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– en fråga för global politik
– a question of global policy
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– en fråga för global politik
Under april 2009 arrangerades tre stycken öppna seminarier på Kulturhuset
i Stockholm, som på olika sätt tog upp frågor om migration. Den andra
november samma år arrangerade Re:Orient, Arena Program, Natur & Kultur,
Röda Korset och Institutet för framtidsstudier tillsammans med Kulturhuset
Stockholm ett forskningsseminarium på temat Migration – en fråga
för global politik, som ett sätt att följa upp och fördjupa de teman som väckts
under våren. Bengt Westerberg från Röda Korset var konferencier, och runt
tvåhundra åhörare lyssnade under dagen. De medverkande var journalister,
författare, forskare och politiker.
Slavenka Drakulić – kroatisk författare och journalist – inledde med att tala om hur
begreppet ”nationell identitet” ofta används av främlingsfientliga krafter för att argumentera
mot invandring och multikulturalism. Invandrare delar inte vår ”nationella identitet”,
brukar det heta. Misstaget de begår – eller ett av dem, snarare – är att de betraktar identitet
som något fast förankrat; omöjligt att förändra. Tvärtom är identitet socialt konstruerat
– och följaktligen kan vi också rekonstruera vår nationella identitet. Vi både kan och
måste förändra vad det innebär att, till exempel, ”vara svensk”.
Den brittiske ekonomen och journalisten Philippe Legrain visade hur friare migration
skulle ge stora ekonomiska vinster, men påpekade också att alla människor har en fundamental
rättighet att lämna sitt eget land. Världen blir allt mer rörlig – allt fler flyttar ”temporärt”
– och Legrain menade att denna cirkulära migration är djupt positiv, inte minst på grund
av de remitteringar som gästarbetare ofta skickar hem till sina familjer och släktingar.
Eva Jespersen från UNDP redogjorde för några av de mest betydelsefulla internationella
migrationstrenderna, och passade på att slå sönder ett antal myter kring invandring och
migrationsflöden. Till exempel är det bara en minoritet av det totala antalet invandrare
som flyttar från ett utvecklingsland till Nord, och tvärtemot vad rasistiska rörelser ofta påstår
så reproducerar sig invandrare inte snabbare än den inhemska befolkningen.
Statsvetaren Peo Hansen framhöll vikten av att inte glömma bort maktaspekter när
man talar om migrationsfrågor, och påpekade att när människor har ett val – det vill säga,
makt över sitt eget liv – huruvida de skall flytta eller inte, så väljer många ofta att stanna
kvar i sitt hemland. Folk emigrerar i första hand om de tvingas till det; av fattigdom,
hunger, förföljelse, eller något annat.
Ilse van Liempt skrev sin uppmärksammade avhandling om flyktinsmuggling, och hon
beskrev hur denna verksamhet upplevs ”från insidan” – av dem som behöver hjälp att ta sig
över gränser – samtidigt som hon ifrågasatte vårt moraliska fördömande av flyktingsmugglare.
Hon såg ett tydligt skifte efter kalla krigets slut, där man gått från att tala om kriminella
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regimer som människor flyr från, till att fokusera på de kriminella som för människor in
i Europa. En tydlig ”moralisk hierarki” har etablerats i det europeiska asylsystemet, där
människor som betalat för att ta sig in i EU för att söka asyl inte ses som ”genuina flyktingar”
till skillnad från dem som tagit sig hit på andra sätt – och Bodil Ceballo från miljöpartiet
instämde i att hon kände igen dessa tongångar från politiken.
Under det svenska ordförandeskapets sista månad skall det så kallade Stockholms-programmet
– en politisk femårsplan som behandlar EU:s migrations- och asylpolitik, gränskontroller,
lagring av information om unionens medborgare, och mycket annat – att drivas igenom.
Juridikprofessorn Elspeth Guild kommenterade det utkast som publicerades i mitten
av oktober, och kritiserade det för att framförallt fokusera alltför mycket på medborgarnas
rättigheter och negligera de legitima rättighetskrav människor som kommer utifrån EU
Avslutningsvis talade migrationsminister Tobias Billström om ”framtidens migrationspolitik”,
följt av ett öppet samtal mellan honom, före detta biståndsminister Jan O Karlsson och
övriga deltagare och åhörare. Billström pekade på att Europa står inför stora demografiska
utmaningar och enkelt uttryckt behöver ett stort inflöde av immigranter de närmaste
decennierna för att klara av välfärden. Man måste utforma system som underlättar reguljär
arbetskraftmigration, på ett sätt som gynnar både in- och utreseländer, och den enskilda
immigranten. Ministern betonade också vikten av att EU harmoniserar sitt asylsystem,
eftersom chansen att få asyl i dagsläget varierar kraftigt mellan olika medlemsländer.
