I have maybe too much to say:). My points touch on both refugee and immigration policies, but I am posting only here. Maybe we could work on this in a shared document?
I would suggest connecting both the asylum and immigration through the lenses of the countries of origin and bordering practices. Also, the contemporary trend in the EU is to create an impression that migration is mainly about the borders protection and the fight against “illegal” migration. Immigration is only to serve the economic needs of our economies - therefore, we need to "attract the right talent“. It is not incorrect as rather incomplete, and we should shed some light on that.
Here are some of my points to discuss, but the leitmotif is to tackle discrimination and make the unseen visible by looking at how migration is organized in the countries of origin and how our economies are dependent on migrant workers (a sort of political taboo in many countries). Much of what I am sharing here is based on research in Asia, mainly South Asia, Indonesia, China, but it applies to African countries too. My points are below. I am expanding each point further to support what I am suggesting.
- Fair and ethical recruitment in the countries of origin, including rules for recruitment in the online environment - stronger European diplomacy?
- Misuse of AI in the externalized border management
- Stricter supervision over private border management companies
Flawed recruitment of migrants in the countries of origin is the most important topic we should address if we want to ensure fair and ethical immigration system and protect migrant from abuses. Recruitment is happening often in the unaccountable environment of corrupted states. Lack of fair and ethical recruitment in the countries of origin poses the major financial costs and danger to aspiring migrants and their communities. We tend to believe that “formal/regular/organized” migration is risk-free, but any attempt to delineate it from informal and often corrupted economies is a mistake.
This problem also significantly correlates with forced labour and Trafficking of Human Beings, a new term for old-fashioned slavery. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Chapter I, states: dignity (human dignity, the right to life, the right to the integrity of the person, prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, prohibition of slavery and forced labour). A significant body of not only academic research shows how flawed recruitment process poses migrants’ and their communities’ financial dependence on facilitators/brokers influence the outcome of migration. Such situation can ultimately end up in slavery, e.g. 2019 study revealed the case of trafficked Nepalis on a poultry farm in Poland - they came as temporary labour workers. Europol, Frontex, and ILO report that forced labour is the second most prevalent form of THB in the EU.
The role of social media. Frontex’s Strategic Risk Analysis (2023) acknowledges that the online environment helps to recruit irregular migrants. Yet, it does not reflect a fact that social media are platforms allowing to advertise jobs and recruit migrants, including international students, without any licence. This is usually happening in the community groups or “visa help centre” groups on Facebook or YouTube used as a funnel leading to private Whatsapp conversations. The migrants often do not know whom they deal with.
Based on my experience in Poland, students can become victims as well. They pay a lot of money while being told they can work while studying. Ultimately, they arrive to some small town without work for them. When desperate, they are offered a job by their brokers elsewhere and must quit their studies. But it is difficult (bureaucracy) to get a work visa in some countries, so they might rather overstay their visa, temporally working illegally, which gives enormous power to employers/brokers over them. An easy route to forced labour. Universities must be careful about who are their brokers as there exist deals with private companies and universities. Thousands of euros are large sums to pay for Asian and African families that must take loans or sell their land. This example is meant to show that this does not apply only to the so-called low-skilled migrants but also to highly skilled migrants (typically students). EU is a part of that.
By looking at migration from the point of view of the countries of origin, it is not difficult to see that there are interrelations between what we call clandestine and labour/student migration from third countries. The important point is that most of the process before the migrants come to Europe defines their status here, but the majority of these processes are invisible and originate in the countries of departure. Our part in that is a lack of acknowledgement of these facts.
A quite big issue became the misuse of AI/automation in migration infrastructure, including border surveillance, and the inborn cognitive biases of the respective technologies perpetuating and reproducing discrimination at the borders in processing temporary visas and asylum applications. Many EU countries outsourced their border management to private companies, and it is crucial that these companies follow the strictest rules so that migrants will not be discriminated. Here the problem relates to the simple fact that private corporations are profit-driven, and the more applications they process, the more their existence is justifiable. Ruben Andersson, an Oxford-based scholar, wrote a famous book “Illegality, inc.”, where he explains this mechanism - the EU border business is to produce illegal migrants through surveillance. The more "illegal“ migrants are traced, the bigger problem we face, the more money can flow to this sector.
For instance, one of the most prominent border managing private companies became the VFS global for legal migration management. My preliminary observation is that the case of VFS Global in New Delhi fits into this framework as its goal is probably not to produce successful migrants but to conduct as many operations as possible and generate money through fees for each operation.
- The ethical dimension of admitting temporal migrant workers - from the temporal to permanent residency (right to stay?)
- Rationalizing debates on labour and student migration (de-politicization of migration)
Let’s be honest. A significant portion of jobs we need to fill is not about talent but about hands (agriculture, construction sector, care). The predominant method of admitting migrant workers and regulating immigration has for some time been through varying temporary labour immigration programs, that is issuing temporary visas (e.g. two years or more). Only a tiny portion of them will ever make it to a permanent residency or citizenship and get access to welfare systems. I am aware of the tremendous differences in all EU member states. But I am still convinced we should initiate discussion about how we use people, not a mere “labour force“, from developing countries to sustain and grow our economies. Immigration is about expecting people to come and live here, they can permanently reside in the country and enjoy rights, and they are expected to be considerate about their responsibilities and our values. Temporary are those who come on a limited basis. They are not supposed to stay and are just supposed to fill in the gaps of the labour market and leave any time states decide.
I am missing the articulation of immigration in clear terms and how it relates to the economy. We can find many intersections with other sectors of public policy too. In short, EU economies are based on immigrant labour of all kinds and would probably fail without it. The demographic trend is another factor here. Some observations from Czechia and Poland - since 2015, the migration has been articulated primarily as a security threat and problem. Migrants from Africa and Asia are seen as “culturally incompatible”. Since the same period, we have been witnessing a high increase in immigration from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Mongolia. This migration correlates with the increase of available jobs and growth of GDP in both countries. This debate will be even more salient in the future as labour shortages pose a significant problem to all European countries. There is a wide consensus that labour immigration is an inevitable part of that solution - not an alternative but a complementary instrument.