Thanks to 74 percent of Swiss voters and to all of the 26 cantons who voted against the referendum to introduce strict immigration quotas, I am now relieved. If the referendum on November 30 by the environmentalist group Ecopop had been successful, I am not sure whether Switzerland would have let me return. The supporters of the referendum “’stop overpopulation – safeguard our natural environment”’ (see blog) sought to limit the annual net annual immigration to 0.2 percent of Switzerland’s resident population. This quota, representing about 16,000 people per year, is a fifth of the net immigration to Switzerland in recent years (an annual average of 81,500 immigrants from 2008 to 2013). The 0.2 percent curb would have applied to all migrants, including asylum seekers, people wanting to be reunited with family members already living in Switzerland, migrants looking for better job opportunities, some of the more than 730,000 Swiss abroad who would like to come back, or very rich individuals who would like to live in Switzerland because of lower taxes. The latter group may be thankful to those 59 percent of Swiss voters who rejected another referendum from last weekend on whether to abolish lump-sum taxation in all 26 cantons (five cantons have already decided to abolish this tax regime). Such tax privileges are accorded to wealthy private foreign nationals who take residence in Switzerland for the first time or after ten years of absence, but are not allowed to work in Switzerland.
Politicians tend to get all the blame for immigration policies not working. But politicians are often doomed to fail on migration questions because there are deep-rooted problems with the way we all debate immigration and with what we expect of immigration policy.
I often hear that large parts of the society have rather negative views about immigration, in spite of the fact that a large majority of research papers clearly identifies more benefits than costs to people in the host country from immigration (see Shanta Devarjan’s blog). So, I decided to look more closely at some of the empirical evidence on public perceptions on migration.
Guest post by Paolo Giordani and Michele Ruta*
Immigration policies are often driven by prejudices. In a recent paper, we argue that immigration prejudices in receiving economies tend to be self-fulfilling. In particular, anti-immigrant attitudes sustain restrictive policies that lower the economic benefits of immigration by reducing the quality of the migrant labor force, thus reinforcing initial prejudices. This suggests that immigration reforms in receiving economies, such as the one presently discussed in the U.S., have long term economic implications. We elaborate on this point in three simple steps.
Migration flows in both directions between the United States and Mexico have diminished according to recent statistics released by the Mexican and United States governments.
Mexican immigration to the United States began to decline in the mid-2006, and that pattern has continued into 2010. The Pew Hispanic Center analysis of Mexican government data indicates that the number of Mexicans annually leaving Mexico for the U.S. declined from more than one million in 2006 to 404,000 in 2010. Rand Corporation also found that the Mexican immigrants returning to Mexico have not increased despite the crisis.
Right after the holiday season Greece announced their controversial plan to build a 12 km long wall to stop the flood of illegal immigrants to the EU. The wall will cover only a fraction of the total length of the border and is aimed to be built in the area that is worst affected by illegal border crossings estimated to amount to 350 people every day, making Greece the leading entry point of illegal immigrants to the EU. As provocative as it may sound, in an economy that is suffering from severe difficulties and rampaging unemployment figures, blocking immigrants from entering is becoming one of the priority political actions to moderate fiscal expenses that is visible to the domestic population. Even though opponents have raised loud objections against the project, according to a recent poll 59 percent of the Greeks approved of the plan. And one has to admit it has an intuitive appeal of simplicity and logic: once you close the drain the flow will stop. Yet, as simple as it may sound, this is not how it works.
The World Bank’s Social Development Department (SDV) and Migration and Remittances Unit hosted a brown bag lunch (BBL) on state fragility, forced displacement, and survival migration on September 21, 2010. Dr. Alexander Betts from the University of Oxford presented a compelling argument on the need for innovative institutional approaches to displacement and forced migration as a development challenge. In today’s world of internal conflicts, state and societal fragility, and climate-related threats to food security, constant movements of people are not only associated with political persecution (“refugees”) or the mere desire to improve livelihoods (“economic migrants”), but also with a concept called “survival migration.” According to Dr Betts, this concept refers to people who are forced to move outside of their countries of origin because of an existential threat to their liberty, security, or livelihood systems. Such people do not fall within the existing conventions and agreements related to displaced people. Case studies conducted in Angola, Botswana, among others, illustrate that these migrants are extremely vulnerable groups and that their human rights are often violated in host countries.
Continuing the conversation on the question, 'Who am I?'.
Raju Jan Singh:
Who am I? Where is home?
I am from everywhere. Part of my family comes from Malawi. My mother is from Belgium, my father from India. I have an aunt in Australia and an uncle in Canada. My wife is French and my kids have probably turned American. I was born in Switzerland and now live in Cameroon. So where is home? With such a mix, I feel nowhere really at home, but at the same time I feel myself at home everywhere.