Immigration is likely to be one of the key issues in the upcoming European elections in May (and you can show your support for the party whose policies on immigration you most agree with by taking part in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!).

Anti-immigration parties are polling well across Europe, and have been cheered by recent victories including the Swiss referendum on EU migration. However, immigration is a complex issue that is often over-simplified, with little distinction being drawn between legal and illegal immigration, asylum seekers and refugees, and migration between EU Member States.

Not long ago, we had a comment sent in from Cecilia arguing that the EU’s approach to illegal immigration in particular was failing both to be effective and humane:

The European Union [has spent a lot of money] but it has not brought any results. The only result obtained have been the creation of detention centres for illegal immigrants. These centres have been [criticised] for their conditions and the treatment of migrants, and are disrespectful of human rights.

Certainly, the countries on the front-line when it comes to illegal immigration are often the least-equipped to deal with the numbers involved. For example, Bulgaria (the poorest country in the European Union) found itself overwhelmed and unable to cope last year with the huge increase in the number of illegal immigrants fleeing the violence in Syria. Around 10,000 migrants arrived in Bulgaria in 2013, which is seven times the number that came in 2012. The Bulgarian government had basic facilities prepared for only half that number, leading to serious overcrowding and miserable conditions.

We recently spoke to Svetoslav Malinov, a Bulgarian  Centre-Right MEP who has personally visited the refugee centres in Bulgaria, and asked him how he would respond to Cecilia’s comment:

malinov[I visited the] refugee centres and camps in Bulgaria and, let me tell you honestly, I don’t think it will ever be as bad as it was last year for the Bulgarian authorities. I’m not afraid to say that we didn’t have any experience. Actually, we haven’t seen such numbers of illegal immigrants for decades, probably since before the Second World War, so there is nobody alive that has any memory of how to process so many people. Of course, that’s not an excuse for anything, because in spite of the warnings, the Bulgarian state – the legal services and everything on the ground actually – was not good enough.

What we saw [during our visit to the camps] is that, firstly, things are improving. And second, where the state was not very efficient, the citizens and civil society accommodated most of these people. I don’t want to even think about what would have happened if civil society and voluntary organisations had not been on the ground. So, that could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it, but definitely we have people who are ready to work and to help.

And, finally, I believe that Bulgaria, for the first time, is trying to have something like a national integration policy. Because, merely to have people on your territory – to give them housing, guarantee them some levels of hygiene and food and shelter – this is just the beginning of a very long process. After that, you have the legal problems, and then you have the integration problems, with the language issue, for example. So, we have to admit that we don’t have the experience, but we also need other countries to share their good practices with us.

And I believe that some EU countries are much more exposed to this kind of illegal immigration than others. Definitely, countries like Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Malta are in geographical position that makes them more vulnerable, and we need solidarity between EU Member States to be better guaranteed by new laws and new practices at the European level…

Are EU countries failing to support one another sufficiently when it comes to illegal immigration? Are higher fences, bigger detention camps and more patrol boats the best way to deal with the issue? Or would that just turn us into “Fortress Europe” and lead to miserable conditions for refugees and migrants? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

Vote 2014

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69 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Laoi Ó Murchú

    It’s clear what the answer is: to remove the need for Africans to immigrate in such large numbers and in such dangerous fashion. Europe, as a whole, should be looking to repair the damage it wreaked upon Africa.

    • avatar

      What about China and others , you conveniently forget

  2. avatar
    Borislav Valkov

    Teach the africans(and all other immigartion donors) how to live and flourish in nowadays economical world. If you can give equal start with the younglings in their knowledge, comprehensions and equal funding for self- employment no matter where they live(France or Ghana), then they can stop the ongoing crysis in their own countries. No one knows better the problems in their own country then their own population!

    • avatar

      Then we should disband the IMF, World Bank and other organizations who help western countries and corporations loot the place. Also, abolish the CAP and CFP which massively hurt Africa. I’d almost go as far as to say that supporting the CAP is racist.

    • avatar
      Borislav Valkov

      I didn’t said it that the venture money shoud be with the same interest because that’s absurd. My thoughts are that if they can create jobs and wealth in their own countries then the chance of immigration flow will dramaticaly fall.

    • avatar

      I’d actually say you are partly right. There’s no reason to assume the western world’s way of life is what these people want (I’m still not entirely convinced i want it). But saying that, I agree the answer lays with helping to make their homelands more agreeable places to live. One way to start would be to stop selling weapons to warlords. Another would be to get the UN to establish an international policing force that works and has the mandate to preserve innocent lives.

