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What's the Best Way for Europe to Handle its Current Immigration Challenges?

Over the 10-15 years in many parts of Europe, tens of thousands of migrants fleeing poverty, military conflicts, oppression, and abuse have made their way to the continent in search of security and better economic prospects. There's limited available space with a high population density in many European countries, much higher than in the U.S. One needs to realize there are significant cultural and religious differences between many unauthorized immigrants and secular Europe. The objective here is to help outline the present immigration issues the EU (European Union) countries confront and the future challenges these prospective immigrants face.

Look at Sweden as one scenario: a generous country that welcomed two million immigrants. While some have integrated, far too many have not, creating parallel societies and creating a drag on the country's welfare system. A country with historically low crime, Sweden is the most violent country in Europe. Due to increased gang activity, Sweden had the highest number of gun deaths in Europe in 2018. Prime Minister Kristersson said, "Sweden has never seen anything like this before. No other country in Europe is seeing anything like this." It's been reported there are more than 35,000 gang members, forcing Sweden to place the military in specific neighborhoods. Indeed, Sweden has become warier about immigration, especially since 2015, when they accepted thousands of people from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Much of Europe sees Sweden as an example of what not to do when accepting immigrants from Asia and the Middle East.

Europe's Immigration challenges

The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, has attempted to address the immigration issue in France. His immigrant bill was recently flung out of parliament without being heard – the most significant setback in his six years as French President. According to the Guardian, his bill attempted to show he could create tough regulations on immigration and, at the same time, be somewhat open to some foreign workers to "help their economy." Opposing sides of parliament coalesced to defeat the bill as it was too extreme for the left and not comprehensive enough for the right. His goal was to show France and the EU an effective way of dealing with the issue of migration. Indeed, other EU leaders were watching Macron's attempts at effective ways to support immigration, which would benefit France and newcomers.

Many years ago, I lived in Switzerland for nearly a year. As someone may imagine, Switzerland has stringent immigration rules. They have created a system that closely tracks visitors to their country to ensure no one overstays a visa. Because I lived in Eastern Switzerland, the common language was German, so I enrolled in a German language class to help me learn the language. However, a unique dialect was spoken where I lived, which meant what I learned in class didn't directly correspond to the language spoken in a Swiss restaurant or on the street. Before living in Switzerland, I was exposed to only a little of the customs and culture when briefly visiting. When I became immersed in their culture and customs, I realized the big adjustment I needed to make. Residents didn't expect you to completely assimilate quickly, but a genuine attempt had to be made. It's easy for proponents of great immigration from Africa and Asia in Europe to criticize Europeans who are highly cautious about having foreign folks, many of whom have significantly different mentalities, arrive without knowing if these immigrants will faithfully assimilate. Do members of the EU have a right to raise the issue of immigration as a valid concern without being called a racist?

Europe's Immigration challenges

About half of Germany's residents think there is too much immigration overall and that there's limited space to house newcomers. On the other hand, roughly half of the residents think they can continue to allow immigration prudently. To add context to this survey, Germany's land size is about twice that of Wisconsin (less than six million). According to data from the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, as of this year, 13 million out of Germany's 83 million citizens are foreign nationals or 16 percent. These stats show that Germany has been welcoming immigrants for many years.

To help integrate immigrants, Germany provides integration courses that include German language programs. It has existed for nearly 20 years; since 2019, two million people have enrolled in this program. Besides German instruction, this integration program helps immigrants become more independent and helps them adapt to daily life in Germany.

An essential requirement in Germany today is that immigrants must first learn the language. According to the Research Center of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the knowledge of the German language has increased among refugees and their contacts with the local population. As of several years ago and for the first time, over half of the refugees who arrived in Germany between 2013 and 2016 evaluated their German-language skills as "good" or "very good."

The chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, said recently that too many migrants were coming to Germany, and now his government will be more strict with migrant claims. However, Scholz is also pragmatic about his immigration approach; as his country ages, he has realized his country's need to gain new workers for the economy. He is also concerned about those seeking asylum, for those who are being politically persecuted. He concludes by saying those are two areas the government will focus on moving forward.

It's clearly obvious that Vladimir Putin has a lot to do with unauthorized immigration in Europe. Russia is heavily involved in Syria, where those who want to avoid the war-torn country may head north to Westernized countries. Millions of Ukrainians, where 90% of them are women and children, have gone westward to Europe to avoid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Many have settled in Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. A few years ago, the EU and Poland accused Belarus of using migrants to help destabilize Europe by sending thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants across the border of Poland into EU territories. Even though Putin has created this mess, he's not going to offer any solutions -- many well-read Americans realize that's his modus operandi, sow confusion and chaos in foreign lands to boost Russia's standing in the world.

Ukrainian immigrants are refugees trying to flee the war areas. It is estimated that nearly six million refugees fleeing Ukraine have been temporarily accepted by many European countries. There haven't been any significant assimilation issues. It needs repeating that Ukrainians are Europeans and will try to blend in, unlike many immigrants who come for economic reasons. Ukrainians generally receive a good education, which improves their job prospects. They are interested in security and blending in and continually worry about the state of their fatherland. Even though some have returned to smaller communities in Ukraine, most remain in their adopted countries. The longer the war goes on, it increases the chances that these refugees will ultimately stay in their guest countries.

Europe's Immigration challenges

I find it disingenuous when those who condone illegal immigration rail against those who want a more controlled immigration system. Proponents of illegal immigration may say, "With a low birth rate in many European countries, they desperately need migrants to keep up their economies." Most well-informed people realize that many parts of Europe have much lower birth rates today than 50 years ago. However, that doesn't excuse undocumented workers from coming across the border illegally. If someone wants to emigrate to one of these areas, there's a process to follow. That should be followed in Europe and the United States. I'm annoyed when people ignore the EU's border laws and think they can come across and live as illegal migrants. They're jumping the line. What about all those individuals who want to come there but are trying to follow the legal process? Why should a group that doesn't do things legally benefit from a group going through the lawful immigration process?

Europe's Immigration challenges

What's the best way for Europe to handle their immigration challenges? Unfortunately, the immigration crisis in Europe will continue for many years. With a much higher birth rate in these poorer countries, the attraction to many European countries will continue. It's just too attractive for many young men from these poorer countries to target a move in an attempt to gain a better economic life. I didn't mention climate change; if some rural areas are no longer available for farming, people starving will turn northward. Also, areas that become too hot and inhospitable may also ultimately force many to attempt to move to Europe. Therefore, short-term and long-term policies are needed, and all EU countries need ultimate cooperation on this issue.

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