Entitlements and Welfare Immigration

Immigration is a very tense topic in Europe. A rising number of immigration-skeptical political parties are growing in influence throughout the EU. They cover a relatively broad spectrum, from borderline fascists like the British National Party or the Party of the Swedes, to traditional European nationalists like Fidesz in Hungary and True Finns in Finland, to those that only want to curb immigration and emphasize assimilation of immigrants. This latter category is represented by a Scandinavian duo, the Danish People’s Party or the Swedish Democrats.

Sweden actually provides a good illustration of how tense the immigration issue is in Europe. According to Eurostat data, Sweden grants residency to anywhere between 75,000 and 90,000 immigrants per year. Given that the total Swedish population is just over 9 million, this is a significant immigration, the largest in Europe by share of population. Most of the immigrants Sweden receives are from muslim, non-European countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

If the United States had an immigration on the same scale as Sweden does, we would grant green cards to some three million people each year, most of whom would come with less than middle-school education, often with a rudimentary understanding of what it is like to live in a modern, industrialized society, and most of whom would have as their value basis a very rigid form of Islam.

There is a reason why we don’t have this kind of immigration in America. It is practically impossible to assimilate such large numbers of people in one year. It is akin to a national crisis to allow such immigration for a few years time. It escalates toward a national disaster if this kind of inflow continues for more than a decade.

Sweden is right there, right now. Since 2000 the small, northern European country has opened its borders to about one million immigrants, most of whom from non-European, non-Western backgrounds – and for the most part with very little education. Needless to say, this creates a powder keg of social tensions, cultural conflicts, unemployment (how many jobs are there in a country like Sweden for a Somali man in his 40s with one or two years of Koran school on his resume?), competition over housing (imagine if we here in America had to build a new St Louis every year – and then some) and, when the immigrants have been isolated in the enclaves long enough – a surge in crime.

Sweden has among the highest rates of violent crime in the industrialized world. Gothenburg, the country’s second largest city with 750,000 residents, has a 75-percent higher violent crime rate than slightly larger Cleveland.

The unrelenting crime spree in that formerly peaceful country is almost entirely caused by irresponsible immigration. Another social and economic problem is that immigrants are vastly over-represented on welfare rolls. The combination of rudimentary education, a very tight labor market and a generous welfare state is a recipe for life-long dependency on taxpayers’ dole.

But it is also an immigration magnet in itself. Even though the statistics are not entirely easy to disseminate with regard to the motives immigrants have, aforementioned Eurostat data show significant discrepancies between asylum seekers and total immigration. This discrepancy is relevant: a continent that is suffering from the highest and most persistent unemployment rates since the Great Depression is hardly in need of workforce immigration. When people come to unemployment-plagued Europe for no other reason than to look for work, and when their education and experience do not give them much of a chance of finding a job in the first place, chances are they will end up on welfare.

This is precisely what has happened in Sweden. Other countries have seen the same problem.

One of them is Greece. The difference between Greece and Sweden is that since Greece has had a tighter immigration policy for many years, most of their immigrants have been illegal. That has changed with the last few years of a depression-style economic crisis. The EU Observer has recognized this in a series of articles. The first one is straight from the border:

A 12.5-km-long fence rolled with barbwire runs across plots of garlic and asparagus on the Greek-Turkish border. For the small farming community at Nea Vyssa, the presence of Greek military and police is a welcome relief from the mass of irregular migrants crossing from Turkey on a daily basis before the summer. “Sometimes a hundred or so would arrive in one day and wait for the train to come,” one local villager said.

Not everyone is happy about this border fence. The Eurocracy, e.g., which prides itself on being politically correct and welcoming all sorts of immigrants with open arms:

The barrier – bankrolled by the Greek state – was roundly condemned by EU officials when it was first announced over the summer. Greece has been arguing its border is an EU issue which merits EU help. But it also sees the mass arrivals of migrants as a threat to its Hellenic identity and national security.

And here comes the real political reason why it was so important to roll out razor wire along the border:

The 450,000 Greeks who voted for the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party on the back of a virulent anti-immigration campaign illustrate the strength of feeling.

