Many Unanswered Questions Regarding the EU Immigration Policy

Migranti z Budapešti do Rakúska

In the midst of an unrelenting immigration crisis, the motto of EU politicians is: "we will not grant asylum to economic immigrants, but we will help refugees fleeing war or political persecution".

At first glance, this seems to be a reasonable, humane and just attitude. On deeper analysis, however, it shows out to be one-sided and untenable. In this article, I would like to demonstrate on practical cases how the asylum policy of the EU is conceptually ill-conceived and set to collapse soon if not significantly rethought and reworked.

If we take a look at the development of the most important documents pertaining to the asylum policy of the EU, it seems that the asylum policy is shifting toward the burden of proof being transferred from the asylum seeker to the European Union. As if the applicant would not have to prove that they have legitimate reasons for being granted asylum, but rather the responsible organ of the European Union would – in the case they would want to deny the application – have to show that the applicant does not have the relevant reasons for being granted asylum.

The second major trend in the EU asylum policy is to unify the asylum procedure in the respective EU states. Today, the process differs significantly, as we can see in the dramatic differences between countries in the numbers of successful asylum applications.

The third – and newest – trend lies in the effort to redistribute the asylum applicants in the EU member states according to a calculation taking into account the economic power, unemployment rate and citizen count in respective countries – thus quota are to be set.

Refugees or Economic Migrants?

Politicians and analysts often divide people coming to Europe into two groups: those fleeing war – thus having a legitimate right to asylum; and economic migrants – who generally don't have the right to asylum.

This view is simplified and distorts reality. Rather than two distinct groups of people, we should be talking about two different motivations for migrating. Both of these motivations can occur simultaneously in a particular migrant – and they often do.

I claim that people trying to get to Germany or Sweden are in almost all cases economic immigrants, while at the same time they can also be, to a great extent, refugees.

What Is War?

In order to deem fleeing war a legitimate reason for granting asylum, we should answer the seemingly simple question: what, actually, is war? It is clear that it is an armed conflict between opposing sides. Wars can be waged between nations, but also between interest groups within a state (civil war). It is internationally accepted that for a conflict to be considered war, at least 1 000 people per year have to be killed in it.

It is clear that war can take on many forms, and incurs various intensities of suffering on the local populace. Sometimes, the conflicts and dangers posed to the civilians are only local; at other times, the whole population of the country is endangered.

If a war is only local, such as a border dispute, does this grant the right to flee for the EU and be granted asylum in it to all citizens of both countries?

Who is fleeing war and who is only escaping a country in which, somewhere, a war is waged, but is not in fact threatened? How should this be decided? Based on the domicile? If fabricating a fictitious identity and a new ID of a foreign state is not a problem, then there is absolutely no problem of changing one's domicile. To lose one's documents and invent an excuse is even easier.

We can hear a lot of young Syrian men who fled, because they received the chance of fighting for Islamic State. But they also received call-up papers to fight against the Islamic State. They decided to flee. Their are de facto, and probably de iure, deserters. Should a young man, fleeing his country when he is obliged by law to defend it, be considered a legitimate refugee?

And another question: If we add an economic motive in the form of the possibility to flee for the richer countries, will this not weaken the motivation of local populations to fight, win and establish peace in their countries again?

Thousands of people have died in Ukraine. Thus, they have legitimate war there. If all Ukrainians decide to emigrate to Germany and Sweden, will the EU oblige?

Hypothetically, if China were caught up in a conflict with India, and both parties would fire rockets on some enemy villages, killing thousands of people on both sides, would this entitle 2,5 billion of Chinese and Indians – if they so wished – to be granted asylum in the EU, which itself has a population of 0,5 billion?

Should really any war anywhere in the world be a legitimate reason for local populations to move and travel through many safe states to Germany or Sweden?

Migrants on the trail from Budapest to Austria

Or should we, with the intention of adequately regulating numbers of asylum seekers, define norms, how many buildings destroyed, people maimed or civilians killed are needed in the afflicted country to grant the asylum? Will we prescribe how huge a part of the country territory has to be mined or contaminated to grant asylum?