  3. avatar
    Alex Tselentis

    Why doesnt the EU stop creating fuelling these wars across the middle east ? Its those wars that create these millions to flee and run away, its a tactict, and a dirty tactic to flood Europe with these masses, amoungst them there could be radicals, fighters etc .. BRUSSELS has failed, no one else, this is the EU’s fault.

    • avatar

      If you look at recent history , it is the Muslims themselves who have created these problems , Sunni against Shia , the centuries old conflict , who always blame the West .

  4. avatar
    Elizabeth Edwards

    Yes – Syrian refugees arriving in Greece are imprisoned and often beaten by the Greek police. Then put on the street with no financial support. Syrians arriving in Belgium are expected to “live like cows” (in their own words) because they have just enough money to feed themselves, are forced to learn a language (usually Dutch because all the money comes from the Flemish sector) which seems like a good idea and in theory is a good idea; until you consider the fact that these people may only be barely literate in one language (if not completely illiterate and unable to write), have little learning support and are shocked by war. Many refugees in Belgium are suffering psychological distress and depression because they feel they cannot get a job and contribute to society (if if they are legally allowed to work, it is extremely difficult) and have little intellectual, cultural and physical stimulation. “Live like cows” refers to the fact they believe themselves to be allowed to eat and sleep only – as if this is how they are expected to live for the rest of their lives. Ultimately Europeans haven’t accepted that these refugees are here to stay, yes some may go back to their country when the war ends, but they will now always have a connection with the country they are a refugee in. Belgium giving Syrian refugees one year humanitarian protection (subsidiary protection) is an insult – the war will last longer and the recovery may take decades. Forcing people to learn Dutch, living in just enough money to feed yourself and nothing more when you don’t know if you’ll be allowed to stay in a year’s time or what is going to happen to your future is a very distressing position to be in. When will Europe accept that immigration is, in most cases, permanent?

    • avatar

      You sound like you would volunteer to take, say, five immigrants into your own house?

      No? Thought not.

      The policy should be not to let them in in the first place. While you can never get it down to zero because some will always find a way in, the idea is to get this non-educated-people immigration down to as close to zero as possible.

      At the end of the day, we plain and simple do not need them, nor do we want them. Anyone who wants to be ‘progressive’ and let masses stay forever should volunteer to take at least five into their own house, and suddenly you will see that people aren’t all that progressive when they cannot shove the immigrants out of their elitists neighbourhoods and into the poor areas of town.

    • avatar

      The migrants came voluntarily , and should adapt to the country they are in , or go back and fight for their country and rights , not demand rights in the EU

  5. avatar
    Danut Bobocel

    Former colonial powers MUST repair the damage they have done urgently!
    Solidarity from the other EU countries is needed in such conditions.

    • avatar

      Then muslim Arabs better start paying reparations to eastern, northern and western Africa for institutionalizing slavery there. For those who think it was Europeans do did the enslaving, you’d be wrong, we ‘merely’ bought them from islamic/Arab slave traders.

    • avatar

      I’m tempted to swear here. Preaching progressiveness and blaming the decendants of the guilty, or more often the decendants of the fellow countrymen of the guilty for the crimes committed historically is the very definition of hypocrisy! Want to actually look at fixing the world? Then you need to start by recognising the past for what it is, and see the present and future for what they need to be.

  6. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    Stop arming mercenaries in order to live in peace in their countries.Give them true help to live with dignity.There is no other way.Do not waste money in fences ,patrol boats and detention camps.

    • avatar

      What do you do about the centuries old Sunni – Shia conflict which is the cause of most unrest

  7. avatar
    Borislav Sotirov

    Higher fences and more patrol boats are inevitalbe still there are worst and poorer places on the world. We must face the truth. We cannot shelter all the problems of anyone in our borders. I know this is not humanistic statement, but thise are the facts.
    And yes, EU should help the other lands improve their situation.

  8. avatar

    These debates are so predictable, immigration is not popular among the wider population in the European Union; however that concern is always ignored. There are for instance no politician from an anti-immigration party giving his view on this issue even though in this case his opinion might be closer to the public then any EU official can ever hope to be.

    There are simply too many immigrants in Europe at the moment, and as we can see parties that represent such concerns are doing well at the polls all over Europe. While any party who wishes to liberalize immigration rules does not. How about policy makers taking the hint?