Ganska mycket av det efterföljande samtalet handlade om detta skulle leda till att Sveriges
asylpolitik blev mindre generös eller inte. Dagen avslutades med en diskussion om huruvida
”amnesti” för de som vistas utan papper i Europa är en väg framåt – där Tobias Billström
förhöll sig skeptisk, medan bland annat Jan O Karlsson ställde sig försiktigt positiv.
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– a question of global policy
On the 2nd of November 2009, the organizations Re:Orient, Arena Program,
Natur & Kultur, the Swedish Red Cross and the Institute for Future studies
arranged a conference at Kulturhuset in Stockholm, where a number of inter-
national and Swedish guests spoke o various issues of migration. The speakers
included journalists, writers, scholars and politicians:
Slavenka Drakulić is a Croatian writer and journalist currently living in Stockholm.
She has published numerous books, both fiction and nonfiction, the latest Katt i Warszawa
och andra berättelser om livet under kommunismen.
Philippe Legrain is a British economist, journalist and writer. He has written for the
Economist, the Guardian, The Times, Prospect Magazine and many other publications,
and is the author of the book Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them.
Peo Hansen is a political scientist at Linköping University. His main area of research is
the European integration process, focusing mainly on identity politics, migration policy,
Eva Jespersen is assistant chief at the Human Development Report Office of the UNDP,
and has worked for many years within the UN system dealing with different aspects of
Ilse van Liempt is currently a research fellow at the University of Sussex. She wrote her
dissertation on human smuggling, called Inside Perspectives on the Process of Human
Smuggling into the Netherlands.
Bodil Ceballo is a Swedish parliamentarian for the Green Party. She is the party’s spokes-
person on migration and foreign affairs.
Elspeth Guild is Professor of European Migration Law at the University of Nijmegen,
Netherlands. Her current research interests include citizenship and the European Union.
Tobias Billström is the Swedish Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, and a Member
of Parliament for the Moderate Party.
Jan O Karlsson has served both as Social Democratic Minister for Migration and as
Minister for Aid in Sweden. He was one of the co-presidents on the Global Commission on
Below follows a rather detailed summary of the themes and questions raised during the day.
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The problem of national identity
The Croatian writer and journalist Slavenka Drakulić opened the seminar by reminding
us that the Berlin Wall fell twenty years ago almost to the day. Some people in Western
Europe at the time feared that this would lead to mass immigration from the Eastern Bloc.
The same fears were heard when a number of the former Communist countries became
members of the European Union in 2004. But of course, this did not happen. The explanation
for this is simple: most people do not want to move. They don’t like to leave their homes,
their families, their culture or language. Most people leave for an uncertain future.
Therefore, people rarely migrate unless they are forced to do so – by unemployment,
extreme poverty, hunger, war or political prosecution. And many of those who do move to
Western Europe – with dreams and hopes for a better life – plan to go back home one day.
However, it is those that for different reasons choose to stay that interest Drakulić. People
who do stay are often seen as a problem. Why? Immigrants generally think of themselves
(as) belonging to a culture different to that of the new country, with differing habits, religion
and so forth – and this very often boils down to a “problem” of identity. Immigrants, we
often hear, do not share our “national identity”. Drakulić pointed out that the proponents
of this argument tend to se national identity as something fixed or intrinsic; cast in iron,
impossible to change. This perception of identity is a myth, however. As anthropologists
tell us, the notion of a national identity is a social construction. She compared our national
identity to a sandwich: layer upon layer of different identities, which are products of
historical and political changes, as well as legends and insubstantial inventions.
Identity is important when talking about immigrants because it serves as an anti-immigration
argument. The good news, however, is that if it’s true that national identity is a social
construction, it can also be reconstructed: i.e. changed. This is exactly what we need to do.
The cultural clashes in connection with the publication of the Muhammad caricatures in
the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten revealed an important feature of most European
countries of today, Drakulić said. Namely; native populations live parallel with immigrants.
Tolerance has come to mean ignoring one another. Put it another way: natives and immigrants
live in avoidance of one another”. As bad as they are in themselves, cultural clashes also
very often reinforce stereotypes, leading to anxiety and fear. This in turn creates a base for
populist and xenophobic political parties arguing for policies of national homogenization
– and we find ourselves in a vicious circle. She approvingly quoted the scholar Tariq Ramadan
saying that “in times of fear, people tend to identify with only one single aspect of their
identity”. This applies to both “us” and “them”.
