The myths and its choice of words
Checks and Balances, Economy and free migration
Take a look at yourself, Multi-cultural society?
Get going, In a new building
discussion about migration 1
discussion about migration 2
Get going In a new buildingIf there is one conclusion to be drawn from the current foreigner's policy, it is that it is leading to nowhere. At least not to anything positive. In order to dam the immigration society is shifting in its use of means. If we want to turn the tide than demolishing this building of whole and half lies is necessary.
The second purple cabinet, a coalition of social democrat and conservative parties, promised to develop a vision for the future asylum policy. A good intention, but the question rises: how has the current policy been shaped, without vision? Or is the old vision no longer valid because the circumstances have changed altogether? The government agreement does not provide any answers. The past few weeks old reflexes seemed to set the tone. Recently a court decided that asylum-seekers that have fled for 'non-stately' violence (civil war, violence from militias) should be granted the status of refugee. The shock in parliament was imminent. 'A great concern' they judged, because this decision would lead to a greater influx.
Only a little later the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service that attends to asylum requests) and COA (Central Reception Asylum-seekers that takes care of the reception) rang the alarm. The number of asylum-seekers threatened to be greater this year than was predicted. Again politicians shook their heads in sorrow and asked state-secretary of Justice Cohen to take appropriate measures. With that the discussion had returned to an old and familiar level: fixated on numbers. Cohen came with the proposal to introduce waiting lists. D'66 parliament member Dittrich proposed to only receive asylum-seekers in their own region. Main point in the different arguments: it is impossible to receive between 50 to 60 thousand asylum-seekers, so they should stop coming here. At the basis of these arguments and the current policy is the thought that immigration to the Netherlands is undesirable. Why this is undesirable remains unclear. Reception is a question of organization and finances and therefore a question of political priorities and choices. This was however not recognized in the debate much less that the yearly re-occuring panic over the reception is a consequence of the failing policy of last year.
A different tune
Those who leave parliamentary politics behind them for a moment can hear a different tune. In scientific circles for instance, the presumptions that are the basis for the asylum policy are easily refuted. The so-called common sense out of which the policy is created and the apparent logical and inevitable foundations of it, at closer inspection seem to be shallow reasoning, build on the quicksand of political interests, short-term thinking and sometimes an unconcealed fear to be washed away by foreign cultures.
In the previous articles we have shed light on a number of aspects involved. The reality behind immigration patterns for example, that undermines the threatening image of 'millions coming towards us'. Or the economic reality behind immigration: people do not immigrate without a reason, they do follow the developments of international economy and labour market. From there two things can be concluded.
Firstly that the current policy is completely beside reality. The idea that repressive measures would protect Europe of worldwide immigration patterns shows a stunning lack of sense. It is however an expensive hallucination. The costs of the repressive system that tries to protect Fortress Europe's borders and the bureaucratic merry-go-round of asylum are enormous. There is also a humanitarian price to be paid: a wide-scale militarisation of the immigration problem takes place that literally costs lives and creates a culture of fear for the 'unknown'.
The second conclusion is that there are ample initiatives for an alternative vision on migration. Not that there is a fully consistent model. It is however well possible to have an argumented, alternative vision to immigration and asylum. Such a vision should support on the two principles Jeroen Doomernik formulated: the right to migration and the right to stay. To start with the last one: nobody should be forced to migrate or flee because of opression, persecution, violence or lack of perspective. This calls for a different organization of the social, economic and political structures. It is the issue of North-South relations to which in every migration debate there is an obligatory reference, but which is almost never a real point of discussion. It is a reversed approach from the current: not migration but the circumstances that people flee are the problem. This calls for an international legal system and possibilities of the international community to intervene in situations of dictatorship and opression. It also calls for a different approach than the current where the interests of a limited number of countries are decisive in the choice of actions. A larger role for non-governmental organizations, both in the North and the South, could be a first step to that.
