OPINION

Focus on illegal migration

The ongoing debate within the EU on ways to curb the inflow of illegal migrants is not disconnected from the rise of extreme rightist parties on the Continent. Governments have, until now, been confined to half-measures. This has been less due to humanitarian concerns than to the fact that illegal migrants push down labor costs. This is why the contribution by migrants to the rise in crime and unemployment has been downplayed until now. The European left has acted along these lines in an attempt to limit xenophobia and racism. Its self-delusion, however, has brought about the opposite result. Far-rightist rhetoric has found support among the lower classes that are most hurt by the phenomenon. The rise in illegal migration in recent years has transformed European societies, therefore raising some crucial issues. The concept of a multicultural society, which may suit young countries such as the USA, Canada or Australia, is less suited to Europe with its long tradition of nation-states. European governments may have taken some measures to block the entry of illegal migrants but, in practice, they have tolerated those who eventually managed to reach their territory. The fact that a large number of migrants have succeeded in settling in the «Promised Land» vindicates their hopes and keeps alive the dream of a new life. As a consequence, a growing number of Third World citizens are encouraged to take the leap. Understandable as the desire for a better life may be, mass migration is not a solution. The issue will top the agenda at the Seville summit. But tighter control of EU borders, more pressure on transit countries such as Turkey, and the repatriation of migrants to their homelands are just one side of the coin. Such policies will fail unless accompanied by extended developmental aid. The idea of a «Fortress Europe» will prove fruitless unless the north-south divide begins to narrow.