At the end of her talk Drakulić stressed the fact that we in one sense are forced to change the
way we see and perceive each other, and the segregated way in which we live; if for no
other reason than that immigration cannot be stopped. As she pointed out, “only dictatorships
– not democratic states – can stop people from travelling”.
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The economic rationale for migration
Following Drakulić, different economic and political aspects of migration were brought up
by a number of speakers. The British economist and writer Philippe Legrain talked about
many of the economic gains that could be derived from international migration, to a large
extent in agreement with Eva Jespersen who presented this year’s Human Development
Report, which deals specifically with questions of migration and mobility. Peo Hansen,
political scientist at Linköping University also made a number of comments on Philippe
Legrain’s speech, reminding us not to forget issues of power when talking about migration.
Both Legrain and Eva accounted for many of the trends in international migration, as well
as debunking many of the myths surrounding it. One of the clearest examples is that we
tend to think of mobility as a one way street. This however, is ever more untrue. People
are increasingly moving, not just from developing countries to Europe or the United States,
but also from West to East and North to South. In addition, those who migrate today are
much more mobile than earlier generations. Just as Drakulić pointed out, people who
move to another country often one day go back home – or move on to a third country.
A hundred years ago, an international journey often was an once-in-a-lifetime venture.
This is not so much the case today. Travelling is cheaper nowadays; the knowledge of were
and when to go better than ever before. Thus, concepts like “circular migration”, “return
migration”, “secondary migration” and the like helps us to understand the contemporary
international flows of people. Legrain himself compared the world’s migrant workers with
bees – bees that fly around from flower to flower, cross-pollinating each of them.
Another persistent myth – “that all immigrants are coming to Europe” – was dismissed
by Eva, who showed that of all migrants in the world only around one third actually moves
across a national border, and that many of those choose to immigrate to a neighbouring
country. Even when talking about migration on an international level, there are other
regions of the world outside Europe and the United States which attract huge inflows of
migrants, most notably the Gulf States. Less then two out of five migrants have moved
from a developing to a developed country (although is trend has increased over the last
fifty years). In total, workers from Africa only make up 12.4 % of all international migrants
in Europe. In addition it is not at all true that immigrants reproduce faster than the native
population, as is often stated by xenophobic and populist parties. Rather, quite rapidly
after getting to a new country, their fertility patterns adjust to that of the surrounding society.
Legrain argued that the same gains that we get from more open trade could also be retrieved
from opening up borders not only for goods, but for people as well. The fact that the EU
has an ageing population, and that healthcare and care for the elderly is one of the fastest
growing sectors in our economy, means that Europe actually could get the greatest gains
from low-skilled immigration, since the demand for labour in this sector is constantly
growing. If this immigration is done openly, foreign workers will have the same rights as
natives, access to unions and so forth – thereby avoiding “social dumping”. Obviously, he
said, immigrants do not take jobs, they create them. There is no correlation what so ever
between rich countries unemployment rate and either the rate of immigration or the share
of immigrants in the population. Furthermore, those who for some reason want to decrease
the number of immigrants settling permanently in Europe for instance, are doing them-
selves a disservice when arguing for tougher border controls. As Legrain pointed out, the
more difficult it is to get into a country – the more difficult it also is to get back home again.
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Migrants who despite great difficulties manage to get into Europe will likely try to stay
longer than they otherwise would have.
Another economic argument for migration is that of flexibility. If it’s easy to move across
borders, migrant workers in some senses will help to stabilize trade cycles. If the economy
of one country is booming, migrants will move there, responding to the increasing demand
for labour. And the same is true in the event of slower economic growth, or even recession
– then people will move on to other regions – thus, the economic “ups and downs” will
be smoother. Legrain considered the perhaps most important economic rational for more
free migration to be that of dynamism, however: migrants tend to be young, hard working,
and entrepreneurial. They often bear with them new perspectives, and are more driven to
succeed. When creativity and problem solving become more important features of the world
economy, people who think differently will, simply put, be a great economic resource.
Although the advantages of migration were the main focus of Legrain’s talk, he also recognized
some of the problems of migration. It is true that some of the people who immigrate to
Europe and settle here permanently end up unemployed. And while their children tend to
do better than their parents, they still tend to do less well than native Europeans. This, too,
runs the risk of being used as an argument by xenophobic movements. So why do immigrants
sometimes do worse than natives? Legrain pointed towards discrimination and other
inequalities of opportunity. We know that individuals of foreign descent are often treated
differently, and thus what is required – together with more open borders – is vigorous
antidiscrimination laws and other political measures to ensure equal opportunities for all.
