Why Europe should have open borders

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Politicians need to have the courage to stop fighting an unwinnable and destructive war against migration and seek instead to make the best of it, argues freelance writer and analyst Philippe Legrain in the summer edition of Europe’s World Magazine.

Present problems such as humanitarian crises at the EU’s borders, an explosion of criminality and the corrosion of attitudes towards immigrants are evidence that the current efforts to tighten and harmonise immigration control across Europe have damaging effects and do not halt the process, Legrain argues. 

He criticises the notion of halting immigration, because the European knowledge-based economy needs immigrants to fill the low-end jobs that our ageing and increasingly wealthy societies rely on but which our increasingly well-educated and comfortable citizens are unwilling to take. 

Using migrant workers is not exploitation because it makes everyone better off, according to Legrain. Immigration does not undercut wages and does not undermine social standards when it is well regulated. Migrant workers do not steal jobs but create them and enhance productivity. 

On top of this, the writer highlights that immigration is a valuable way to fight global poverty. Money that is sent back to the home country is a multiple of the official aid from Western governments, and these remittances are expected to go straight into local people’s pockets, rather then corrupt governments or weapons. 

Legrain concludes by stating that the choice that Europe faces is not between closed borders and open ones. It is between illegal immigration and legal, regulated migration, because governments cannot stop people moving across borders. In Legrain’s opinion, it would be far better for our borders to be open, not just within the EU but also to non-Europeans. 

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