NEWS

Helping newcomers find their place in Europe

MEP Lambrinidis groups the 40 million immigrants living in Europe today into a nation of their own, calling it the 26th EU member state and the fifth-largest country on the continent. «Even so, in contrast to the policies for candidate countries who are integrating into the bloc, the EU makes available few employees and even less money (about half a euro per immigrant) for the colossal work of integrating immigrants into our society,» he revealed. In mid-May, the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, of which Lambrinidis is vice president, presented a report on the immigration issue. By July, the proposals in the report will be put to a vote in the European Parliament. These proposals center around the harmonious integration of immigrants into the European Union. Lambrinidis offered the main points at the Immigration Policy Institute’s recent international conference on Samos. Political participation by immigrants: As a first step, the report suggests that the European Commission examine the existing laws of each member state as well as any laws in the works or under discussion. The idea is to find ways to encourage participation by immigrants in local and regional elections. Lambrinidis says it’s important to end «the political marginalization of immigrants and encourage their social and psychological integration.» Measures encouraging «positive activity:» In areas such as higher education and the employment market, laws should be implemented and programs created to fight discrimination against immigrants. The main goal is not to help immigrants more than native-born residents. Instead, the EU wants to avoid the creation of so-called immigrant ghettos, where foreign-born Europeans are often marginalized. That way, disasters such as the violent riots by second-generation (and mostly Muslim) immigrants in the suburban ghettos of Paris might be avoided in the future. Express implementation of guidelines on benefits: Lambrinidis and his colleagues would like the member states to implement as quickly as possible – and without a litany of caveats – rules on reuniting families, equal employment and the establishment of procedures for legal permanent residents. Long-term legal residents should receive the same rights as native-born Europeans, as should second-generation immigrants (or the children of immigrants) who were born and raised in their new land. In some countries, the reunion of immigrant families and the establishment of legal permanent residents are made easier by incorporating the new guidelines into existing laws. In countries such as Greece, the incorporation of laws have made it more difficult to reunite families and virtually impossible to give legal permanent residents the same rights as native-born Greeks. Create a European Fund for immigration: European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini has promised that the European Fund will have 1.7 billion euros every year for immigration. Until now, no central policies have been implemented for the integration of immigrants and the analogous availability of funds for such a program. Meanwhile, the European Commission can aim to achieve a specific goal to this end every year. For example, in the first year the Commission could take on the education of immigrants and study the challenges and successes in each ethnic group of foreign-born Europeans. Evaluation of programs: The EU has a poor history when it comes to evaluating programs. That’s why independent experts should control the programs on immigration, Lambrinidis says. «Every member state has a motive to say that all programs are good,» he said. «But they’re not all good.»