The countries of origin can benefit just as much – if not more – from the positive aspects
of migration which Legrain highlighted. Those who, for example, have spent a few years in
Europe and then go back home to Africa bring with them new knowledge, perspectives and
skills. It is no coincidence that the first internet cafés in Africa were started by people coming
back from Western countries. Another very important economic aspect of migration is the
remittances that foreign workers send home to their relatives in their home country.
Indeed, added together remittances account for a bigger transfer of money from rich to
poor than the total volume of aid in the world each year. And this money does not go into
the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats or dictators, but is instead spent on housing, health care
and education on the grass root level.
Eva agreed in this, but added that while remittances are very important they cannot replace
foreign aid. Aid and private remittances basically go to different things – developing
countries need both investment in infrastructure and increased purchasing power amongst
the poor – and therefore, they should bee seen as complementary. In addition, there are a
few examples of countries that have become overly dependent on remittances – notably
some of the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia – which clearly suggest that they need
other economic strategies as well.
It was ultimately around these issues – what effect migration has on the countries of origin,
and more specifically developing countries – that some disagreements arose between
Philippe Legrain and Peo Hansen. Hansen argued that the discussion about migration very
often is biased, favouring the developed countries. He used one of Legrain’s points earlier
as an example: while we talk about how people from Africa should come to Europe and
take care of our elderly, no one asks who takes care of the elders in the countries of origin.
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To understand questions of migration, Hansen said, you have to introduce the concept
of power. For just as both Legrain and Drakulić mentioned – many people do not want to
move. If they can, most people choose to stay in their native countries. And this pinpoints
a very important issue: if people have a choice – a real choice – then people also have
power; power to decide over their own lives and whether they should stay or go. Although
phrased differently, the same argument could be found in this year’s Human Development
Report. Just as Eva Jespersen pointed out, the vast inequality of opportunities between
states and regions is the key driving force of human movement. In line with this thinking,
Hansen pointed to the fact that while there is plenty of talk about the “right to move”,
very few people even bother to think about “the right to stay” – in one’s country of origin,
or in the country of destination.
While Legrain agreed that the question of “brain drain” – i.e. emigration of highly educated
or trained individuals from developing to developed countries, draining the poorer country
of scarce human resources – is a serious issue to be discussed, he couldn’t see how stricter
border controls would be the solution. It would be very hard, he said, to tell a doctor in
Zimbabwe – despite Robert Mugabe, despite that the country is “falling apart” – “that it is
your duty to stay, that you are a prisoner of the place you were born”. The same argument
could be made in Sweden. What right do we have to prohibit young people from moving
from a village in Norrland to Stockholm – although this internal migration probably will
make this hypothetical village worse of then it otherwise should have been? As the Nobel
laureate economist Amartya Sen said, development is the process of enlarging individuals’
capabilities and choices – and thus, surely, the possibility to migrate is a part of the
development process. It might also be a good idea to ask ourselves if migration is the cause,
or the symptom? Even without doctors emigrating, the healthcare in most parts of Africa
would be terrible.
Hansen and Legrain’s differences were to some extent the result of different perspectives.
While Philippe Legrain talked a about “what should be done”, and the potentially huge
gains the world economy could get from more open migration, Hansen focused a lot on how
and why the present system works as it does. Many European businesses and governments,
he said, benefit from the current situation, where most immigrants have very few or no
rights what so ever. The Spanish government, for example, knows very well that their
tourism industry cannot function without very cheap – i.e. “illegal” – migrant workers; this,
of course, affects the policies and rules in place. According to Peo, the debate surrounding
migration is rather hypocritical. Many of the major players in Europe want tougher border
controls and extensive immigration – thereby creating a large labour pool, with individuals
willing to work for very low wages. This in turn, of course, could be seen as one of the
strongest arguments in favour of opening up borders, making migration “legal”, as Legrain
and Jespersen reasoned.
It became increasingly clear during the discussion that is it impossible to isolate just one
aspect of migration. Almost unavoidably, economic arguments were mixed with moral and
political reasoning – most clearly manifested in the focus on rights.
At the end of his talk, Philippe Legrain made two historical references. He noted that while
border controls and highly restricted migration is something natural to us, for most part of
history they didn’t exist. Even when modern states began to develop, they rarely had any
control over their borders. Little more than a century ago – in 1905 – Great Britain imposed
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its first immigration controls. Clearly, it’s not realistic to hope to stop migration to Europe.