Shall we let this discussion to the EU officials, none of whom would probably contradict the Swedish minister of migration Morgan Johansson and his repeated rhetoric that "all human beings are of equal value"?

Refugees fleeing war should be people fleeing directly from an area affected by fighting and to the nearest (neighboring) safe state. All other cases are refugees motivated also by economic interests, thus becoming economic immigrants.

Why Are We Against Differences Between Political Regimes?

Another category of refugees who, under the current laws, have legitimate right to asylum are people persecuted politically. Let us specify on particular examples what kinds of people fall into this category:

  • A member of an ethnic or religious minority not recognized by the state, or under assimilation pressure. E. g., the right to being elected or even the right to vote of this group may be curbed.
  • A dissident, a civic activist criticizing the actual government and under threat of persecution, imprisonment, etc.
  • A member of a religious minority criticizing or ridiculing the official religion, such as Islam.
  • A homosexual whose marriage or registered partnership is not acclaimed by the state. Or, a homosexual from a country where homosexual behavior is punished, in some cases even by death.

Is Western-type democracy really such a superior system that living outside of it signifies lack of freedom or even tyranny? Consider, for example, socialism. In the so-called Eastern bloc, the right to work was guaranteed at the level that everyone had a real opportunity of being employed and, at the most, some friction unemployment was present. For how many people is a guarantee like this much more attractive than the possibility of choosing between political parties or traveling more freely?

Will we define norms for the number of referendums per year, number of political parties in the parliament, indicators of election transparency, and if any of these statistics will not be met, then it will be concluded that the country is suffering from insufficient democratic standards and the citizens are not free? And can automatically immigrate into the EU?

And what about freedom of speech? To ridicule the prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha, etc., is legal in the EU. In the Muslim world, it is usually illegal to mock Muhammad. If somebody does it, they are in danger of being ostracized or severely punished.

Interestingly, in 2006, Iran reacted to European caricatures of Muhammad by organizing a competition for the best caricature of the Holocaust. This was an attempt to show that denial or downplaying of the Holocaust as a historical event in many countries in the EU – Slovakia included – is a crime. Freedom of speech is not absolute even in the Western world. This competition was repeated once again in 2015.

While the Muslim world compromises or regulates free speech in the case of the prophet Muhammad, the European Union is acting similarly in the case of the Holocaust. As Tehran tried to point out, in the Muslim world, the discussion about this topic is more open.

Whether we live in a Muslim country or in the European Union, as citizens we should know the limits of free speech. We don't have to agree with the governing regime or consider it just, but we have a choice: either we respect it, or we oppose it – but in that case we should take into account the consequences. The EU, however, would like to grant asylum to anyone who is threatened by persecution because of violating the limits free speech.

Is a satirical blog post, picture or writing on the wall enough to get an easy ticket from a Muslim country to the EU? Would we in this way let in a billion people from Muslim countries, if they wanted to?

And what about countries where homosexuality is treated as a crime? Anyone can arrive at the borders of the EU and declare homosexual orientation, that he would like to – finally – live an open and active life, but can not in his state, where he would be threatened by imprisonment or death. The fact that he has a wife and children he can easily argue away by that he was trying so far to hide his orientation in this way or only recently came out.

After granting the asylum, time passes by and, answering the question why he still has no homosexual partner, he reacts that he still did not have the luck of finding one. It is hard to imagine that authorities would give him an ultimatum: either you will find a homosexual partner in half a year, or we will expel you.

Or will phallometry, as recently employed in the Czech Republic, become a standard method of judging sexual orientation, although it is humanely controversial and, on top of that, not very reliable?

Will we define permissible forms of sexual behavior and if some are allowed in certain countries, will that constitute grounds for asylum? So anyone from Iraq, Yemen, Qatar, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and many other countries can knock on the door of the EU and, with feigned or real homosexuality, apply for asylum? How long could we hide this cheap "trick" from the rest of the world?

Culture defines value systems which subsequently manifest themselves in the whole of political regime, including penal codices.

