Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Europe's New Immigration Plan Troubles World Leaders

Brianna Almaguer Sandoval
Human Migration and Mobility/Project Voice Policy Graduate Intern

The United States has a checkered history of immigration policies which has tried to deter and subsequently led to the deportation and separation of undocumented immigrant families or workers. European countries are now beginning to experience high levels of undocumented or "irregular" immigrants and as a result have undertaken efforts to establish a European immigration system. These new policies have troubled human rights advocates and disturbed world leaders - including Latin American leaders - who have expressed their opposition, and pledge to take action if the new policies are enacted.

European Pact on Immigration and Asylum

On July 1st, French President Nicolas Sarkozy became president of the European Union (EU). President Sarkozy has made immigration one of his top priorities stating that he does not want "a closed Europe...but nor do we want a Europe that stands by powerless before the unchecked waves of immigration." The "European Pact on Immigration and Asylum" has developed principles to help the 27-nation bloc EU manage migration, fight undocumented immigration and help development in developing nations, or those from which people are leaving or traveling through to get to Europe (Agence Franc-Presse). European Union ministers met in Cannes, France on July 7 to reach an agreement on the creation of an EU-wide immigration system. President Sarkozy hopes to have a plan formally adopted in October. Most of the EU member nations have accepted the proposed pact's broad outline.

The European Commission estimates that there are between 6 and 8 million undocumented immigrants within the EU (Times of Malta). While many European countries wish to increase border security, this must be balanced with their need for skilled immigrant and seasonal workers as their populations decline, and as their aging populations leave the workforce (Gulf Times). One of the main components of the pact is that legal immigration will be organized based on a state's needs and ability to welcome people (Gulf Times). While member countries of the European Union enjoy free movement between countries in the Schengen passport-free zone, the current discussion calls for increased security on the EU's borders to the outside world. Also, refugees will increasingly be required to apply for asylum status from outside the European Union. In addition, authorities will be allowed to detain undocumented immigrants for up to 18 months and ban them from reentry for up to five years (Times of Malta).

MERCOSUR Condemns Proposed EU Immigration Pact: Latin American Presidents Speak out

On July 1, during a two-day summit in the Argentinean city of Tucuman, Presidents of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) condemned the immigration pact of the European Union. Mercosur passed a resolution condemning the EU, "We can't be silent about this, we need to take a stand..." said Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Chavez also threatened to stop selling oil to European countries if they apply the law. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said that the measure "takes us back to times of xenophobia that we thought were long behind us." Chile's President Michelle Bachelet stated, "We were very generous with the Europeans who arrived in our land in the last century, and the truth is that it is not fair for our people to get a denigrating treatment." The Mercosur condemnation is seen as a particularly bold public step due to the EU's role as the primary Mercosur funder.

Immigration Pact Seen As Inhumane

CIMADE and the Carnegie Council are two groups voicing concern over the new law. While the EU's motto is "unity in diversity" critics say that "Fortress Europe" is more appropriate. The new refugee law is of particular concern. Human rights advocates have argued that the new pact is focused on security and immigration management, rather than based on the protection of human rights and the principle of refugee protection (Carnegie Council). The Carnegie Council asserts that the asylum laws are shifting responsibility for asylum protection beyond EU borders; the results are disputes over responsibilities, the risk of refoulement, unfair procedures and the erosion of the rights of those seeking refuge.

AFSC Promotes Just and Humane Policies

"We work with all people, the poor and the materially comfortable, the disenfranchised and the powerful in pursuit of justice. We encourage collaboration in social transformation towards a society that recognizes the dignity of each person. We believe that the Spirit can move among all these groups, making great change possible. " - AFSC Mission and Values Statement -

Since its 1917 founding, AFSC has supported domestic and international immigration policies, which respect the human rights of immigrants and refugees. Indeed, AFSC's raison d'etre is in part due to the dire situation many World War I survivors and refugees found after the war.

AFSC stands in strong opposition to policies and actions which disrupt the safe migration of individuals and families who seek to live in peace, and who have universal rights to work, live, and thrive whether in their country of origin or those who have to flee elsewhere due to repression, persecution, or social, political, economic or cultural factors.