In spite of “Fortress Europe”, more than 1 million people get into the European Union
every year. To render immigration “illegal” is to put our heads in the sand.
“Remember”, Legrain said, “that even with orders to shoot at sight, people still managed
to cross the Berlin Wall”.
The morality of human smuggling
Because of the elaborate border control mechanisms the European Union has put in place
many immigrants today need the help of smugglers to enter Europe. Ilse van Liempt
questioned our tendency to put the blame only on the smugglers, and not on the border
controls creating the need for them. Bodil Ceballo from the Swedish Green Party to a large
van Liempt at the University of Sussex wrote her PhD on human smuggling into the
Netherlands, and started with pointing out that there has been a radical shift in how we view
human smugglers in recent times. During World War II Jews were smuggled out of Nazi
controlled territories, and during the Cold War – referring back to Legrain – Anti-Communists
were smuggled across the Berlin Wall. Those helping were at the time and afterwards seen
as heroes, but today, the word “human smuggler” clearly has very negative connotations.
Essentially, a change in the definition of the word has taken place: from helping people
escape “criminal regimes” to the “criminals” who bring immigrants in.
This change, however, is a recent one. It is only since the mid-1990s the notion of “human
smuggling” has received broader political attention and entered the penal code. Since then
however, states reaction to the practise have been ever more repressive. With the Dover
Incident in 2000 (where fifty-eight people in the back of a lorry were suffocated to death
as they were being smuggled into Great Britain), the discussion about increasing penalties
for human smuggling in many European countries increased. Interestingly, in a lot of the
rhetoric and legal framework surrounding human smuggling the state is seen as the “victim”;
the smugglers are undermining the states’ migration policies and their authority to decide
who should get in and not. Seen in a broader perspective, there has been a shift from the
legal domain with international protection to the political domain where migration needs
to be “managed” for reasons of national security. This is also manifests itself in the way
states talk about human smugglers – in the discourse of organized crime. Although human
smugglers are sometimes linked to organized crime and human trafficking – indeed,
exploitation of those smuggled is absolutely not unheard of – this is not always the case.
Not only one type of the human smuggler exists, but many.
van Liempt went on to say that while it’s very common today to speak about “legal” respectively
“illegal” immigration, this clouds the fact that these concepts are far from clear-cut or easily
defined. For example, what is considered “unlawful” entry from a national standpoint may
actually be legal according to international laws and conventions. Of particular importance
is Article 31 of the Geneva Convention, which states that refugees may enter a country
“without authorization”, if their life and freedom are threatened in their country of origin.
Furthermore, the legality or illegality of migration is not just a question of crossing a
border. Rather, migration is a dynamic process consisting of different stages. The migrant
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leaves their homeland, travels, enters the country of destination, finds a job and a place to
live, and so forth – and all of these stages might be rendered legal, or illegal. For example,
part of the “illegal workforce” in Europe came here legally, seeking asylum – and when
their pleas were rejected they went into hiding, entering the shadow labour market.
However, van Liempt noted, violation of the law at one point does not mean that people
are not entitled to protection at another.
Why then, are smugglers needed? For some migrants using the services of a smuggler is
the only way to enjoy fundamental rights – such as the right to seek asylum – because of
travel restrictions or security issues. van Liempt asked rhetorically: Should we blame these
migrants for taking action and looking for protection with the help from smugglers?
In addition, sometimes smugglers are needed not to help entering another country, but
leaving one’s own. van Liempt referred to an Iraqi woman she interviewed for her thesis,
who had an invitation from the Dutch government to go to the Netherlands since her husband
already lived there. Even though she had an official invitation, she turned to a smuggler
for help – not to get into the Netherlands, but to get out of Iraq. First she was smuggled to
Iran, where she got forged documents taking her to Dubai. While there, waiting for transit
to Europe, she was apprehended because of her fake papers, and thus her husband had to
fly down to Dubai and prove to the authorities there that she really had an invitation to go
to the Netherlands…
Today, van Liempt said, a sort of “moral hierarchy” has been established within the European
asylum system. Very often, links are made between smuggling, paying a lot of money, fraud
and not being a “real” refugee. She quoted a few European politicians – among them the
Swedish social democrat Göran Johansson – who were both suspicious of the “authenticity”
of those asylum seekers who got here by paying smugglers, and argued that it would be
“unfair” to grant those migrants asylum, while poorer individuals in need of protection
were left outside. Simply put, the fact that people have paid a lot of money to get into Europe
to seek asylum is held against them – they are not “genuine”, not the most deprived.