  9. avatar
    Anna Elvira Engman

    If we in “rich” countries stop selling weapons and stop bombing poor countries, they will be able to live there. But as long as we want to make money on war, we are going to have to deal with the consequences, and to me, do nothing but bring them all in… “our” countries are the once that are getting rich on destroying theirs…. Just some years ago, Sweden (I am Swedish) had there highest source of income from selling weapons to other countries (and Sweden is one of the leading countries in weapon selling ). According to Swedish law you can not sell weapons to countries in wars and similar situations, and where humans rights are being repressed… the country sold the third most to was Pakistan… didn’t they just stone a woman to death because she had a cellphone??? Is that human rights? So if we start fixing up shit like this, things might just fall in to place :) I it’s just “lovely” when they call the weapon industry “defends industry”… who are we defending ourselves against??????? We have to wake up :)

    • avatar

      Well, you’re right and wrong. Arms exports to non alliance nations can never be defence. But until the kingdom of heaven arrives there will always be a need to defend yourself. Countries do this collectively through military, espionage/intelligence, and civil emergency services. To think that we would ever live to see a world free of the threat of war is optimistic beyond basic naivety.

  10. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    YES IT IS!

    Perhaps if many of the immigrants were granted say 5-10 year stays of residence in the poorest and/or corruptest EU member states then both parties would benefit.

    The asylum seekers would gain refuge, the countries in question would have an economic boost courtesy of a population increase [at the very least] and the asylum seekers would help positively re-shape the corruption-levels often endemic in such countries.

    Its a win-win AND the EU would have helped many genuine human beings in very difficult situations.

  11. avatar
    catherine benning

    I agree with KIm wo wrote above. No one wants to face the truth because it means they will have to accept their experiment failed and that we are n decline, which is exacerbated by mass immigration from outside of Europe.

    And why I write from outside of Europe has nothing to do with race. It is to do with the people of Europe being already here and they have nowhere to go but here. They cannot afford and don’t want to import more from cultures and ideologies that do not fit with their own. They have had enough.

    Here is a television programme aired last night on British TV. Take note of what they spout as fact. It s not, it’s manipulated in order to have the freedom to speak. However, more importantly is the audience does not represent the UK at all. 70% they tell us are against more immigration. In fact it is far higher than that across the country as a whole. But the selected people to be part of this show have only one person who will speak up for the British as whole. And the idiot, inept presenters deny her free speech or point out that 80/5 of immigrants come from outside of the EU, that they want to hide. And of course UKIP is virtually muted. So, it’s a set up but a start. They never learn do they?

    And, what our papers say about it .

  12. avatar

    What about to let the resources of Africa keep in Africa? So, african countries could develop. So african people shouldn’t move to richest areas of the world…

    Isn’t easy?

    • avatar

      That won’t solve the problem. Wealth equality and tribalism are Africa’s key problems. Give them more globalist wealth and that will just make the wealthy wealthier and possibly more violent in their desire to maintain/increase that wealth.

  13. avatar
    Milton Paidas

    The above photo/scene, is an almost every day off the islands of Greece facing Turkeys coasts…..

  14. avatar
    Θεοδοσης Αναγνωστοπουλος

    Before we achieve all those wonderfull ideas about global peace and prosperity which personally would fully support, perhaps we could first and urgently agree on accepting equally the load of caring about poor refugees among all european countries according to their wealth and to their participation in the wars around the world.
    The hypocricy should be stopped and let the refugees come where they want. Greece or other southern countries are not prisons for the rest of europeans to pick and choose.
    We have 28 % unemployment and we need to pay loans and a good interest rate as profit to our loaners. So Dublin 2 should be terminated now.

  15. avatar

    All illegals need to be sent back asap.

  16. avatar

    The immigration policy should be, zero non-high-educated immigration.

  17. avatar
    Darren Grasso

    European States which are being over loaded with illegal migrants every year and which are obliged to accept more then the country can handle should do like Australia! I never agreed with this new trend of an open-for-ALL border to whoever decides to come along, and I know that the majority of Europeans don’t like it either. So much so that the Swiss votes to stop it and I’m quite sure that Norway, the UK, and Holland will follow.

  18. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    How about stop meddling in other countries’ affairs? Invading Iraq and Afghanistan for their oil and resources, then after we have destabilized the whole region, we do not want to live with the immigrants that are forced out of their countries by the increasing violence and instability…

    Europe must form its common immigration policy and tackle at last this issue..It is getting out of control.. The reactions of the people across Europe are giving a clear message and they can not be ignored.. If our leaders do not act on it fast, what happened in Norway won’t be the last time..

    Yes to immigration, but with certain measures and control..And if we really want to deal with the problem, then we should help the countries in trouble to get out of extreme poverty.. In other words, fairer trade and change the whole world trade agreements.. If there is stability and jobs where they are coming from, they won’t need to flee en mass their countries..

