Two Oversimplistic Narratives on Migration

European Commission || Creative Commons

Following the tragic attacks in Paris and subsequent events in Africa, the debate on multiculturalism and immigration has been given a brand new flame. Both camps have thrown in their big guns. The conservatives started with the call for more strict immigration policies, the liberal camp quickly jumped from the other side and started firing their own verbal bullets calling for caution, understanding and support for liberal values and immigration rights amidst this crisis. Both of these answers to what we witness are at best oversimplistic and at worst potentially destructive to the goal of promoting open and free societies, in which we want to live.

The bigger threat now comes from the strong conservative/national-socialist camp, which seized the opportunity on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The calls for the monitoring of Muslims were made by politicians both in the United States and in Europe giving legitimacy to the idea of collective guilt and responsibility based on the religious identity. This is accompanied by the ever greater pressure for temporary border controls that have been introduced as a direct result of the refugee and migrant crisis that has been going on for the past year. Such controls have been reinstated in Sweden, Germany, Denmark and now also in France. Not only is this development in direct contradiction with the ideas that were supposed to represent the European Union. This development poses a threat to the European project as a whole as it plays on the idea of fear that has paralysed the majority populations in almost all of the member states.

The result of this approach? A prospect of the breakdown of the trust in the European ideas of free borders, free movement of people and goods has received an important blow. The growth of the anti-Islamic sentiments is now a threat that they have to confront in order to avert these sentiments to seriously undermine the political support for the pro-European parties. Some of the countries have seen the steep growth of the anti-European rhetoric across Slovakia, Hungary and strong voices of concern appearing even in the countries central to the European project (Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries). The approaching of the UK in-out referendum may also turn to be much more eventful than we could have expected on the basis of the recent year, as the tide turned badly away from UKIP and the Nigel Farage’s cause.

What is, however, even more dangerous for Europe, is the oversimplistic and frankly lacklustre response that these conservative and the nationalist-socialist politicians face from the traditionally liberal or libertarian opponents. The response is usually narrowed down to Facebook memes or texts undermining the anti-Muslim moods with slogans trying to show that the problem is not really an issue of immigration or Islam. Fair enough, but then, what is the real trouble and how to solve it vis-à-vis the crisis we face? The political impotence of the liberal camp appears not just in the face of the terrorism debate (which the free-marketers will always lose) but also in the general immigration debate of the scale that we see now, where the tide is turning away from them. No solutions have been proposed even at the moments when the arguments for an open border policy have been logically and clearly stated.

This is because until now the issue of massive migration within the EU had been at best a debate about relatively peaceful society and the impacts on the labour market or general safety. Not about a scenario where thousands of migrants die in the Mediterranean or where the countries are generally unable to shelter and accept these migrants causing hardship and distress in the general public. The act of terror in Paris is the final nail on the metaphorical coffin of the liberal and libertarian argument.

What we need is a new wave of libertarian and liberal entrepreneurship that will provide actual solutions that are easy to sell and easy to implement. We need to fight for private shelter initiatives and show, why the regulations make them impossible. We need to provide new security arrangements that will calm the public and make these heard. More than ever we could make use of the seasteading that could help contain the problem of the passing migrants and prevent many deaths, help with the screening of migrants and asylum seekers and take the pressure off the bordering countries of the European Union.

Last, but not least, libertarians and liberals must have a sound answer to the foreign policy of the past decade and to the situation in the Middle East that will need more than just our sympathies or our bombs. This is the task that lies ahead of all of us: to save the liberal ideas we took for granted, but maybe also take charge of the new form that Europe will take.

Martin Reguli