‘Economic migrants’

September 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

One of the more ‘breaking’ pieces of news over the last 24 hrs, besides the Liberal leadership spill, is Hungary completing its border fence a day earlier than expected. I read this piece from the Australian which also gave a good rundown of destination vs transit European countries and key economic indicators of each country.

One of the comments on the article expressed distaste at what he thought were economic migrants country-shopping.

Of course, the issue is a lot murkier than that.

It is unanimously accepted by EU countries that asylum seekers from Syria are given priority when their claims for asylum are processed. In general, claims for asylum from Syrians are much more likely than not to be accepted; it is assumed that these people are genuinely fleeing war and persecution and are not economic migrants.

However, there are a number of complicating factors.

Firstly, many asylum seekers from countries like Syria and Libya have spent time (sometimes even a couple of years) in transit countries such as Turkey. Their subsequent decision to migrate to countries like Germany and Sweden raise arguments from naysayers that they are doing so for better economic opportunities. After all, they have already spent a substantial period in a country where their safety is not threatened. An argument against this is that although Turkey gives temporary protection status as a matter of course for asylum seekers from Syria, access to certain rights such as working rights as well as the ability to enrol in public schools is restricted. Such restrictions raises the issue of whether Syrian refugees will be better integrated in countries like Turkey compared to countries like Germany which offer more generous welfare provisions to refugees, therefore giving them equal opportunities to participate in social and civic life. Germany has also pledged to take in more refugees; for an asylum seeker it means that they will have a better chance of having asylum granted in Germany, than say, Poland which has only promised to take in 150 Christian Syrian refugees.

Another complicating factor is that many people lose their identity documents whilst fleeing from their country. This makes it hard for the EU to verify an asylum seeker’s nationality and therefore whether they should be afforded refugee status. There are also black markets emerging for fake Syrian identity papers for asylum seekers who are not genuinely fleeing persecution.

A BBC article highlights the general exodus of people, not just through, but from the Balkans. In the first seven months of 2015, a substantial number of asylum applications in Germany were made by people from Albania and Kosovo. The only country with more applicants was Syria. These are perhaps the economic migrants that the commenter was concerned with. These people are generally ordered to go back, but it can take up to a year for this to happen, and even after that the authorities often fail to physically expel many of these people.

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