This of course frightens people high up in the do-good Eurocracy, where a more “kind” form of immigration regulation is gaining support. The focus, as the EU Observer reports, is more biased toward keeping borders open than to protect the ailing European economy against even higher welfare costs. This is evident in, e.g., the European Parliament…

whose committee on civil liberties amended … draft legislation to include provisions on saving migrant lives at sea. “Saving the lives of migrants in the Mediterranean sea is absolutely necessary. [Migration management agreement] Eurosur will improve cooperation between EU member states and the Frontex border control agency,” said Dutch Liberal MEP Jan Mulder, who drafted the parliament’s position.

The contrast between this theoretical ideal and the harsh realities on the Greek-Turkish border could not be stronger:

Meanwhile, watchtowers on either side of the shimmering barbwire overlook a territory that once spelled hope for tens of thousands of people entering Greece from as far away as Afghanistan. Last year, some 55,000 were detected wading across the Evros river that forms the Greek and Turkish border. … The fence has won praise, especially among those who patrol, armed with weapons, along its edge. … The number of people who attempt to cross the border has plummeted. Those apprehended in the south of Evros are now sent to Greece’s naval military base in Poros Island.

A second article by the EU Observer sheds more light on the true nature of illegal immigration into Europe, especially via Greece:

A chief of police in a border town in northeastern Greece says irregular migrants are no longer crossing into the country from its land border with Turkey. Barbed-wire fences, landmines, thermal night vision cameras and regular patrols are among the tools used to stop a phenomenon the Greek state considers a national security threat. Some 55,000 people were detected attempting to wade across the Evros River into Greece from Turkey in the region in 2011. The figures have now dropped to near zero, says Pashalis Syritoudis, director of police in the run-down Greek border village of Orestiadas … He says the trend stopped since Greece launched Operation Xenious Zeus in early August. Migrants are now targeting the more treacherous sea crossings near Lesvos, Sumos, Symi and the Farmkonis islands instead. “We have given a very clear message to … [migrant smugglers] and their source countries in North Africa and other countries that Evros is no longer an easy passage to enter Europe,” Syritoudis noted.

Human trafficking used to be associated with prostitution and slave trade (especially from East Africa to the Arabian peninsula) but over the past couple of decades it has increasingly shifted to smuggling people from deplorably poor countries to Europe. This has now become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the sense that the smugglers want to keep their lucrative business going. As the EU Observer notes, the smugglers have no concern who they take money from or what conditions they subject their “merchandise” to:

One [border patrol] officer, who did not want to give his name, told this website that his unit apprehended a young man from Pakistan in the winter whose hand had frozen solid. “We had to cut off his hand. He told us to send him back, that he was now useless to his family. We felt sorry for him, not because he lost his hand, but because he was no longer a value to his family,” he said. He said he had also seen pregnant women and young girls trying to cross the river. In one case, a Pakistani woman had a baby on the road just 10 days before crossing the river. “You begin to understand that things must be terrible for them to take such risks and I really feel for them but at the same time we feel unnerved, unsettled by their presence and numbers. We are terrified by this invasion,” the officer said.

The invasion consists of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who flock the streets of Greek cities, and countless others coming to other European countries. Again, this is what Europe’s nationalist and immigration-skeptical parties are reacting to – and it would be a disastrous mistake not to take this skepticism seriously. If the democratic, non-authoritarian, immigration-skeptical parties cannot win enough legislative support for very tight immigration laws – and very tight enforcement of them – then immigration-skeptical voters are going to turn to the “next line of defense” which eventually comes down to parties like the British National Party and Golden Dawn in Greece.

Free global movement of people is an essential part of a free world. But it cannot be combined with a welfare state that promises people a life on taxpayers’ tab. If Europe wants more immigration, it is going to have to give up the welfare state. If on the other hand it wants the welfare state, it is going to have to give up immigration.

If Europe’s political leaders don’t appreciate this choice, they will invite ugly, totalitarian parties to take over the entire continent, one country at a time.