Brussels, 25 Jul 2003
An EU funded report, reviewing 17 research projects, has concluded that there is no evidence of immigration leading to an increase in crime and unemployment.
The studies analysed the situation in both new immigration countries and those with a longer tradition of immigration, such as France, Germany and the UK. The conclusions suggest that immigrants are not the cause of an underground economy, but that if such an economy already exists, it encourages migration. Evidence for this is available in Germany, where the government clamped down on illegal entry, but did not succeed in curbing the informal economy.
'Ignorance is the basis of racism,' said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, welcoming the report. 'This report will help to ensure that any future policies dealing with immigration issues take into account some of the latest information available about the problems that migrants encounter in Europe today.'
The report suggests that a black economy may act as a magnet for poorer immigrants, and encourages them to stay in Europe once they are caught up in that environment. This then often leads to the stereotyping of immigrants as a criminal class. When immigrants are involved in crime, the report claims that this is often brought about by discrimination experienced during the early stages of settlement, which has been seen to foster social inequality and fragmentation, often encouraging crime.
Perhaps unsurprising is the finding that immigrants generally experience poorer living conditions that EU citizens living in the same areas, particularly when it comes to employment and housing. Immigrant children tend to perform relatively poorly in school, and are more likely to drop out of education. In Germany, whereas only 38 per cent of unemployed Germans had no vocational qualifications in 1997, the corresponding figure for immigrants was 78 per cent.
However, the studies also conclude that unemployment is not directly related to the rate of immigration. On the contrary, immigrants often take on marginal jobs which are deemed unattractive by most locals. A sharp decline in immigration, therefore, could lead to a workforce shortage.
Some of the studies covered by the report also addressed the role of government and the media in influencing public opinion on immigration. 'Public opinion appears in many cases to drive official policies. Attitudes have often hindered policies designed to achieve greater equality, or to break down barriers to integration. The media and political leaders play a big part in this, claims a Commission statement.
Finally, the report emphasised the importance of comparative research and international exchange of experience, and suggests that similar transnational collaboration could serve as a blueprint for EU-wide action to address the problems faced by today's migrants.
The 17 research projects were conducted under the targeted socio-economic research programme of the Commission's Fourth Framework Programme. To access the report, please visit: ftp://ftp.cordis.lu/pub/citizens/docs/migration_report.pdf
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