The right to migrate is the indispensable other side. Partly this concerns the right to asylum: for as long as the earth is not yet a paradise, the institute of asylum will unrevokedly have to be maintained, even extended instead of restricted. Moreover there should be the right to free migration. In first instance maybe on the basis of quota or not entirely free, however the moment that poignant poverty and total lack of perspective will disappear, migration will be able to follow the movements of economy. That this is very much possible and even profitable to the economy has been pointed out in the first article of this file. But free migration also has a non-economic side to it. In fact there is already a situation of free migration: the cosmopolitan elite, businessmen, Western tourists, students or university professors; all roam over the globe, settling for longer or shorter periods in different countries. This is thought as normal and leads to the most wonderful reflections about the post-modern nomadic man who has no roots, to elated stories of cultural enrichment and the interesting contacts that develop or the economic improvement it has. People purely go for the fun of it, for the adventure, to live a few years somewhere else out of professional interest. There is no reason why this right should purely be the prerogative of a select company of Westerners.
True free migration, a clash between cultures and experiences, has positive effects. Its brings a dynamic in society, has economically benificial effects, brings new contacts and relations.
The discussion over free migration will at first have to begin in society, starting with the people who are already involved, circling out to others. In the current political situation it is utterly senseless to directly try to involve politicians in the debate. The political channels are blocked, and not only in this field. A whole system of political participation seems to have ended. The role of political parties has strongly been reduced: since long they have stopped to be channels of political discussion and political influence. The same is valid for the institutionalized organizations. Organizations like Vluchtelingenwerk (the Dutch Refugee Council) are conversation partners of the government and have placed themselves completely within the political system. They adjust to the political developments and through discretion try to minimize the side effects. It is a typical form of Dutch non-politics. A more powerful, confrontational stand is not to be expected from these organizations, themselves having an interest in maintaining the status quo.
A well argumented alternative vision is also indispensable to enter the discussion. In practice we see a party like the GreenLeft party constantly running behind the facts in trying to formulate an alternative within the existing confines. In almost every discussion GroenLinks party members are asked what their alternative is: open borders? GroenLinks does not argue for that - or thinks of it as political suicide to do so - and thus places itself in an impossible situation. It confines itself to a position where only minor adjustments of each new measure are possible. Altogether it is not a break with the current policy.
It is important to found pleas for free migration with practical arguments. Of course there are moral or ideological principles at the basis of it. In the end politics are always based on certain - ideological - opinions of righteousness, solidarity and equality. But a plea that is solely based on moral or ideological arguments is vulnerable. For its opponents it is easy to simultaneously welcome and reject such a plea: quite sympathetic but unrealistic. And when it comes down to a 'practical' approach the rightists have an advantage in language and especially images. As long as asylum-seekers are perceived as a threat to the 'good life', whether that is economically or culturally defined, plea's for free migration will be nipped in the bud. Against the image of a threat there will have to be put another image, but one that is practical, sensible and perceivable. The idea that 'the world is of everyone' must be shaped locally and practically, that is a necessity. Political starting points must and can be translated to practical proposals about the organization of society. This calls for an approach in which also statements about an alternative organization of all kinds of social fields will have to be given. Migration is the focus point of a great number of structural developments and an alternative will have to show this connection.
If there is no alternative found then the next few years will be a lengthy exercise in repetition. Two election campaigns in which Bolkenstein (former conservative liberal party leader) thorough-pacedly played the theme of 'minorities' have taught us a lesson. Because the progressive parties do not have an alternative, they are on the sideline and have no reply.
The issue of Bolkenstein is instructive for another reason. He has shown that ancient ideas about hegemony, originally developed in leftist circles, can still be applied today. Those who take the initiative in the debate, who can set the agenda, and succeed in forcing the opponent in debate on their terms, have already won half the battle. That calls for a recapturing of the initiative and no longer going along or adjusting within the margins of the debate, as set by the opponents.
A call thus to different social area's: science, journalism, self-organizations, action groups and social institutions to join hands and develop the cornerstones of an alternative. With these cornerstones we can be build a solid building that easily can compete with the building of half and whole lies and racist prejudices that is now prevailing.