For many Europeans, the British and Germans in particular, the year 2014 began with the fear of being flooded with migrants from Bulgaria and Rumania as the restrictions on migration from these countries were lifted. This followed the increasing electoral success of parties like France’s “Front National” or Germany’s “Alternative für Deutschland”, which further raised the spectre of a strong nationalist, anti-EU political tendency.
It is with this backdrop that MOSECON GmbH hosted on March 19 in Berlin its fourth Luncheon entitled “Migration, Integration and (In)security”. The panel for this event composed of Dr Oliver Koppel (Institut für Wirtschaft Köln), Dr Etah Ewane (Wikistrat Inc.) and Axel Benjamin Herzberg (Herzberg Legal), who covered the economic, political and legal aspects of the issue and provided guests and future viewers with unique information and insight on the volatile issue of migration and security.
Faced with the daunting task of setting the tone for the event, Dr Koppel spoke on the “sunny side of migration” with a focus on the economic input of East European migrant workers, especially those from Rumania and Bulgaria. One of the most interesting points of his presentation was the fact that the high skilled migrants from those regions are among the best contributors to the German social security system and the welfare state. Furthermore, the fact that most of these migrants are of young age, the burden they impose on the system is negligible, compared to an older – and therefore more expensive – German population. While stating that there is indeed a darker side to migration, the fact is migrants, especially if highly skilled, can enrich a country, help stabilize the demographic decline and alleviate the increasing social security costs of states.
Dr Etah Ewane, himself originally from Cameroon and settling in Germany after obtaining his PhD at the University of Freiburg, described the relationship between security and migration as one that is wholly political. As such, he chose to discuss the role of migration in the German political discourse, pointing out that migrants are often the scapegoats for a poor political performance. Dr Ewane also stated the need for a change in this discourse, one that does not paint the migrant as a trouble maker, a thief or a parasite, but rather as a more neutral figure. He went on to say that migration is also a two-way street meaning that the migrants must also contribute to exposing the realities of life in Europe to their compatriots. Africans view “Europe as a paradise” and spend between 5,000-10,000$ to move there, only to realize the truth, or worse, dying on the way. The impact of this goes far beyond the migrant as all those that contributed to him living “the dream” are also affected. Hence the need for other governments to help find solutions to the issue and not only perceive migration as somebody else’s problem.
Barrister Axel Benjamin Herzberg’s presentation focused on the legal aspects of migration in Germany, as well as the history of labor migration in the country after World War II. One of the major points of his presentation was the fact that Germany went in a span of four years from a country reluctant to accept migrants to one that is most welcoming for skilled migrants. He went on to say that one of the biggest challenges is not one of (temporary) permission, but rather one of immigration (Einwanderung) inciting people to stay and establish themselves here rather than be allowed for a restricted time period. Mr Herzberg also added that the policies and immigration laws must be adapted to reflect the realities of the times, with certain restrictions like quotas if needed.
Although the presentations and ensuing discussion covered the legal, economic and political aspects of migration and security, all in attendance agreed that this is a highly complex issue, which also includes multiple citizenships and arms dealing. It is also an issue that requires much acceptance, as we are all different even when integrated. As a guest put it, “Immigration is like goulash (as opposed to a melting pot): each ingredient retains its uniqueness yet all combine for one delicious meal.”