At the end of her talk, van Liempt outlined a few of the broader consequences of the fight
against human smuggling. Firstly, smuggling will not disappear. Since there always will be
people without access to the legal migration routes, a need for travelling in unconventional
ways will always exist. If states restrict (legal) migration, human smuggling is instead very
likely to increase. Moreover, migrants and smugglers alike will take higher risks when
borders are better secured. Brutally put, more people will die. Smuggling will become more
expensive – both to compensate for the tougher control systems, and because of an increase
in demand. This means that migration becomes more selective. Only individuals with
sufficient resources – who have a lot of money or very good connections – can manage the
trip to Europe. In this situation, where migrants have invested a considerable amount of
money to get into Europe and know just how hard it is to get in, they are very unlikely to
return to their home country for a long time – even if they don’t do very well here. Thus,
just as a number of the previous speakers pointed out, barriers around Europe are in many
ways counter productive – because while border controls to keep people out, they often
also keep people locked in.
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The future of the European Unions border controls
What then, of the future of the European Union’s border controls? In December this year
under the Swedish Presidency the third multiannual programme for the development
of the European Unions area of freedom, security and justice – the so called Stockholm
Programme – will be adopted. In the middle of October a first draft of the Programme was
published, and Elspeth Guild, professor of European Migration Law at the University of
Nijmegen, made a number of comments on the Union’s future migration policies.
The first point she made was that the Stockholm Programme deals with a large number of
quite disparate issues, including border controls, immigration, asylum practices, privacy
and data protection vis-à-vis the state and EU agencies, and judicial cooperation in criminal
as well as in civil matters. In her speech however, Guild mostly focused on questions of
migration, asylum and borders. The third multiannual programme which now is under
construction arrives just as the Lisbon Treaty is about to come into force. This intersection
of the two events is particularly important, because the Lisbon Treaty brings the end of
the former “Pillar structure”. Instead, all subject matters come within one fairly coherent
structure of EU law and institutional engagement. Sadly, this coherence in the structure
has the consequence of lumping borders, migration and asylum together with crime, drugs
and terrorism. Guild mentioned that in 1993 the different areas were combined in the
former “third Pillar” but that in 1999 they were separated – which seems more reasonable,
taking into account their inherent differences. However, there are also some rather positive
aspects of the Lisbon Treaty for the Stockholm Programme: the drive to adhere to the
European Convention on Human Rights, and the legally binding effect of the EU Charter
of Fundamental Rights.
The Programme is entitled An Open and Secure Europe Serving the Citizen. Throughout
the document the emphasis is on the importance of serving the interests of the citizen.
By focusing so exclusively on the interest of serving the citizen, Guild asked rhetorically,
what happens to the legitimate interests of the approximately 14 million third country
nationals who live lawfully in the EU? Are their interests excluded? By framing the document
in terms of the citizen, the legitimate interests of third country nationals – for instance in
family reunification with third country national family members – is subordinated to the
interests of the citizens. What could this mean? Well, she said, if the interests of citizens
are paramount, the exclusion of third country nationals from social security benefits (even
though they pay taxes and may have done so for many years) could be legitimate – why not
make foreigners pay for our benefits and exclude them from access in order to maximize
our profits? Although Sweden isn’t a member state which has taken this approach to social
benefits, there are members of the European Union which do take such an approach – some,
she noted, that are very close to the Swedish borders.
Moreover, the draft states that “the EU is an area of shared values and common fundamental
rights”. This point is picked up many times in the text, and as already mentioned there
are numerous references to the European Convention of Human Rights as well as to the
Charter of Fundamental Rights. Guild’s view is that this is a step in the right direction.
Fundamental rights as contained in the Convention and the Charter belong, with very few
exceptions, to everyone – not just to citizens or even lawfully residing third country nationals.
States are not entitled to deprive people of their humanity merely because they are no
longer wanted in the state.
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Unfortunately however, major problems still exist. Though the Lisbon Treaty will make the
EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding, the assessment of whether proposals
are consistent with the Charter is carried out by officials within the Commission itself.
So the same body which proposes a measure also certifies that it is consistent with the Charter.
Similarly, there is very little attention paid in the Stockholm Programme draft to member
states’ responsibilities to ensure fundamental rights protection in any of the fields covered.
Yet it is the member states that – in implementing EU legislation in the field – are on
the front line to ensure that fundamental and human rights protection meet international
standards and the Charter.
