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Arab Refugees Finding Harsh Welcome In Europe

 
 
 
 
 
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Marine Le Pen, far-right leader of France's National Front Party, waits with the party's Louis Aliot outside an immigrant detention center during her visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa on March 14.

Refugees fleeing the upheaval in North Africa are running into a different sort of political conflict in Europe.

Since mid-January, more than 10,000 refugees from countries such as Tunisia and Libya have arrived at the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Marine Le Pen, who heads France’s far-right National Front Party and is a leading contender in next year’s presidential election in France, appeared on the island on Monday to let them know they aren’t welcome.

Le Pen and other far-right politicians have gained traction recently — in large part by raising concerns about immigration. This has put Europe’s leaders into a difficult position.

The leaders have expressed support for the democratic aspirations that have led to unrest throughout the Muslim world — and they don’t want to be insensitive to the plight of refugees fleeing repression and violence. On the other hand, they recognize that a flood of refugees would add to prevailing unease about the difficulties of integrating immigrants, especially Muslims.

“While on the one hand, they support the transformation that is now going on in Africa, this short-term anti-immigrant wave that is washing over Europe is so strong,” says Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This is about getting to the next election.”

‘Europe Is Being Invaded’

In recent years, far-right parties in France, the Netherlands and Sweden have gained traction by complaining that Muslim immigrants are an economic drain and that they don’t fit in culturally with the West.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of Muslims in Europe jumped from 29.6 million in 1990 to 44.1 million in 2010 — and are projected to reach 58 million by 2030. More than half of North Africa’s migrants are in Europe, according to the World Bank. In three European countries — Belgium, Portugal and France — more than half the nation’s immigrants from developing countries hail from Africa, according to the OECD.

“Europe is being invaded,” Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni complained last week, referring to the current exodus from North Africa.

Last year, a book by Thilo Sarrazin arguing that immigrants are destroying Germany was an enormous best-seller, triggering a national debate.

Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and, more recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron have said that multiculturalism and immigrant integration have failed in their countries.

Meanwhile, Le Pen says that European navies “should go as close as possible to the coasts from where the clandestine boats departed to send them back.”

And something like that may be starting to happen. On Tuesday, Italy refused a ferry carrying 1,800 passengers — most of them Moroccans who had fled Libya — entry into its waters.

Skeptics About Assimilation

Countries such as Germany actually spend far more than the U.S. government on programs to help immigrants integrate into society, notes Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a coalition of business groups that rely on immigrant labor.

But, Jacoby says, Europeans have a harder time than Americans in believing that immigrants or even their children can assimilate and become true members of their society.

“They don’t have the history we have of dealing with it, and hyphenated identities,” she says.

Nations such as the Netherlands and Germany ask questions on their citizenship tests to determine whether immigrants accept homosexuality and gender equality.

And many Europeans also are concerned, given pinched finances on the Continent, about whether they can afford to let in more immigrants. Once immigrants arrive, they are often entitled to extensive social benefits.

“Europeans, especially Germans, do feel that they need to be sensitive to refugees,” says Jacoby, who recently published a Foreign Affairs article about immigration in Germany. “But [the flow coming up from North Africa] could become too many refugees for many people.”

How The Continent May Respond

European Union rules call for refugees to apply for asylum in whichever country they happen to land. That’s put a big strain on countries to the south and east.

The EU policy is to grant asylum to refugees who would not be safe in their country of citizenship or residence for fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political stances or other reasons.

Not everyone who seeks asylum gets it. There are judicial hearings, just as in the U.S.

The EU has been talking for a while about developing a common immigration policy. Some countries are more restrictive than others. Over the past decade, Germany and other countries have started initiatives designed to attract high-skilled workers, notably in information technology.

In 2007, the EU created the “Blue Card,” which is designed to attract top talent in part by making it easier for them to move from job to job and country to country. Member states are supposed to have implementing legislation in place by June. But the efforts to attract top talent have thus far met with minimal success.

