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Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Brown people: Europe

REUTERS/Jerry Lampen
Netherland's Minister for Immigration
and Integration Rita Verdonk

Europe rethinks its 'safe haven' status

By Sarah Wildman, Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor Wed May 24, 4:00 AM ET

VIENNA - The night air in Vienna has finally turned warm, filling the city's trams with visitors. On the Ringstrasse, tourists take in the city, pointing out the City Hall and the parliament.

"Did you see that one girl - so young! And wearing a veil," a woman clucks in lightly accented English, staring out the window of tram D. "They will form a separate culture."

The sentiment isn't isolated. Earlier this month, Austria's Interior Minister Liese Prokop announced that 45 percent of Muslim immigrants were "unintegratable," and suggested that those people should "choose another country."


In the years following the World War II, a chagrined US and Europe vowed to follow the Geneva Conventions and create safe havens for refugees. Yet such lofty ideals were hard to uphold after massive influxes of workers in the 1960s and early 1970s were halted during an economic downturn
Those immigrant populations - often Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East - swelled with family reunification, yet often remained economically and socially distinct from the societies that had adopted. The image of the immigrant began to change, and distinctions between those who came for work and those who came for safety began to blur.

Now, says Jean-Pierre Cassarino, a researcher at the European-Mediterranean Consortium for Applied Research on International Migration in Florence, Italy, "asylum seekers are viewed as potential cheaters."

Collier points to the success in France - also this past week - of a strict new immigration law proposed by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr. Sarkozy's proposal would institutionalize "selective" immigration, giving an advantage to privileged immigrants of better economic and education status who are more "integratable."

It would also change the rights of family reunification for workers already in the country; speed up the expulsion of undocumented immigrants who are discovered or whose applications for asylum are rejected; lengthen the amount of time it takes to apply for permanent residency status for married couples; and toughen visa requirements. Most controversial, Sarkozy announced deportations for undocumented immigrant school children.

"We speak of the need to fight immigration but we don't have a clear position on whether we need immigrants," says Mr. De Bruycker, noting the precipitous dip in population growth in European Union countries in the last half century. He adds that a series of recent incidents have affected the image of immigrants in the European mind. The murder of a Jewish man - Ilan Halimi - on the outskirts of Paris earlier this spring, for example, by a band of immigrant youths. Or the murder of a Malian woman and a Flemish child in Antwerp last week by the son of a founder of Belgium's most far-right party.

"In Europe, we are still unable to accept that we are a continent of immigration," says De Bruycker.

Within five years, these policies will be failures. Well, Sarkozy's Vichy-style deportation of children is likely to go before the European Court. But Europeans forget they have immigrants to do the jobs they don't want to do.

They isolated these people, then did little to intergrate them into the wider society, and then say "you don't fit in". You can't have it both ways. They want people to fit in, they have to make them fit in.

posted by Steve @ 12:15:00 AM

12:15:00 AM

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