David Cameron’s intervention during the EU leaders’ summit meeting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius last week has made it clear enough that the issues of immigration and Europe are going to be heavily intertwined during the political debates of the coming period.
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Cameron’s claims that the UK is especially attractive to the movements of other Europeans because of the claimed generosity of its welfare state have been met with the same very reasonable question on numerous occasions in the recent past: where’s your evidence?
The UK government has steadfastly refused to offer up a smidgeon of data in support of its unbalanced accusations against migrants to the UK, so the job of setting the record straight, so far as it is known, has fallen to the much-maligned European Commission.
Back in October the Commission published a 270-page report which showed that mobile EU nationals are amongst the most productive of all people in the region’s single market, with 67% being engaged in economic activity. Other studies have shown that EU nationals are around 60% less likely to be in receipt of welfare benefits than their non-migrant counterparts.
Facts like these will play an essential role in helping to combat the avalanche of misinformation and outright duplicity that seems to be come from a large segment of the political establishment right now. As we move into the period of election campaigns for the European Parliament, due to be held in May next year, we can expect to have to revert to them to refute the worst of the anti-immigrant propaganda we seem to be on course for.
Of course discussions about immigration in the European context go beyond people exercising free movement rights to cover the movement of people from third countries. Immigration more generally has become a competence of the EU and has imposed an obligation on the part of national leaders to adopt policies which fit into the framework of common approaches which the governments have agreed represent what is needed to avoid a dogfight which makes things worse for everyone.
Third country migration
Those of us looking for facts and figures about Europe and immigration covering these bigger themes will welcome the publication of the new atlas of migration by Migreurop and New Internationalist magazine.
The atlas shows just what can be done within the style of infographics to get across complex information which is best understood when visualised over time-lines or geographical space.
The claim that migration has been both globalised as a phenomenon but impeded as the practical exercise as a right could be sustained with an essay setting out a dense array of figures, or demonstrated by images and table which appear to ‘let the facts speak for themselves’. The growth of precariousness in labour markets for example, the subject of much present-day concerns about ‘modern-day slavery’, is related to immigration in the food production and agricultural sectors.
The atlas explains that ‘Increasing competition between international production areas forces agricultural firms to mobilise specific resources: large amounts of capital, natural resources (land, water, sun) and cheap labour.” The accompanying map provides a visualisation which shows how regions of intensive agricultural production give rise to ‘wheels of circulation’ which are driven by flows of commodities, workers and capital. In short, it is a picture of the way in which we are nowadays fed and nourished by migrant workers at the most basic level.
Yet even as the running of the economy requires migration, the politics of fear and anxiety throw up walls and barriers. A border security economy comes into existence in which the names of countries can be replaced by the private sector companies – TTI Norte S.L., Indra, Thales, BAE Systems, EADS, Siemens, and others – which operate businesses which are supposed to have ‘securities’ our frontiers.
The task of immigration enforcement is mapped out with images that show where the EU’s gulag of camps and detention centres stretches across the continent, the range of countries drawn into the maw of having to administer readmission policies, and how the business of returning people abroad is a long way from being voluntary.
This is the third issue of the Atlas but the first time it has been published in English. For such a lavishly illustrated book its cover price of £20 is reasonable enough to ensure that copies go into schools and colleges to help teachers and students comprehend these issues, and also into the libraries of migrants’ rights and race equality groups who will find themselves needing many of these facts at their fingertips in coming weeks.
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This piece was reprinted by Migrant Tales with permission.
*Don Flynn, the MRN Director, leads the organisation’s strategic development and coordinates MRN’s policy and project work. He is a regular and sought-after speaker at conferences, seminars and lectures on behalf of MRN.