And on the other hand, even before the current influx, Greece was working on a fence to block migrants from coming over from Turkey. Spain and Italy had agreements with African nations to limit immigrant traffic across the Mediterranean.

EU nations are channeling aid through organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration, with resources on the ground at places like the Tunisia-Libya border.

“The Europeans announced an increase in the aid package to Tunisia to buy the problem away from their shores,” says Conley of CSIS.

Economic Or Political Refugees?

Because the arc stretching across North Africa to Yemen remains far from stable, the relatively small number of refugees seeking safe harbor in Europe is bound to grow.

Many of those who have arrived at Lampedusa thus far hail from third countries. Some are workers from places like Bangladesh who had been abandoned by their employers and are seeking any way out.

The shape of the refugee debate in Europe may turn largely on the question of whether those coming from North Africa are truly political refugees with reason to fear for their lives, or economic migrants seeking better opportunities.

Tunisians have no reason to apply for asylum, says Patrick Weil, a senior research fellow at the Sorbonne.

“People belonging to the former regime are still in power,” he says. “I don’t see anyone risking their lives for ideas.”

Libyan Refugees: Testing The West

But things may be different when it comes to those fleeing Libya, Weil says. If Moammar Gadhafi remains in power, many Libyan refugees will be at risk of execution if they are sent back, and so they will be granted asylum, he predicts.

“As long as it’s a humanitarian situation, European populations will be accepting,” says Elizabeth Collett, European policy fellow with the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank. “If they think it’s economic immigrants taking advantage of the situation, that would be different.”

Political refugees coming from North Africa will present a different profile from that of traditional Muslim immigrants to Europe, says Irene Bloemraad, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

According to a World Bank report, 46.9 percent of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East in Europe are considered to have “low skills.”

These new political refugees are more likely to be professional or members of the middle class, Bloemraad says. They also have risked their lives for a widely hailed cause, which will put to the test “the knee-jerk anti-Muslim reactions that you’ve seen over the last 10 years,” she adds.

“The people in Libya are embracing what the West sees as their values — democracy and lack of repression,” she says. “Making the Muslim ‘alien’ is going to be much more difficult.”

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  • Arrow town

    If European countries take in the skilled Muslim immigrants,then the all the immigrant criminals and welfare immigrants should be sent back to their homelands.As for the gang rapers and child molesters they should receive the death penalty.

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  • William Tell

    I wake up every morning and watch the news, and every day, I shake my head in sheer disbelief. The Brits gave Teflon Tony and George Brown (oops, I meant Gordon – I wonder if they are related), plenty of time to bankrupt the country.
    Gordon Brown wrote off billions of bad debts from Africa. He gave away billions in aid to India, Pakistan, and China and of course he poured even more money into Africa.

    Labour admitted that it allowed untold thousands of immigrants, both legal and illegal to flood the UK either as “students” or refugees. I listened to all the broadcasts from Labour, LibDems and Conservative before the election and I still can’t believe that the British people are so utterly stupid, that they still, even to this day, haven’t realized that it’s all the same people that they are voting for and that ALL the elections are “bent”. There is no such thing as a free and fair election in the UK.

    It didn’t matter which Party you voted for, you KNEW the war in Afghanistan would continue. The immigrants would keep pouring in. They would beat the war drums with the USA for a war with Iran. They would still give vast sums of money to the “underprivileged” and to Africa, and Israel.

    Of course there’s a die-hard group that would vote Labour no matter what they did. If ALL the Ministers had been sent to jail for expenses fraud they would still vote for them. If they admitted that their aim was to replace all White people with Black and Middle Eastern Muslims, they would STILL vote for them. Why? Well might you ask, certainly not because of their manifesto, or their past performance or their policies. No folks, “its becoz me father voted Labour and ‘is father afore ‘im. We’re a Labour family, none o’ then bluddy fat cats, we’ll vote fer t’folks wot live in council flats in Coventry to send our lads an’ lasses to die”. By God he did, didn’t he, the fat half-literate bastard.
    Well folks you voted for it and you sure got it. We voted – with our feet and looked for pastures new, where there isn’t a spy camera for every four people!