    I also agree about scrapping the Dublin II agreement, or at least reforming it…

  19. avatar
    Paul X

    “Is Europe failing to deal humanely with illegal immigration?”

    The fact is dealing humanely with anything costs money

    Some other questions..

    “Is Europe failing to deal humanely with it’s elderly population?

    Is Europe failing to deal humanely with its youth unemployed?

    Is Europe failing to deal humanely with its homeless?

    Its all a matter of priorities and if they ever give me the democratic chance to vote on where they can spend my taxes, I know what I will be suggesting

  20. avatar

    This is an issue people have said since 2000 that this would become like a huge problem. They never listened. No it is to late, because we got half of morocco living here ( no offence to people from morocco) If the EU would have had rules about it, instead of being Mister nice guy, we give free money away we wouldn’t even have this debate right now.

  21. avatar

    The question itself contains the answer; “illegal”. Honestly, what humanity can one expect when they are illegal? Obviously, the country could not be prepared for them, since they were not supposed to be there at all, but, also, the illegals have broken the law themselves, so, what kind of treatment can they expect? Perhaps, there should be an allowance for legal migration from places such as Pakistan where people are truly suffering and the life expectancy age is something like 35.

  22. avatar
    Xavier Schoumaker

    The media attention on immigration is disproportionate.
    This leads to the spreading of manipulative fear and intolerance.
    Ultimately our policies are inapt and inhuman for just a few people looking for another opportunity.
    … But fear will justify anything…

  23. avatar
    Ricardo Barros

    This is going to be one of the next years hot topics in the European Parliament, even more with all the elected populists parties, with radical ideas about this issue (e.g.

    It’s needed a much stronger position about this, from a truly united and democratic European Union – “receiving” the immigrants in Italy and sending them to France just like that is not an healthy way of solving the problem! We need to know what we really want to do. The debate is on and it is a necessary one!

    There are ways of helping those populations without necessarily “receiving” (I don’t like this term, but I can’t come up with a better one, right now) them in European territory – if that’s something we don’t want. Perhaps the UN action of having refugees camps outside Europe may prove to be a good start.

  24. avatar
    Nuno Dias

    The EU should increase trade agreements with African countries, in order to incentivize local job creation and better salaries. If people have better quality of life, in their own country, they don?t have to immigrate. It?s a better solution for booth families and States.

  25. avatar
    Borislav Sotirov

    Is it possible to deal humanely with someone that you don’t want to enter your space but he does it on all costs? This is a philosophical problem and the answer is much longer then the question.

  26. avatar
    Wiktoria Anilom

    The media attention is not disproportionte at all and it is not a matter of few people, tell this to Lampedusa mayer and citizens. It is a huge global issue. Africans escape from the wars we start in their countries…asians move to middle east and places like Qatar, where they are exploited, because they want a better life. Women leave their countries hoping to find better oportunities and they ended in human traficking nets. But the image of boats crossing the mediterranean, sinking and dead bodies in the sea, is very shocking. The immigration issue is hugely important and European Union must have clear directions oon how to deal with it. I am from Spain…luckily living in the north, but I am sure anyone from the South or from Canary Islands could give a broader opinion on the issue.

  27. avatar
    Rita Cortis Coleiro

    And Bloody Well They Should… Let`s start with the fact That France , Britain ,Spain, And Belgium were The Nations That exploited Africa apart other Countries…And Now That Clandestines ( To Me That`s What They Are ) are Invading Us… a Tiny Island That already is Over Populated.. and tramping on each other`s toes… these mentioned Countries don`t even lift a finger To Help… We Do Not have The Place or Space for the 1 Million that are waiting To Cross From Africa To Europe!

  28. avatar
    nando aidos

    What can Europe do?
    – Deal directly with the sources of the problem. The sources of the problem are (at least) twofold:
    1 – the lack of dignified living conditions in African countries, even (especially) those that export lots of oil to the EU, and this makes people seek a better life elsewhere – the EU needs to work with African governments to make things better on their end, clean up the oil supply contracts.
    2 – a corrupt and criminal business network that thrives on promising these destitute people a grandiose life in Europe. They charge a lot of money (€1000 and much more) to get someone into Europe. On the way these people have to pay bribes to intermediaries in order to reach the Mediteranean coast. Then they are put in discardable boats (bateras) and left to their own devices (and often die on the way) – the EU needs to work with the African governments to stop this criminal network, not just pick up the pieces on the European side.

    Are EU immigration policies fair and effective?
    – No, they are reactive and do not deal with the basic problems. See above.

