The myths and its choice of words

Checks and Balances, Economy and free migration

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discussion about migration 1

discussion about migration 2

The myths and its choice of words

While politicians are trying to trump each other with proposals for stricter immigration rules, in the scientific field there is a tendency that wants to lift restrictions. Economists, social Geographists an immigration experts argue for an open view on immigration. Some of them want a thorough and balanced research. Others talk of abolishing the current immigration policy.

Especially the choice of words is a concern for many researchers. The language of the politicians has since long annoyed Philip Muus of Ercomer (the Immigration Institute of the University of Utrecht) where immigration is concerned. In his booklet 'De wereld in beweging' (The world in motion) Muus spent a whole chapter on the 'water language' of politicians. As soon as the topic arises, talk is of 'streams' and 'building dams'. " In the countries of settlement the use of water language is more likely to create fear and uncertainty than an understanding of what is actually happening and what could happen in the future. Immigration is not a natural phenomenon but the work of people. It is a process in which creative, thinking, acting and feeling people are involved", according to Muus.
Professor H. B. Enzinger of the same Institute already argued for another immigration policy in 1994, in the 'explorations of Justice' report of the Ministry of Justice. "Against the image of waves and bursting dykes one can place another image. That is the image of the German essayist Enzensberger, who compared immigration movements with a weather map, in which is illustrated how masses of air move from cold to warm and back. I find this image more sympathetic, not because air would be a better metaphor than water, but because the weather maps usually show a relatively large area of the earth and therefore show how much air movements are part of a system, how much they are a pattern. When one sees this pattern, the threat of it is reduced".
The discussion about numbers is what mostly irritates Chrisje Brands (professor of criminal law at the University of Utrecht)."What I find annoying in the debate is that it is constantly presented as a question of how many people we can take in the Netherlands: that it is about numbers. If you do not want to talk numbers but about principles, then you are not of interest to the debate. We have to think about why the public debate on immigrants has changed in a relative short period, which is also noticeable in the choice of words. The European dimension should also be added, because not only the Netherlands is involved when immigrants and foreigners are concerned. The different changed utopian ideas of Europe are at issue: the great economic paradise, but also the human rights paradise and the tension between them". Brands took part in the round table conference that the Autonoom Centrum organized for the release of the book 'Border Prisoners'. (beetje loze zin als je niet weet wat voor boek het is)

Differentiating the immigration debate

Against the 'water language' of the politicians the scientists want a nuance in the immigration debate. A modification that will have to lead to a greater acceptation of the phenomenon of immigration. It is remarkable that many scientists believe that immigration can be controlled only very limitedly, while control is the main issue of the politicians.
In the Netherlands a number of Institutes are active in research into immigration and integration of immigrants. The Amsterdam based IMES is mainly aimed at integration, the Ercomer of Utrecht mainly analyses facts. Both institutes see the current migration movements within the globalization of the world economy.
Philip Muus of Ercomer sees on the one hand a process of merging countries and on the other hand disintegration. "In the first case international immigrants become internal immigrants and disappear from the viewpoint, like for instance in the European Union, while in the case of political disintegration people become strangers in their own country, like one can see in Eastern Europe and Africa". For example Muus mentions the exclusion from civil rights of gypsies in the Czech Republic.
In 'The world in motion' Muus emphasizes that the modern nation-state, as we know it, is only of recent date. "Where, in former days, no passport was needed, it is now the document in which someone's nationality is registered". On the basis of this distinction people are entitled civil rights and 'foreigners' are deprived of them. This is why, according to Muus, immigration has been reduced to terms of control. Where in the history books talk is of the 'migration of the Germanic peoples' (volksverhuizing, weet niet wat het woord is), we now talk about 'apparently unfounded asylum seekers'.
Jeroen Doomernik of the IMES notices the rise of an apparent tension between the ideology of the welfare state and the nation state, since the seventies. Where the welfare state cares for all its residents, civil rights in a nation state are reserved for its nationals. Doomernik describes the world as a global village in which money, goods, production units but also information, ideas and cultural products can cross borders and geographical distances increasingly easy. "An increasing movement of people is an inevitable consequence of this globalization".

