We are witnessing the interweaving of what has become a war on immigrants with armed intervention to restore a post-colonial order in their countries of origin.
By the end of 2014, 55 million people tried to flee from wars and internal conflicts. Most of them, about 34 million, came from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic and Nigeria.
The vast majority found refuge in neighboring countries, often just as poor and not much more stable than their homelands. At the same time, the 28 European Union countries received a little more than 1 million refugees and the United States accepted 270,000.
Today, refugees and asylum seekers are competing for a laughable number of refugee placements, plus the total closure of borders and even transit bans. The rejection is not only coming from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, but also from the most powerful countries, such as the U.S., Britain, France, and the richest, such as Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The relative openness of Germany has gone down dramatically.
In the meantime, more easily accessible countries like Italy and Greece do nothing but claim the joint responsibility of the E.U.
Those countries that are the least inclined to welcome refugees are precisely those that are in the forefront promoting military action and fomenting internal conflicts in the countries most of the refugees escaped from. They claim that the costly military interventions they’re promoting are essential for their safety and welfare, and that the costs of reception of refugees and asylum seekers are unsustainable.
The facts are very different. Take, for example, the case of Italy.
In 2015, the country invested a little over €800 million for overall spending in the reception of refugees. Also in 2015, the cost of the “missions” Italian soldiers carried out in some of the countries from which refugees escaped was a €500 million. Other charges will be added for the military expedition that the government seems eager to promote in Libya.
The contradiction between the unwillingness to support reception costs and the expenses of military actions abroad is even more striking in cases like Britain and France. But similar considerations can be made for the Visegrad countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) and other anti-refugee extremist states. But these same states often participate willingly in coalitions operating in various theaters of war.
For their part, the refugees do not want to be “paid for.” Like other immigrants, they are seeking work and hope to assimilate as soon as possible into the countries that receive them. And on this issue also, it is necessary to consider the facts.
Refugees and asylum seekers make up a very small percentage of the total number of first-generation immigrants officially surveyed in destination countries. It ranges from 0.6 percent in the U.S. to 3.1 percent in France.
Even when refugees managed to increase the total number of immigrants to a greater extent, it should be reiterated that neither group represents a burden for public spending, but, on the contrary, it is shown that they are a resource.
If we go back to examine Italy’s data as an example, in 2014, the amount of taxes and contributions paid by immigrants exceeded by €4 billion the total public expenditure for reception policies and all the welfare services they benefited from.
But there’s more: They contributed to the creation of wealth to the extent of 8.8 percent of GDP. Similar accounts apply to other countries that are popular destinations for immigrants. Even more importantly, they also make their contribution to demographic balance. As it is well known, precisely in the most developed countries, the population is aging, for the impact of both the falling birth rate and the increase of life expectancy. Which means that the continuous cuts to health care and the reduction of pension liabilities are not enough. If we want what remains of the welfare system in Europe to hold somehow, we need a quick increase in the working-age population. To achieve this objective, Europe’s population should increase by 42 million in four years. This is conceivable only with the arrival of larger numbers.
If this is the state of things, two problems need to be resolved.
The first concerns the fact that, instead of governing the phenomenon of migration in a positive manner, in several E.U. countries immigrants are referred to as a threat to the welfare of their citizens. Unfortunately, this rhetoric has triggered a radicalization that has evolved into a kind of war against migrants, from the Balkans to the English Channel.
The second problem is just as disarming. We are witnessing the continuation of conflict and dominance logic in the management of international relations, which were considered surmountable after the end of the Cold War.
Regrettably, the optimism of the early ‘90s with the end of the confrontation between the two blocs — the same hope that relaunched the project of a united, peaceful Europe — gradually died out. The old strategies of expansion of areas of influence are being repeated and scaled to strong positions in a rigid hierarchy of international relations. This paradigm will only feed more or less latent tensions and conflicts.