The idea of tagging immigrants, especially refugees as illegal and irregular, rings the double standard bell. While European countries receive thousands of well-off professionals, students and tourists daily from African countries and other countries of the Global South , who contribute to the economic and social development of Europe, they tagged those seeking lifeline from horrible lives, but unable to secure the official but exorbitant pass (more or less like a restriction pass), illegal and irregular immigrants. While granting asylum to high-profile asylum seekers like politicians, big business persons, and few educated elites are celebrated; poor refugees and asylum seekers are restricted. It also raised a veiled image of racism, as it tend to suggest those crossing the sea to Europe are sub-human and criminals. Many like Abdou from Ghana are goal-oriented, wanting to become a teacher in Spain. “it’s my only chance, I can’t go back”, he stated (Anna Surinyach, 2012).
In fact, if the system is fair, well treated and organized, refugees and immigrants can play decisive roles in cultivating a strong citizens’ voice at home to change the economic and political status quo in their home countries. Today, immigrants’ remittances play important roles in the economies of many poor countries. Thus, this economic commitment can be converted to political use, by the western civil societies, by mobilizing immigrants and refugees to play important role in reforming and improving economy and politics at home.
But are the reasons for the tightening of refugee and immigration policies justified? While they may be justified on the basis of interests of politicians and a very few economic class, they are unsustainable and wrong.
The allegation that asylum seekers, who do not follow the so-called ‘legal’ routes, constitute security risk is not totally right. If asylum seekers are helped and provided with better routes to cross, they can be well organized and be allowed to take direct role in the economies. It is a twisted economic reasoning to allege that immigrants, who participate in the economy, put pressure on the economy and infrastructure. Many of these immigrants and refugees are employed on poor working conditions, with businesses using the tag of illegal immigrants and foreigners to drive down working conditions, for not only immigrants but also citizens.
The fact that asylum seekers are selective in the choice of their host countries, preferring more economically strong countries like Britain, shows that other European countries need to review the way they treat their refugees and asylum seekers.
More importantly, the restrictive policy on refugees and immigrants generally runs contrary to globalization. For instance, foreign businesses from Europe and other western countries make money from third world countries, which are mostly repatriated to the home countries. The logic of globalization should mean that Africans and other people from the Global South, have access to European societies. Currently, as a result of chronic economic situation of some European countries like Portugal, Spain and Greece, many of the citizens are moving to Africa in search of ‘greener pasture’. Should Africans, with their struggling economies, also restrict the movement of these European citizens?
While it is agreed that there is a limit to carrying capacities of European countries for refugees and asylum seekers, the western countries also need to do a lot to resolve economic, political and social problems underlying refugee conditions. According to James K. Boyce and Léonce Ndikumana (2012), over US$1 trillion has been moved from Africa to the west in the last four decades. Some of these monies could have helped Africa to develop, minimize struggle over limited resources, which is one of the sources of conflicts, authoritarian rule and repressive regime. Europe must allow Africa to develop her economies.
Moreover, European governments must be strong enough in condemnation and opposition to repressive regimes, and governments that engender conflicts. Condemning repressive governments that attack human rights, destroy economies and cause conflicts, while at the same time transacting businesses that generate funds for these repressive regimes morally embolden these regimes. Furthermore, selective application of human rights to countries undercut ability of citizens in the Global South to resist repressive and destructive regimes.