  29. avatar
    Stanley Jr Obinna Ibe

    Thry should put in action the same thing they do for the commercial route towards India… that case military are protecting the see from pirates. They can put the same effort even for this situation…. an operation like the one managed by italy (“mare nostrum”) can be a good starting point

  30. avatar
    Richard Osborne

    Using a holding area in north Africa is a brilliant idea. In Australia we process our refugees off shore and have found a ratio of 3 to 1 of people voluntarily returning to their own country. Some people are genuine refugees but the facts show that by far the greater proportion are simply after better life opportunities

  31. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    yes… EU has no humanity neither with its own people… I suggest a trourist Visia for all african people that can come to europe for three month… if they really expences 1000 euros to come to europe, I think they can pay a flight and three month of tourism… then they can come back or stay if they find a job… neverhteless, the people that uses illegal imigration to produce tomatos and vegetables will have a problem and increase the prices… I thin people likt Hologoinis must be expulsed from EU.

  32. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    EU owes to these people, that leave their homeland, their families, their misery. They cross rivers, deserts, seas, minefields for the right to dream. During this trip to Promised Land, they leave behind them dead friends, parents, wives, children. And all these for what? ABOLISH THE DUBLIN II TREATY! PROVIDE THESE PEOPLE WITH TRAVEL DOCUMENTS AND GREEN CARDS! LET THEM DECIDE WHERE IN THE EU THEY WANT TO GO!
    EU is what it is, because of these people. For thousands of years, even now, West earns from their natural sources, from their hard work, from the unfair trade exchanges even from their own lives. EU OWES TO THESE PEOPLE A LOT MORE THAN IT CAN PROVIDE THEM!

  33. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    There is another suggestion dearest Warren. Even better! To exchange them, with you and with others who think like you, at least for a while! That would be much more than fair enough! Not to mention, that this would make, you and other people who think like you, better persons! ;)

  34. avatar
    Warren Whitmore

    Practice what you preach, Nikolaos. It would be wonderful to have universal compassion, but unfortunately this is not practically possible. First, we have responsibility for ourselves, then to our families, after this to our communities, and only finally to the whole world. If I could solve the problems of Africa by waving a magic wand then I would do so. Btw, Nikolaos, I would like to say how much I love Greece, its people, its food and its women. It’s by far my favourite country in the world. (Although Greeks are very crazy – that’s why I like them). I lived in Greece for two years in Thessaloniki, and would love to come back again.

  35. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    That’s more like it, my friend Waren! However I’ve to correct you on two points. First, I don’t speak about compassion or charity. I speak about fairness, obligation and solidarity. Second, the scale of responsibility is exactly the opposite. If we care less for the world or for our communities, then we won’t be able to take care our families, neither ourselves. You alone, cannot solve Africa’s problems. We together, might accomplish something.
    Thank you for your appreciation for Greece and Greeks (although not all of them deserve it). But from my point of view (as a Greek), I was bullied from my friends and partners in Europe, that I should pay my debts, even if they’re odious, forced or false and even when I’m not able to do so. So I wonder, why our fellow Europeans, don’t seem to care about paying their own great and fair debts to the third world? Debts which came up from centuries, of theft, exploitation, violence. Even today! Why? Just because they didn’t put their signature on a paper? Well, they’ve put their seal on History, with their blood!
    I live near Thessaloniki and I’d be glad to meet you when you’ll come back!

  36. avatar
    Frank Ryan

    These people deserve a chance in life. Strange to read all the heartless comments.

    • avatar

      Yaa thy will give a chance to live thire also open immigrate in all eu which people collected paperz thy willl give thm

  37. avatar

    Ban refugees in Europe, their culture created violence and destruction. Their culture and religion destroyed their countries, and when we integrate them in our societies they will bring harm to us.

  38. avatar
    Nikos Themelis

    The cruelty,selfishness and outright malice of the supposedly “christian” nations in Europe is sad and baffling.

  39. avatar

    Evidently the journalist does not have enough education to know the difference between , an illegal migrants , an asylum seeker , and a refugee . All those the journalist is talking about are illegal migrants , as they have not yet applied for asylum , and ARE NOT REFUGEES . He also does not support the rule of law , and ignores the fact of the numbers of people involved .
    He should be writing that immigration doors in the EU ARE CLOSED , and especially Muslims are not welcome anywhere

  40. avatar

    all the photos they publish are of illegal migrants , not asylum seekers or refugees , as they have not made application for asylum yet , so why is the media publishing so much lies and disinformation

  41. avatar
    Clementine Guiminel

    I think than yes because for a lot of European people, refugees are strong people that does not deserve to be here.

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