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French Version

Demography and migrations : shared destiny or mother of all conflicts ?

The journalist Anita Hauser launched the debate with the following questions: Is migration a positive or a negative phenomenon? Is it a source of progress and well-being in modern societies or, on the contrary, the cause of upheaval, wars and violent conflicts?

I – Rethinking immigration policies

There is a striking contradiction in the fact that although migratory flows are transnational, the policies designed to control them are national. Each country establishes systems to suit its labour market, to favour legal migrations and discourage illegal immigration. There is broad consensus in Europe concerning the control of migratory flows but this is not the case when it comes to models of integration. A vital condition of social integration is integration in the workplace. Traditional models consisting in cultural assimilation and multi-culturalism have shown their limits. A third way should now be preferred (Nuno Severiano Teixeira), whereby immigrants sign contracts with the host state acknowledging their acceptance of its core values.

There are different types of migratory flows, resulting from both political and economic motivations. However, when examining individual situations it is still relevant to distinguish between persons with an urgent need for international protection and economic refugees. The terms of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees should not be called into question. Very strict border controls have proved to be ineffective: their severity has led to an increase in human-smuggling networks, which are probably involved in the financing of terrorist organizations. We must support the "Convention Plus" initiative launched in 2001 by the High Commissioner for Refugees aimed at designing policies for sharing the burden of asylum (Shana Kaninda).

Great Britain is no Eldorado for asylum seekers. There is currently political debate on the ethics of whether illegal work can tolerated given the need for cheap labour. What level of civil rights should be granted to people who stay, legally or illegally, in Great Britain? (Lynette Kelly). Respect for the right to life should be one of the main criteria for accepting demands for political asylum presented by individuals involved in what is now qualified as terrorism, but before 9/11 would have been qualified as resistance or revolutionary activities. Each human being is a special case, with his or her different specificities and aspirations. Before addressing the problem of integration, we should reflect on the outlook that the children of illegal immigrants might develop given the context in which they grow up (Mohammed Sifaoui).

II – Towards a firmer, more coherent European policy on asylum and immigration

Schengen is not suited to the reality of the situation. According to Mr Sifaoui, immigration policy is inexistent. European policy on this issue should consist in a well-regulated opening-up of borders that takes into account the realities of the different labour markets. This future policy should embrace an open approach to foreign immigrants and cover the relevant technical procedures. A coherent policy must be drawn up at national and at EU level to deal with the issue of integration. We urgently need a well-informed debate aimed at finding a political and social consensus. In the past, immigration was an economic, social and cultural issue, but today it poses a problem of security as clandestine entries of illegal immigrants are organized by criminal networks (Teixeira). At present, certain European states are more generous, others stricter, in their treatment of foreigners. A common denominator must be found to ensure that all the members of the European Union can continue to benefit from the common area. There will continue to be restrictions on individuals' freedom of movement, but these restrictions must be designed in such a way as not to penalise those who deserve protection (Kelly). As the Geneva Convention has very strict criteria, article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights could provide additional protection (Kaninda).

III – Promoting the international dimension of migration

The terms of the Treaty of Amsterdam and the conclusions of the Tampere summit explicitly referred to the international dimension of migration. European policy is vital in finding solutions, but not sufficient and therefore a dialogue must be set up with the migrants' countries of origin and transit. Immigration policy should be linked to development aid policies if it is to reach its objective of controlling migratory flows (Teixeira). Donor fatigue is to be deplored as it leads to a situation where the distressed populations no longer receive adequate assistance (Kaninda).


Seek lasting means of protecting individuals in their countries of origin, thereby encouraging them to stay rather than immigrate.
Re-open the debate on the taboo issue of CAP, to enable our neighbours to export to the European Union (Kelly).
Push ahead on the European immigration policy, given the demographic context in Europe.
Take into account the political side of immigration, i.e. the host states' capacities to receive new immigrants (Teixeira).
It is unnecessary to widen the scope of the Geneva Convention (Teixeira, Kelly, Kaninda).
There is still a valid distinction to be made between policies dealing with aid to refugees and immigration policies. Ageing populations and lack of skilled workers oblige us to create a system of legal immigration, separate from the asylum system.
We should do everything possible to prevent immigrants from being marginalized as discontent can lead to terrorism (Kelly).

Shana KANINDA, representative of the High Commissioner for Refugees in France
Lynette KELLY, author of Refugees in Europe: The Hostile New Agenda
Mohammed SIFAOUI, Algerian journalist, author of Mes frères assassins
Nuno Severiano TEIXEIRA, former Minister of the Interior, Portugal

Paris 23-02-2004

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