Why do we think that our conception is the only right one, and all others are considered as life without freedom? Are we aware of the fact that wars begin because people cannot reach an agreement? By not accepting the values of another culture today, we may easily find ourselves in war with it tomorrow.

Poverty – No Problem Whatsoever?

If we would accept the thesis of the EU leaders that we should accept only people persecuted politically or fleeing war and methodically reject economic migrants, other questions emerge.

A person struggling for everyday sustenance is suffering less hardship than one who can not vote? A married couple going through great trouble to provide food for their children, perhaps losing one or two to malnourishment, is a lesser problem from the humanitarian point of view than a man who is by law forbidden to have sex with a person of the same sex?

Somebody who for long years is unable to find a job is in a better situation than a person in whose country, on the opposite side, a non-intense local conflict is waged?

We could direct our attention exclusively to people in existential poverty. That means a situation where death of malnourishment is imminent. And I dare to say that this is a much more serious problem than differences in political systems.

But again, we arrive at procedural problems. If the EU asylum policy considered existential poverty a legitimate grounds for granting asylum, the number of hungry people crossing the Schengen border would rise dramatically.

And I cannot imagine a methodology according to which it could reliably be decided if a certain asylum seeker is or is not in existential poverty if their home country does not have a modern social welfare system.

The Current EU Asylum Policy Needs To Be Redefined

I demonstrated several model situations showing how the EU asylum policy can easily be circumvented. People smugglers can thus, as a bonus, add to their services very practical counseling in this area.

The world is changing dynamically, and in accordance with this, we must also reflect the basic assumptions of our attitudes. If we take simplified interpretations of humanity and compassion as our basic premises, we can easily create an inflexible system which can totally collapse in the following years. And a humanitarian crisis can suddenly afflict those, out of the work of whom such a system arose in the first place.

Apart from humanity, we should keep in mind that the world is evolving perpetually and human beings struggle, often ruthlessly and egoistically, for survival and happiness. If one-sided emotional views cloud our thought and we will believe that the whole world can share our happiness, if only our arms will be open enough, we will suffer bitter consequences.

The current asylum policy of the EU is a leaky sieve destined to collapse. Anyone with the least bit of effort could pass through and successfully start asylum processes. Even a purely material motive suffices, such as hope for a better living standard, and the effort for asylum in the EU is started. The present situation coupled with the benevolent attitude of the EU is sending a powerful motivational message to the whole world.

On top of all this, it is startling that the European Union has, with a qualified majority, adopted obligatory immigrant quotas for the member countries. The real issue is not the 120 000 asylum seekers, as was claimed, but the mechanism through which at first hundreds of thousands and, without a major paradigmatic shift, millions of people will be redistributed in the following years.

It is fair to ask: who has given the European Union the mandate for such an irresponsible decision?

The European Union will be forced to considerably redefine its asylum policy. But how will this be done? Will hundreds of indicators and an extremely complex bureaucratic apparatus be set up, which, with the aim of regulating the number of asylum seekers, will at all times monitor the situation in the whole world and, with arbitrary cynicism, revise it?

In the manifesto we presented to the public, we defined one of the main principles which would help us solve the unsustainability of the present system. It is the principle that help to refugees should be afforded mainly by countries the population of which is close to the refugee: racially, religiously, ethnically, and in terms of language.

The current practice basically reflects this principle. If one has to save their dear life, they naturally seek protection in a neighboring state, which is most proximate geographically, and as a rule, linguistically, culturally and ethnically. Ukrainians are fleeing mainly for Russia or to family in the parts of the country undisturbed by war. Slovakia or Poland are also naturally more willing to help Ukraine. The majority of Syrians escaped to Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey. These are real refugees. Those seeking asylum in Germany or Sweden have a strong economic motive.

People who flee through half a continent to richer, not only safe, countries are more distant from us and also more difficult to integrate. We should not be obligated to consider them in the asylum process at all, but return them in the shortest time possible. If EU would hold on to this principle, immigration would soon be contained within manageable limits.