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30/09/2016

‘Migration is not a security issue,’ study says

Development Policy

‘Migration is not a security issue,’ study says

Palestinian grocery store, Brussels.

[Joel Schalit/Flickr]

The Federal Republic should apply new thinking to its development aid and asylum policy, says a new study from the University of Osnabrück, calling on decision-makers to see migration as an opportunity rather than a threat. EurActiv Germany reports.

“Fighting the causes of flight”, is the title of a special initiative by the German Development Ministry (BMZ) as well as the organisation’s motto during many years of development work around the world.

But a study recently published by the University of Osnabrück is saying the programme should not continue in the future.

Commissioned by development NGO Welthungerhilfe, the paper argues that migration from developing countries to wealthier ones can contribute to social and economic development in origin countries, through the transfer of money, and newly acquired knowledge, the authors explain.

But target countries can also benefit from immigrants. Areas with high immigration rates have always been centres of innovation and productivity, the study points out.

“Development aid must make migration a successful phenomenon, instead of hindering it as has been done so far,” said Danuta Sacher from NGO Terre des Hommes.

Politicians must finally face the reality, she emphasised, that an increasing number of people are fleeing to Europe in the face of poverty and violence.

“We should not see migration as a security issue. We live in a globally interconnected world, in which we do not need border fences and restrictions but, rather, in which concepts are needed to design a complex coexistence,” Sacher said.

Ad hoc policy on flight and migration

“We don’t have the entire world on our doorstep,” said one of the study’s authors Jochen Oltmer, a professor at the University of Osnabrück. 86% of the world’s registered refugees are currently located in countries of the Global South.

For years now, however, Germany and Europe have favoured an ad hoc response to the migration issue, Oltmer said.

Talks focused on preventing refugees from fleeing instead of talking about refugee protection, he added. But this kind of behaviour is like calling in the house construction worker before the architect has signed off on the building plan.

In view of the global refugee situation, Oltmer continued, development policy does not have the far-reaching capabilities needed to hinder or direct refugees’ movements as they flee from numerous global hot spots.

Instead, Oltmer said, it can contribute to crisis prevention and peaceful conflict processing, when refugees return, during reconstruction and aiding in re-integration, as well as advising prospective immigrants on how to make their way to Europe.

Previous decades have shown that comprehensive planning and taxation of migration in the global interest are an illusion, Oltmer indicated. For this reason, he said, actors at the state level should create basic conditions for migration from now on.

To achieve this, development policy should be decided hand-in-hand with other political departments. Oltmer pointed to Germany’s labour market policy as an example. Migrants and refugees must promptly be given quicker and easier access to legal employment, he argued.

No” to the “Blue Card” for refugees

The job search is particularly difficult for asylum seekers in Germany. Many of them are very well educated, even belonging to professions where qualified workers are in short supply.

Last weekend, chair of the German Employment Agency Raimund Becker said highly-qualified refugees should at least be given new ways to access the job market.

According to Becker, the so-called “Blue Card” to attract skilled workers from third countries, outside the EU, could also benefit from well-educated asylum seekers.

So far, only skilled academic workers from third countries can apply and then move to Germany with their families. Prerequisites include a permanent employment contract, completed studies and a minimum salary. In Germany, the amount is currently at €48,400.

In the future, Becker said that highly-qualified refugees should be able to leave the asylum process with their families and gain a new status as immigrant skilled workers through the “Blue Card”.

But his initiative has been met with rejection in the Internal Affairs Ministry. Quoted in Monday’s (20 July) Rheinische Post, Parliamentary State Secretary Günter Krings said he is concerned such a measure would create an enormous additional incentive for abuse of the asylum procedure.

“The numbers of asylum applicants would spike considerably,” the Christian Democrat warned. For this reason, Krings said, he is against mixing the asylum procedure with that of the “Blue Card”.

On Monday, a spokesman from the Internal Affairs Ministry took the discussion one step further. For Germany, he said, there is absolutely no “demand for legal amendment” on this issue.

Background

Since 1999, the EU has worked to create a Common European Asylum System and improve the current legislative framework.

New EU rules have now been agreed, setting out common high standards and stronger cooperation, to ensure that asylum seekers are treated equally in an open and fair system – wherever they apply.

But member states rejected the Commission's proposal that asylum seekers from the countries mostly affected from the arrival of migrants should be relocated in other EU countries.

The number of migrants entering the European Union illegally in 2014 almost tripled to 276,000, according to EU border control agency Frontex, nearly 220,000 of them arriving via the often dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

The chaotic situation in Libya has sparked a rise in migrant boats setting out for Europe from its unpoliced ports carrying refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

In 2013, Italy’s previous government initiated the search-and-rescue operation "Mare Nostrum" or "Our Sea" after hundreds drowned in an incident off the coast of Lampedusa.

But Italy scaled back the mission after failing to persuade its European partners to help meet its operating costs of €9 million a month amid divisions over whether the mission was unintentionally encouraging migrants to attempt the crossing.

That made way for the European Union's border control mission, Triton. However Triton, which has a much smaller budget and narrower remit, has been criticised by humanitarian groups and Italy as inadequate to tackle the scale of the problem.

Further Reading

Stefan Oltmer on behalf of Welthungerhilfe/terre des hommes (German language): "Zusammenhänge zwischen Migration und Entwicklung" (20 July 2015)

EurActiv Germany (German language): UN-Bericht: Migranten leisten Entwicklungshilfe (1 October 2013)