By Telford Aduda
This year has seen a vast number of migrants make their way across the Mediterranean to Europe, sparking a humanitarian crisis as countries struggle to cope with the influx, and creating political and social tension in the EU due to the disproportionate burden faced by some countries, particularly Greece, Italy and Hungary where migrants have been arriving by boat and over land.
The conflict in Syria is said to be the biggest cause of mass exodus to Europe as desperate asylum seekers flee the ravages of a war torn country and a conflict whose origins and progression seems unclear. However, the migrant issue is not only limited to those escaping Syria but extends to people trying to get away from violence in Afghanistan, human rights abuses in Eritrea, as well as poverty in Kosovo.
I believe and you will agree with me that once the immigrants are in Europe, they become part of the European populace. They brave the weather, they will interact with the local authorities and they will benefit from goodwill sent to the region. In my opinion, Europe should stop viewing the exodus as a crisis. Instead, they should view it as a blessing to Europe.
Immigrants have a number of benefits if the administrative system is efficiently equipped to handle them.
A majority of immigrants are able-bodied individuals and in some cases they are intellectually competent men and women fleeing nations where their intellect poses a threat to the status quo. If properly integrated into a host country’s work force, these persons can prove invaluable to national growth and economic development. In the United States of America, Presidential candidate Donald Trump has on several occasions lamented that immigrants have flooded the country and taken away ‘American jobs’. What he fails to mention is that a majority of these ‘American jobs’ were once considered too base to be done by Americans. Immigrants, desperate for work applied for the jobs and employers desperate for returns hired the desperate immigrants (at the legal minimal wage). Result? Companies thrived and the American economy grew.
Consider also the slave trade and the dark era of slave ownership. The world’s superpowers had no qualms about using immigrants to mine, till and gather from the earth to make their riches. Heck, if there weren’t enough immigrants they would bring them in from the far reaches of the map. Result? Empires dressed in cotton, silk, gold and diamonds.
I am not advocating that we return to that dark chapter but the argument is made in history; immigrants can boost a local economy. But European countries must get it right this time around and give fair compensation for services rendered.
Remember, among the immigrants are university graduates, doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, religious leaders, and entrepreneurs. All these brains cannot just be placed in the camps, let them be given something to do. This way the immigrants might just become a blessing.
Once the immigrants have wages they will possess purchasing power which translates to direct profits for manufacturers and service industries in the host country. The government can reduce the public tax burden delegated towards crisis management and refugee relief programs and divert these resources towards development agendas and other projects. Tax on goods purchased by the working immigrants will go directly towards the national purse. More people paying tax has never been an unwelcome idea. Furthermore, as they earn wages an income tax (even applied with special recommendation for the individual’s status) could be collected. It sounds cruel but such is financial inclusion. However, special care should be taken not to rob citizens of the subject country opportunities in employment, housing and access to basic amenities.
And don’t get me started on the population crisis in Europe. What is the average annual birth rate in Greece again? Hungary? Germany?
Welcome the immigrant, if for nothing else do it because you might be an immigrant tomorrow or you were the immigrant during a war of your own.