Another major concern is that of integration. The draft of the Stockholm Programme calls
for substantial new work in the field of integrating third country nationals. Before commencing
a discussion on integration, however, member states should be clear on the issue of whether
third country nationals who are admitted will be given a permanent status. If the Commission’s
proposals regarding circular migration are pursued then the objective is that third country
nationals do not stay. Why then require them to “integrate”? In such circumstances
this seems not only insulting but pointless and counterproductive as well, Guild argued.
If, however, states require third country nationals to take – quoted from the draft – “intro-
ductory courses, language classes, show commitment to the host community and actively
participate in all aspects of collective life” as the Programme suggests as essential elements
for third country nationals under “integration”, then surely states must give these individuals
a secure and stable immigration status.
Further, she said, the lack of a commitment on the part of the state to equal treatment,
equal access to social benefits, education and other aspects of working and living conditions
is very unfortunate. On one hand, third country nationals are required to undertake all
sorts of commitments to the member states, but on the other member states are still entitled
to exclude them from comprehensive public health care and other benefits.
Lastly, Guild raised serious concerns regarding the large databases that have been created
in Europe, such as EURODAC (which contains fingerprints of all asylum seekers), the
Schengen Information System (SIS), and the Visa Information System (VIS) which will hold
sensitive information on all persons who apply for a Schengen visa. Both SIS and VIS
have been designed to be open to the police and intelligence services of the member states.
A Commission proposal to open EURODAC to these services is under consideration. This
places third country nationals in a very invidious position, as their information (including
biometric information) is available to intelligence and law enforcement agencies, whereas
that of the whole EU population is not. The European Court of Human Rights has indicated
in a case earlier this year (S. and Marper v. the United Kingdom), that the collection
and retention of such data must pursue a legitimate interest and not offend against the
non-discrimination principles of human rights law. Perhaps not surprisingly, Guild was
not convinced that the EU databases meet these tests.
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The politics of migration
At the end of the day, the Swedish Minister of Migration, Tobias Billström, held a talk on
“the future of migration politics”. The speech was followed by a long debate between him,
the former Social Democratic Minister of Migration Jan O Karlsson, the other participants
and the audience.
Billström started with saying that people always have moved, and very likely will continue
to do so for the foreseeable future. This movement of people – just like the movement of
goods, capital and services – is a central feature of an evermore interdependent world.
Just like Legrain and Jespersen pointed out earlier, he noted that the patterns of migration
are changing. Temporary or “circular” migration is ever more common, and this kind of
migration has a greater possibility to be beneficial for everyone involved. At the same time,
Europe, as most of the other Western economies, faces demographic challenges in the future.
In just five years time the European Unions workforce will start to decline, while life
expectancy is likely to rise. This can at least partly be solved by increasing productivity and
the total number of working hours in the economy – with incentives to work more, and
rising the retirement age – but Europe also needs a constant influx of migrants. He dismissed
the idea that in times of economic crisis migration must take a step back. Rather, “the work
to reduce barriers for mobility must continue even in times of low demand for labour”.
Our goal, he said, is to provide legal and safe opportunities to come to Europe, and we must
realize that there will be strong competition for needed labour in the years to come, not only
with the United States, Canada and Australia, but also with the emerging economies of
India and China. We – Europe – must establish ourselves as an attractive destination for
skilled and needed workers.
The EU needs to grant migrant workers rights comparable to those enjoyed by the Union’s
citizens, and has to work extensively with labour matching, skills recognition, training and
the like – also with the countries of origin. Billström used Sweden’s history of labour migration
as an example on how the European migration policies must change. For almost forty
years, Sweden had a relatively closed system for labour migration, with most of the migrant
workers coming from other Nordic countries or from what today is the European Union.
One important lesson from the Swedish experience of labour migration is that temporary
labour migration policies only work if they are really temporary. If the employers needs for
labour extends beyond the short term, then a more flexible system is needed, where short
term migration can become long term, or even permanent. Not surprisingly, for the minister
of migration Sweden’s new rules of labour migration introduced last year, have many of the
features he think is necessary for Europe as a whole to adopt. Our system, he said, “is totally
demand driven, and welcomes migrants of all skill levels. Migrants that are admitted to
Sweden have access to almost the equivalent rights … to those granted to Swedish citizens,
and they may bring their family members with them from the first day”. It is also easier
today than previously to go from temporary to permanent residency.
