Thursday, March 12, 2009

Refugees: something's gotta give

I have a really strong feeling that I am just repeating what I've said before, but here goes:

The current refugee admission system in Europe is not working and cannot work much longer without a lot of trouble. The trouble has already started. Finland is behind most of the Western Europe, as far as the trouble goes, but is catching up fast.

Large-scale population movements have happened before. Some countries have managed to assimilate huge amounts of refugees and immigrants, quite often to the mutual benefit. It's just that in the early 21-century Europe that is not happening, and is not about to magically happen.

The reasons for this are many:

1. First of all, the increasing diversity. (I have written about it before, here.) All the successful refugee movements that I can think of have essentially served to decrease diversity in some way or another. I am not talking about racial or linguistic diversity, but the diversity of way of life. It is quite logical: people are persecuted for being different and move somewhere where they fit in better. Problem is, now there are a lot of people coming to Europe who don't in fact fit in better. Or if this is their "better", I shudder to think what "worse" looks like.

2. Second, the system doesn't select well enough. I am not even talking about the selection of cultures and countries - even the selection of individuals doesn't work properly.

3. Third, the current system gives very little opportunity to roll back the transaction if a wrong person is let through.

4. Fourth, eternal social security serves to attract the wrong kind of people. There are enough persecuted people in the world as it is. Obviously, the people who want to improve their standard of living by moving to a Western country and working there also want to try their luck. The social security that keeps coming forever means that everyone who moves to Europe from poor countries is garanteed a higher standard of living. And that's a hell of a lot of people.

5. Fifth, the multiculturalism, in the sense of unwillingness to admit that the refugees are coming from a worse country to a better one. Also failure to enforce the majority rules in situations where this enforcement really matters.

I really believe that admitting refugees is a good thing if the admitting country is not overstretching its resources and the people who arrive are not total schmucks. Problem is, with lavish social security for new arrivals the countries are overstretching their resources even with a small number of refugees, and schmucks are, well, disproportionally represented.

Refugee admission is a really strange game. First of all, there are refugees and potential refugees in need of resettlement. Second, there are places for them in the countries that are willing to admit them. Everyone with more than two brain cells can figure out that the former are a lot more numerous than the latter and that the whole admission thing is by its very nature a lottery and cannot be anything else.

Wouldn't the simplest thing be to admit that fact and act accordingly? Say "we can take N refugees this year" and do it, and say "sorry" to the rest of them?

This is, in fact, what is done with quota refugees. But there are also asylum seekers - the people who first come to Finland and then apply for the refugee status. Their numbers are not limited in any way, and they are given a residence permit, either as a refugee or as a person in need of protection if they are in fact deemed to be in need of protection.

This means that their number is only limited by the officials' hope that not too many will decide to come and apply. This is all very nice, but what if quite a lot of them arrive? And to all the people saying "why would anyone want to come to this cold, dark and unfriendly country?" I can only say that if only a few will come, then the quota should not be a problem, right?

I also think that Europe should rethink what are the appropriate grounds for refugee admission. Not to reduce the number of potential applicants, but because some of them mean trouble, pure and simple. Helping persecuted people is a good thing, but some people are persecuted for a very good reason. It's very nice to help somebody who is persecuted for homosexuality in Iran, for pro-democracy activism in China, for being an albino in Tansania, etc. If a person is being persecuted for Islamic extremism in Saudi Arabia, let's leave him/her right there to be persecuted.

Same with the death penalty: it's good we don't have it, but if we define it as a human right violation that makes a person condemned to it undeportable, we'll end up with a bunch of refugees who are condemned to death somewhere. And guess what: not all of them are condemned for a homosexual act or failing to praise the fearless leader loudly enough.

Now for the ones already here: is it too much to ask that they behave themselves like human beings? Considering that they are in fact human beings and most of them manage to act like that, too. For starters, how about kicking out the ones who engage in serious violent crime? After the first time, not the tenth? Even if the country of origin is not safe for the poor dear?

The whole thing is based on a lot of pretense: we pretend that we can admit everyone who needs a new home, then we pretend that the people we didn't admit didn't really need it, and then we pretend that the people whom we did admit need it so much that they cannot be sent back under any circumstances. It's time to say "we can take N refugees per year, and no criminals, please". Shouldn't be so damn hard.

No comments: