Xenophobic Europe

I’m sometimes embarrassed to be European. When one looks at the past five hundred years of European colonial-building, it seems very hard to find anything to be proud of. When one looks at the last 50 years, during which time Europe and America have arrogantly presumed that they could turn the world into a better place, it is easy to see how we could have done a great deal better.

This month, three Sudanese friends of ours were supposed to have their holiday in France. Each one of them has good and secure job that is reasonably well-paid. They also have a passion and love of their own country, as well as a deep interest in the cultures of Europe. Some of them have even taken French lessons, for the simple joy of learning a new language and finding out more about the culture. France, continuously frustrated that French missed out on being the world’s number one language, is always keen to communicate its cultural heritage to the rest of the world.

It was almost certain that they would be welcome to France with open arms, perhaps given a medal upon arrival for being so enlightened about Europe’s many different cultures. It was certainly unthinkable that they could possibly be denied a visa.

But that is just what happened.

I was quite shocked, and more than a little saddened that we wouldn’t be able to see them in Europe this year.

I see the countless economic migrants desperately trying to fight their way into Europe – whose door is still ajar but slowly closing – and am absolutely flaboghasted that these upstanding Sudanese, who were about to come to Europe and (gosh!) spend money here (an African spending money in Europe? is that, you know, actually possible?) were denied entry.

Perhaps those people that make these visa decisions might take a moment to cast their eyes over the newspapers of recent days. Greece. Bankrupt. Ireland. Bankrupt. Portugal. Bankrupt. Spain. Not far away from being bankrupt. Italy. May well go bankrupt. France. Would be happily solvent if it wasn’t having to send all its revenue from taxpayers to Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain and Italy.

In short, the coffers of the French treasury would certainly be glad of a few young free-spenders in the country.

For me, this whole ridiculous situation is immensely frustrating, as I had been looking forwards to seeing my friends here. For my friends, it must be even more frustrating as they had already bought their flight ticket to Paris.

But this blog entry has a deeper message beyond my own personal grievances. Europe is in terminal decline. It seems that nothing politicians do can really arrest this decline. China and India are leaping ahead. The US may have a ridiculously large debt, and been on the verge of default a couple of months ago, but structurally it is in much better shape than most European economies. Even parts of Africa are showing signs of real development, and one day in the not-too-distant future may really be able to demonstrate their weight in the world.

And, meanwhile, Europe trundles on, seemingly completely oblivious of how its place in the world has shifted – and unless it recalibrates its trajectory, it’s heading for that precipis everyone once thought China and India were destined for.

What we need to do is to put a proper immigration and visa policy in place, devoid of the ludicrous sentiments that Europe’s right-wing press seems so full of. Allowing people to move about the world, in controlled fashion, is important. As tourists, my friends would have spent hard cash in France. Others, who want to come to Europe to work, could bring skills and dedication that would give a real boost to the economy. But all we ever seem to hear is the right-wing newspapers weaving frightful tales of how we’ll all be destitute if we let these foreigners in to steel our jobs. That anyone can write such simplified rubbish in a serious paper – when the idea that employment is a finite quantity was disapproven decades ago – is baffling.

What we need in Europe is a clear, comprehensive and unambiguous immigration policy. One that sifts the wheat from the chaff, keeping out those visitors that are likely to cause trouble or migrant workers that have no skills that they can usefully offer, and allowing in those people that might actually bring some benefit.

For what we have at the moment is a completely arbitrary process, where fraudulent asylum seekers from Tunisia can slip through the net by claiming that they are Libyan, whilst some hard-working people from Sudan are denied the holiday in France that they had been planning for months.

They’ll probably go to India instead. Where they are appreciated.

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2 Responses to “Xenophobic Europe”

  1. R Says:

    Easy to say but hard to do. You seem to forget that there is a human rights act that frustrates attempts to, as you say, ‘keep out those that… cause trouble’. You are right to say that the system doesn’t function well but education is no barrier to terrorist behaviour as the Glasgow airport incident showed. I am sorry that your friends couldn’t get visas to visit France but, if you have come up with a better system for allowing only those that will ‘benefit’ the country to come in, please let us know what it is!

    • blakerig Says:

      A fair point, but the purpose of the blog entry – which perhaps I didn’t make so explicit – was to highlight the problem rather than propose a solution. This is an issue that should be being seriously discussed outside of the forum that is the tabloid press. The problem is inherently complex and I wouldn’t dare presume that I could even come close to a solution. But it is something that should be carefully thought about and is an on-going problem in every one of Europe’s countries. I find it embarrasing that I can go to all of these countries with (almost) no problem, but Europe cannot extend the same courtesy to those from other countries.

      As for the terrorism angle, the majority of threats in recent years have actually come from within the UK rather than from outside. Sure, there may be some influence from Pakistan and they may get some training there, but the fact of the matter is that their indoctrination happens on the streets of Manchester and Birmingham, not in Islamabad. Sudan hasn’t really been involved in supporting terrorism since Osama bin Laden lived there, 15 years ago (well, okay, in the interest of accuracy, it’s probably fair to say that there are some terrorist cells in the country, but these actually come from Somalia or Saudi Arabia).

      The rejection of their visa had little to do with national security – it was simply racism and unnecessary prejudice.

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