from immigration within the EU, we have to keep in mind that we cannot stop the free movement of people, which is one of EU citizens' main freedoms. We could, however, make it compulsory for all EU citizens to be paid the same salary in any given country. If any person coming from the fresh EU states received the same salary as a local worker would, they would not be favoured by the local tax evading employers. It would make no difference to them whether to employ a Polish or Romanian worker from a British, Irish or French. In that way, the free movement of people  would be preserved and the exploitation workers would be limited, taming the tensions between the national and immigrant communities. 

Since none of the above logical measures have been adopted, immigration into or within Europe is set to remain a modern kind of slavery. Migrant workers are too easily exploited in their new countries, so that national employers can make greater profits. And this is why we can never form a fair and comprehensive immigration policy: because it is not in some people's interests. We should stop blaming the migrants.