Appeal for a Workable and Humane Immigration Policy Framework

Editorial, by Montse Rafel

Today, December 18th, we celebrate the International Migrants Day. The date was definitely not randomly chosen by the UN – on December 18, 1990 the UN General Assembly adopted an international convention on "the protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their families. «Alas, although this agreement has entered into force in 2003, it remains completely inapplicable since no migrant-receiving state in Western Europe or North America has ratified the convention.

In 1974, European leaders deemed the age of great migrations to have come to an end. In a time of economic crisis, they decided accordingly to interrupt the flow of migrant workers and close the doors to Europe. They were grossly mistaken. The non-European immigration has continued unabated, while it has adopted new paths and new methods. Immigrants have also changed. Under the impact of globalization, a better access to passports and a greater mobility, applicants are now stemming from much diverse backgrounds: middle class populations, young graduates, single women unaccompanied minors, etc., all of them are attracted by the European model.

Unfortunately, their dreams of a great future were cut short for many of them. According to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), published in September, 4077 migrants have died worldwide since the beginning of 2014, of which three quarters in the Mediterranean. 22 000 people have lost their lives in the sole Mediterranean Sea since Y2K. The majority of them died from drowning, suffocation, starvation or exposure. Most of them were young people; from Africa or the Middle East. We must put an end to this scandal.

Appeal for workable and humane European policies

The continuing closure of European borders only fuels mafia networks and illegal work, the worst forms of which amount to modern slavery. In addition, such policies that pretend making of the European continent an impregnable citadel are out of step with reality.

On the one hand, Europe needs immigrants to cope with an aging population and labor shortages in competitive economic sectors. On the other, politicians must face a rise of extremism while they have to satisfy public opinions increasingly distrustful to strangers or even hostile to immigration. On the one hand, Europe boasts of its human rights and aid and asylum policies. On the other, it refuses to ratify the United Nations 1990 Convention for the protection of migrants… Meanwhile, policymakers tend to favor short term solutions with wobbly foundations: provisional statutes, humanitarian stays, statutes of people who cannot be regularized or deported, etc. 

Hence, we appeal to European policymakers to launch a great debate so as to redefine citizenship and a European identity that is commensurate with our society’s new challenges: integration, multiculturalism, the fight against racism and discrimination and the definition of a modern secularism. It's a fact: Immigration can help build a stronger Europe while shaping its collective identity – this is why it is our responsibility to develop the policies that will condition the new living-together that Europe needs.