‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ J R R Tolkien
‘’When Russians have become Slavs, when Frenchmen have assumed the role of commanders of a force noire, when Englishmen have turned into ‘white men,’ as already for a disastrous spell all Germans became Aryans,” it will “signify the end of Western man. For no matter what learned scientists may say, race is, politically speaking, not the beginning of humanity but its end, not the origin of peoples but their decay, not the natural birth of man but his unnatural death.” Hannah Arendt
‘Migration is the oldest action against poverty. It selects those who most want help. It is good for the country to which they go; it helps break the equilibrium of poverty in the country from which they come. What is the perversity in the human soul that causes people to resist so obvious a good?’ J.K. Galbraith
Immigration lies at the roots of humanity as our first ancestors left Africa some 70 000 years ago, probably in search of a better life.
In Europe, the Germanic tribes migrated into several directions and settled throughout the continent.
As demographic pressure increased in Europe, immigration became a natural solution and intensified from the seventeenth century, leading to increases in earnings for those staying behind, as the manpower base shrunk.
The two World Wars saw major population resettlements and the flow of migrants has increased again since 2000 in three distinct waves:
-East Europeans migrating to Western Europe
-EU citizens from various countries to Germany as the employment market in that country was attractive
-Refugees fleeing conflicts in their own countries.
Whatever their country of origin, and whichever is the host country, immigrants have always faced resistance by the native population in different forms and fashions, even though this low-cost labor allowed European industry to grow .
While the view of European governments was that this pool of cheap labor would return to their own countries eventually, this did not happen and a large number became nationals of the host country whenever that was possible, and their children and grandchildren became nationals by the right of birth in the countries that allow them to do so.
In some European regions, first and second generation born immigrants represent up to 20% of the population, with forecasts predicting they will in due time represent as much as 40% since births from immigrants and their descendants represent a large proportion of the total births.
However, becoming a national of a country is not synonymous of assimilation. Quite to the contrary, there is a will, in particular by Muslims – which represent a large part of the immigration waves – to impose their own culture on the native population.
The native culture of Muslim men is reinforced when they find spouses in their country of origin, often in arranged marriages, and bring them to Europe under family reunification criteria. This is particularly true for the poorer fractions of the immigrants who live in ghettos.
Interethnic marriages do take place, however, when immigrants face difficulty in finding partners from the immigrant’s country of origin.
Wives brought from the migrants’ home countries are often unable to find employment and are able to take advantage of social protection systems. This has led to an increase in the transfer of resources from the nationals of the European countries to migrants.
The large inflow of refugees has also raised a number of issues, in particular the relationship between the various governments of the European Union and between some of the national governments and the central administration in Brussels. Further, immigrants, when entitled to vote in elections of the host countries, tend to vote for left-wing parties. This electoral shift Is accompanied by the rise of right wing parties that support stricter immigration rules. These parties are supported primarily by nationals of host countries who feel that they have become strangers in their own land and would like to see legislation curtailing the freedom of Muslims. Communities established since a long time in Europe, such as the Jews, are starting to leave.
A portion of the Moslem immigrants following Moslem fundamentalist precepts do not accept Europe’s views on the equality of the genders and wish to stifle, by violence if necessary, freedom of expression. They also wish to have Islam recognized as a European religion.
Cultural diversity or integration?
There is no consensus as to what is expected from immigrants.
One approach is to consider that cultural diversity is best for Europe as has been vaunted by the Council of Europe.
Integration policies vary from country to country, and even the definition of vulnerable groups differs. Nevertheless, they all have the same objective: the integration of immigrants in the host country through a number of coordinated procedures that cover education, legal employment, housing, etc. However, it has been pointed out that in some cases, ensuring employment and housing may lead to behaviors contrary to integration.
Attempting integration must necessarily start with the acceptance, by immigrants, of Europe’s liberal values such as democracy, tolerance, freedom and the respect of women.
Induction courses for migrants to be taught these values and reliance on imams to maintain the understanding of their importance could be one attempt at integration.
Unless induction succeeds, Europe will have two distinct paths to the future: the disappearance of European culture, or the rise of a strong nationalism in every country with a large proportion of migrants. Neither is acceptable.