Billström also stressed the importance of enhanced cooperation between the countries of
origin and the countries of destination. This is crucial to ensure that labour migration is
indeed beneficial to all. If managed correctly, however, it can help to prevent labour
shortages and increase tax revenues in the receiving countries, and the countries of origin
can benefit from remittances as well as the education and skills the returning migrants
bring with them home. It allows us to go from “brain drain” to “brain circulation”. Lastly,
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the Minister pointed out that it is a great problem that institutions working with aid,
migration and trade policies often are isolated from one another, when their fields of work
so obviously overlap. Since development and migration are tightly linked together, this
should also be reflected in governmental bodies and regimes. A long debate followed
Billström’s speech – naturally the Swedish minister received most of the questions – and a
few things in particular became quite clear.
Many times during the discussion, Billström came back to the importance of balance in
migration policy. The difficulty, he said, is to set up a system which on the one hand protects
and assures the fundamental right of asylum seekers and refugees, and at the same time
stops people who are not asylum seekers but labour migrants coming on the wrong routes.
The minister saw it as absolutely crucial to maintain a very clear line between these two
different forms of migration. A member of the audience asked him what the relevant moral
distinction between someone who has to leave their country because of the lack of political
freedom, and someone who has to leave their country because of starvation due to the
political system really is. Billström agreed that this was indeed a very interesting question,
but abstained from commenting on the philosophical difference. Instead, he referred to the
fact that we do have different legal systems for different kinds of migration, and that there is
really no way we can get around that: “Although the economic situation in a country can
be very difficult, this is not an asylum reason, and it can never be an asylum reason. It’s quite
simple: there are too many people around the world who starve and who feel that there are
problems with their economy. Those people cannot use the asylum passage; that would be
detrimental to that system. However, for those people, you should try to device more ways for
legal migration, because they could be needed as labour migrants in other economies as well”.
Another recurrent expression from the Minister was that “we have to end the asylum lottery”,
with which he meant that the chance of getting asylum varies dramatically between
different Member States of the Union. Billström said that the problem with for example
asylum visas – that a person in a country outside the EU could get a visa to Europe for the
specific purpose of seeking asylum here – is that if we were to implement such a system
tomorrow, some EU Member States would have very long queues outside their embassies,
and some would have very short, “and that is not right”. Therefore, he argued, it is necessary
to implement the same asylum practices in all EU Member States. One of the questions
debated in the aftermath of his speech was whether this would lead to Sweden lowering its
own standards to meet those of other members of the EU. Basically, how much – indeed,
if anything – can be sacrificed for the goal of harmonizing the EU asylum system?
Billström also pointed out that if we were to go back to handling migration as mainly a
national issue, it would be much harder to put pressure on those countries whose asylum
policies we think are too harsh and repressive. He asked, rhetorically, “if we were to stop
using the Dublin regulation tomorrow – and for example stop sending people back to
Greece because this was their first country of entry – would this then lead to improvements
in these countries”?
A further example where questions of migration become part of a larger foreign policy picture
was an exchange between Guild and Billström. Guild asked the Minister if he on his trip to
Turkey could promise them that the EU Member States would properly implement the
European Court of Justice decision that visa requirements most be abolished for Turkish
service providers seeking to come to the European Union. Billström, quite naturally, stated
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that he couldn’t “negotiate from the stage”, but added that migrations issues can be a very
powerful foreign policy tool. The European Union is able to say that “if you want to receive
visa facilitation and ultimately no visa requirements at all, then you have to fulfil certain
requirements. And opening up more chapters in the negotiations with Turkey, will probably
call for improvement when it comes to migration issues in the relation between the
European Union and Turkey”.
On the issue of regularization of irregular migrants, there was a clear disagreement between
the minister of migration and both Karlsson and Legrain. Billström argued strongly against
any kind of regularization (the word “amnesty” was rarely used), both because it would
send the signal to other migrants that they could simply travel to the country in question
– and thereby just reproducing the problem of a large irregular workforce and people living
in hiding that needs to be solved – but also because it would be unfair to other migrants who
did not receive residence permits. Legrain and Karlsson however, argued that regularization
could be an effective way to handle the problems of today – where Europe de facto has a
large black labour market. The Minister might be correct in claiming, they said, that this could
lead to more migrants seeking their way here, but if more and easier legal ways for entering
Sweden and the EU are implemented – as Billström himself has proposed and worked for
– then we will avoid the problem of a “dual society” with a black and a white sector that the
minister wants to avoid. According to Legrain, you have to distinguish between “stocks and
flows”: regularization would deal with the former; more legal ways into the European labour
market with the second.
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For more information about the organizations behind the seminar, visit the websites: