y Enrique Tessieri
The rise of right-wing populist parties and their ever-growing attacks on immigrants and minorities is an outcome of Europe’s inability to draft and pass a workable immigration, refugee and integration policy. Immigrants and refugees are not the real threat to Europe. It is weak leadership by politicians and standing up to the populist rhetoric that fuel prejudices and urban myths about Europe’s new inhabitants.
A good example why some integration policies are set to fail before they become public policy is that dear little has been done in many countries to promote acceptance and cultural diversity.
We all know that the millions of immigrants and Turks that emigrated to countries like Germany and Austria were not supposed to stay there permanently. After working a for a few years they were expected to return to their home countries.
In Germany, as well as in many European countries, there is no effective plan to integrate immigrants. A successful integration program must go further: It must give immigrants the opportunity to become equal members of society.
If we look at the ongoing debate in countries like Finland, one gets the view from some Social Democrats that migrant workers must be held in contempt because they work for lower wages and don’t pay taxes.
Certainly an effective integration and public policy would resolve many matters like the above. If employers are exploiting immigrants while the authorities turn a blind eye, is it the foreign laborer or the system that is to blame?
Humans are social animals and their first aim in a new country is to integrate in a group and establish social networks. If they see that integration is impossible to the majority culture and exploitation the rule, this situation will lure some of them to evade taxes and work outside the law.
If a society is exclusive and there is hostility towards immigrants, what are these people supposed to integrate to?
Immigrants and refugees are not the problem of Europe. The problem is public policy and lack of leadership.