In continuation both Muus and Doomernik argue against the notion of controllability of immigration. Muus: "important factors, which influence immigration on the level of countries, are unpredictable: how will the economy and the labour market develop? How will the human rights situation in countries develop? And when does an individual decide to migrate?" All these factors are too complex to control, Doomernik also agrees.
In 'Migratiebeleid voor de toekomst' (Migration policy for the future), a joint publication of Doomernik with R. Penninx and H. van Amersfoort, they developed a model for the intricate processes that are involved in migration (see graphic). They argue that despite the presence of a great number of push factors, migration often does not take place. A large number of other preconditions, for instance a bond with the country of destination, seem to be a necessity.
The uncontrollability of migration is also valid for remigration, according to Muus. For example with the subsidised return of labour immigrants to their countries of origin. "This presumes less immigrants in the countries of settlement, development aid that can be spent specifically and that regions and countries of origin are able to develop further in this way. Reality is different, though. Many individual return projects, in which mostly small family businesses where sponsored from the Netherlands have long since, died a quiet death. A number of these subsidised returnees are back in the Netherlands after difficult procedures over re-admittance and debt settlements".

The right to migration

Thorough research in this field can thus quickly lead to a differentiation in the policy. A number of researchers go even further and try to formulate a different policy. In 'Migration policy for the future' Doomernik, Penninx and van Amersfoort argue for an admission policy based on quota.
This book is next to the ideas of Ed Lof (verwijzing naar andere artikel?) one of the few attempts to shape an alternative immigration policy. The book was written for the Tijdelijke Wetenschappelijke Commissie Minderhedenbeleid (Temporary Scientific Committee Policy on Minorities, TWCM) and was aimed to give practical leads on alternatives for the current policy. Within the set confines the researchers of IMES still found ample room for an alternative. Nuclear words in their vision are a transparent policy in which the right to migration and the right to stay are two important principles.
The researchers would encourage the creation of large areas where free migration would be possible, for example the European Union. The huge inequality in wealth in the world renders it impossible to now have free migration on a worldwide scale. Instead the researchers developed the concept of the right to stay. Forced migration for economic reasons is of no benefit to anyone, while decreasing the differences is. An integral immigration policy is therefore impossible without a directed development policy. It is also important to abandon short-term strategies to prevent migration, like the strict rules for family reunion. On the long term there could be a great demand for immigrants in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Like Ed Lof they point at the aging of the population.
The IMES researchers reach a number of very practical conclusions. In their proposal the social partners (employers, trade unions and the state) will have to establish the yearly need for immigrants. Then parliament needs to debate the proposals and set quota. The need is already present (illegal immigrant workers) and the consequence would be to reduce the strain on procedures (asylum), which would in turn increase the acceptance of immigrants in society. As example the researchers mention Germany, where there is a quotum for the immigration of Aussiedler (ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union). Before they migrate they have to request entry. They are always allowed, but sometimes have to wait for a period of time. Although the waiting lists are long, queue jumping does not occur.
In their proposals the researchers presume that residence will be temporary, like with the immigrant workers of the sixties. Remigration will have to be stimulated, for example by allowing a 'test' period. The right to stay would not be revoked immediately. Some pressure should be allowed, according to the researchers, for instance through 'saving of social benefit contributions' and only remitting them after remigration.
According to Doomernik, Penninx and van Amersfoort a quotum will also relieve pressure on the asylum policy. "At the moment, asylum is the only possibility for migration to the West. Within this group there are also immigrant workers. It is better to formulate a transparant policy in which people also have that opportunity. A social basis for the reception of asylum seekers will then also reoccur".

A wider perspective

Jeroen Doomernik personal views go beyond the proposals in the book. In a discussion within GroenLinks, the green left party, Doomernik showed himself an advocate of free migration. "Over the whole world migration towards Europe is fairly limited. Besides migration appears to always find an equilibrium. If it is clear that migration no longer provides a personal improvement of someone's situation then the total of immigration decreases". Just as Ed Lof, Doomernik thinks that values have to be adjusted: "You can't offer immigrants what you are offering all citizens now. You can provide a chance for someone to try it here, but without help. If they succeed they can stay, if not he or she will have to return, which is probably what they will want themselves". The GroenLinks debate in which Doomernik participated was about ideas for a humane and fair European asylum policy. Main issue was the booklet 'recht op bescherming' (right to protection), in which an outline of an alternative asylum policy was given. It is remarkable how much GroenLinks conforms itself to the existing confines. The asylum policy is analyzed apart from the notion of migration and solutions are sought in changes of procedures. During the discussion the lack of a wider perspective was the most notable conclusion. This perspective has yet to be shaped. The nuance that scientists try to introduce in the debate is positive. Negative is the thinking within the margins by politicians. Ever more scientists cross the borders of restraint and control and try to find facts with which alternatives can be argumented. Political movements, which usually are not aimed at the ‘big issue' out of direct involvement, should make steps towards scientist who think about alternatives. For them too, accounts from the practice can be beneficial.

Wil van der Schans