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Migration has only a positive effect on the development of societies and economies

30 November 2012 / 15:11:10  GRReporter
10300 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

In times of large migration flows, frontiers, sovereignty and the status of a citizen of a country are increasingly put under question. Migration affects all countries and changes international relations completely. So, a new diplomacy emerges that gradually leads to international and regional migration management.
The issues were considered at a discussion organized by the French Institute in Athens and the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy ELIAMEP.

According to the professor of economics at the Panteion University of Athens, Antigone Lyberaki, the feeling that the most significant migration processes in human history are currently underway is completely wrong. "In fact, much larger waves of migration marked the 19th century but under much different state policies." According to her, the influx of immigrants in a country has only a positive effect for the economy anyway. "In the 16 years of rapid economic development in Greece, the annual contribution of immigrants to GDP was above 1% without taking into account secondary indicators." As she stated, the arrival of the first influx of immigrants in the early 1990s, who were mostly from neighbouring countries, had led to positive changes at a social level too. "Their arrival triggered a new upsurge in the provision of care for households: childcare, elderly care and home care. Within 10 years, female employment in Greece increased by 15% as a result of this process."

Her opinion is that the factors that attract people or turn them away from the idea of emigrating are of longer term than the economic crisis. In this sense, her estimates are that in the case of Greece, immigration flows will decrease but not dramatically and even fewer immigrants will decide to leave the country.

"Currently, immigrants are more affected by the crisis. It also reduces the tolerance and introduces stricter immigration policies. Here is the place to say that unfortunately, none of the financial aid packages to various European countries provide specific measures for immigrants, although the consequences of the crisis are the worst for them."

Antigone Lyberaki reprehended Greek politicians for the immigration policy pursued so far. "The influx of immigrants makes our society more multinational. Our politicians need to come to their senses and to begin introducing modern policies, not those which satisfy the Greek society’s conservative moods in terms of this."

According to the French expert on immigration, Francois Eran, the situation regarding immigrants in France is not much different. "Studies on the number, country of origin and other characteristics of immigrants are held by institutes and often, NGOs provide the funding for them instead of the relevant ministry." He said that his country does not have a system for counting the number of immigrants entering the country each year and statistics are compiled at the end of the year by counting the residence permits issued.

"Over the past 10 years, France was among the five countries with the largest number of foreign students in higher education. Currently, 40% of undergraduates and postgraduates are foreigners." However, very few of them manage to find work in the country except those who are nationals of a Member State of the European Union.

Francois Eran compared the government immigration policies in many countries with the title of Theodoros Angelopoulos' film "The Suspended Step of the Stork." "They are on the border but while they are allowed to lift their leg, they are not allowed to put it on the other side."

Researcher of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, Edda Gemi, described the international law that recognizes the right of human mobility. "The point is that those who are called to implement it are ethnic countries whose governments impede it with their policies."

She gave as an example the recent decision of the Council of State (the Supreme Administrative Court), which has declared unconstitutional the law on acquiring Greek citizenship, which was voted two years ago. "This law, despite its flaws was a step towards the integration of immigrants, because it had set more realistic conditions and recognized the rights of immigrants to run and vote in local elections."

The researcher said that depriving immigrants of basic rights makes them an easy target for xenophobic and racist organizations and movements. "At the same time, immigrant organizations have failed to put their problems on the agenda. Some political parties have even based their existence entirely on their continuation. So, we can firmly say that the first generation has totally failed in this cause." Edda Gemi stated that integration could be achieved only through joining the second generation of immigrants who were born and raised in Greece and who often do not even know their mother tongue. "It is impossible for these children to be treated as second and third-class citizens, because their parents have the "wrong" passport."

The United Nations has recognized the right to mobility of people across the planet whereas the European Union has introduced circular migration and mobility partnerships and third countries, said the director of the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, Catherine Vitol De Wenden. She explained the difference between nationality and citizenship. "It gives the right to participate in public life at the place of residence."

According to the expert, the fundamental principles of the policy pursued impede the right to mobility in different countries. "In the United States and many Western countries, territorial law is the basis, i.e. giving citizenship is determined in relation to the location of people. In others, like Italy, the right of blood is the determining factor."

At the same time, many people have two nationalities, which is also not equally perceived by all countries. "This right often involves obedience to the rules of both countries, but this problem can be overcome by bilateral agreements." As an example, she mentioned the obligation of young man with French and Algerian citizenship to serve their time as soldiers in both countries. Negotiations regulated the issue and now, they have the right to choose in which of the two armies to serve.

Unlike many countries, such as Morocco and Turkey, which encourage their citizens to obtain foreign citizenships, many Asian countries prohibit it. "If a Japanese or Chinese becomes a citizen of another country, he immediately loses his citizenship in these countries."

"The return to the nationality is in fact a reluctance to create relations of solidarity with the people who live next door," she said in conclusion.

Tags: PoliticsSocietyImmigrationIntegrationRight to mobility
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