A couple of weeks ago,we at ICMHD touched on the growing tendency for politicians to use the theme of migration in their campaigns and, more often than not, blaming migrants for many of the ills facing countries in this time of economic hardship. This diversion could easily cast a shadow on the numerous opportunities available for constructive national social and economic development and at the same time it could directly erode the health of the migrants populations.
In many ways Europe is at crossroads. Demographers and economists largely agree that falling fertility rates, a rapidly aging population, and the growing lack of interest of nationals in occupations they no longer see as financially or socially attractive is creating major challenges to development. At a time when fewer young people are available to the economic market place and when a larger proportion of national budgets will inevitably be allocated to the care of the elderly, Europe is increasingly finding itself unable to maintain its social security systems and economic competitiveness.
If Europe pragmatically is to prosper socially and economically it must take up this challenge and proactively develop policies and programs designed to attract, absorb and integrate people in ways that will maintain the social capital base the continent needs to achieve these goals.
To date most European countries have done little to integrate migrants. Few have provided migrants with incentives to learn host languages and even fewer have developed outreach programs to incrementally transition migrants to link with the history and values of host societies. Urban planning and housing schemes have rarely been designed to encourage physical integration and prevent the concentration of ethnic minorities in ghettos. Instead Europe has taken a laissez-faire approach to migration presumably assuming that with time newcomers are automatically absorbed into host societies.
Today many European countries are faced with ethnic minority communities characterized by poor socioeconomic profiles, limited educational and occupational mobility and poor health profiles and, increasinglysocio-political instability.
The response from many politicians has been to talk in sweeping ways about the negative impact of migrants and suggest that the answer is to radically cut the number of newcomers. Instead the time has come for European countries to step back and analyze what type of society they want and what they are willing to do to encourage and facilitate a true absorption and integration of the new people they so desperately need. Isolation is not a valid option in the world we live in today.
We would like to know your thoughts on the specific issue of how you view national European immigration policies and their effects on migrants’ health. Please feel free to share and comment!