    Even now the Brits haven’t woken up. I’m not sure why the BBC don’t come out with it directly and say “Vote Labour, because if you had voted Labour you wouldn’t have had any of the cut backs”. Instead, they subtly tell everyone how bad the LibCon government is and how the Jewish Labour leader wants none of it, they would make cuts but no-one would notice! Hah, people who believe that need to be shipped off to a home for the mentally bewildered!

    Now, Britain is broke “We are all in this together” chant the government, “we MUST pay off the deficit”. Yeah, right. We’ll do it by INCREASING foreign aid to Africa and India (who have their own space program). We’ll cut down the influx of legal immigrants (from outside the EU) but we won’t worry too much about the ILLEGAL ones. We’ll keep paying our 40 Billion per annum spending money for the European Parliament to squander. Now, let’s start another war. Let’s increase the troops to Afghanistan. Let’s give our friends the Pakistanis, even more money, because their suicide bombers are running short of cash for explosives in the UK and we REALLY want to make the Olympics go with a bang!

    Do you think that Labour, Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives give a shit about how many young men are killed in their wars? Do you think that any of them give a shit about how many young White girls are raped by Blacks and Muslims? Do you think that any of them care that White people are sitting without jobs.

    The latest bit of bullshit is that the poor over 50’s are being neglected and they can’t get work. It isn’t surprising when you know that most of the recruitment Agencies are staffed by Blacks and Muslims as are the HR Departments of most of the Town Councils. Little wonder that the houses go to Blacks and Muslims as well as all the plum jobs.

    Did you know that a well-known Town Council in London published an article in its magazine which bemoaned the fact that they only had 47% of “minority groups” (Minority Groups = Blacks and Muslims) in the Borough and that they were engaged in a policy of “Positive discrimination” in the council in favour of “minority groups”? I bet you didn’t know that, and even if you did, you either wouldn’t believe it, gibber about the “underprivileged, or just sit on your fat arse and do NOTHING.

    When the next election comes along, the UK will vote LABOUR. People have forgotten how Harold Wilson and George Brown (I still wonder if they are related, they are both assholes), managed to bankrupt Britain as well. On hindsight, at least George could actually WRITE (not print like a retarded child) and spell his own name properly. They will once again be promised a land of milk and honey, but the main policies will never change and it won’t really matter which one you vote for. It’s like the magician who distracts you whilst he performs his magic. They distract with things like “education, education, education” and the NHS, whilst they still give YOUR taxes to Blacks and Muslims, so they can rape and pillage and blow themselves up in the Underground and on busses to show their appreciation of your stupidity.

    How about voting for the BNP? You might as well vote for MI5. BNP policies seem good – too good to be true, but ANY AND EVERY Party that isn’t willing to pay homage to America and Israel and pour billions of taxpayer’s money into the EU and Foreign Aid, will be infiltrated and discredited by MI5 or their European counterparts in Europe. So far the only party that seems to have sneaked past them is Geerd Wilders of the PVV. God bless the man, he lives in fear of his life not only from the Muslims but from his own people as well. We can only pray that he isn’t killed and that Marine Le Pen can turn France around from its groveling to Blacks and Muslims. Banning Burkas and headscarves is a waste of time. They MUST be sent back to their own lands and LEFT ALONE, so they can rape, stone to death and hack off limbs whenever they please. It’s part of their wonderful Islamic Heritage. So GET OUT OF OUR COUNTRY. WE DO NOT WANT YOU.

    You think the Governments of Europe are any different. Of course not, their basic policies are the same as those of the major parties in the UK. Open the flood gates to our Black and Muslim brothers. Open the doors to the religion of love, peace and tolerance, who murder innocent people because some bloke 6,000+ miles away burned a copy of Satan’s bible! Love, peace and tolerance, my arse! I’ve got a nice little farm with a few pigs and the first Muslim that comes into MY property uninvited, can meet my little piggies and go straight to Hell – do not pass go and do not collect 200!!!

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