Liberal migration policies – taming the paper tiger

Liberal migration policies – taming the paper tiger By Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck and Mohammed Tamaldou * At the height of the financial crisis, with rising unemployment figures and dire future prospects, a discussion about the importance of migration is not on top of the agenda. While populists on the right fuel prejudices and populists on the left ignore social realities, liberals find themselves caught in the middle of this political minefield. To counter cultural and religious prejudices and to avoid socio-economic clashes European and Arab liberals took the lead to address the issues. New grounds were broken with the declaration of the "Rabat Declaration" in the Moroccan Parliament. We Arab and European Liberals established a joint cross-continental dialogue on the socio-economic and human rights dimension of migration, comprising the following key points: Migration is a natural phenomenon that has contributed to the progress of human civilization, and is a natural part of today’s globalised world. Yet, massive rates of immigration beyond the ability of one society to successfully integrate the newcomers, may pose many problems at local levels. There is little doubt that an increasingly ageing European population will find itself in dire need of a younger and well educated workforce in the near future. Yet, the mechanisms now in place are at best acceptable. Therefore, we need to confront, rather than shy away from putting needed improvements in place that would be beneficial for both parties. Europe needs to improve on this. Education is crucial for making informed decisions and raising awareness of the situation facing many citizens of countries with high migration deficits. Lacking education risks alienating people and contributing to a spirit of conflict and extremism. Yet, we need to put a focus on the issues of development, education, democracy and human rights creating opportunity and hope for people in migrant societies. Representing core liberal values as tolerance and cooperation, Arab and European liberals together strongly call for an increased level of general education, as well as an increased presentation of facts rather than fiction on these issues, so as to avoid regrettable prejudice. Protecting the rights of immigrants is a fundamental part of human rights, therefore: It is necessary to respect all the rights of immigrants, including civil, cultural and social rights. Specifically, the right of an immigrant to enjoy and express his/her identity, while, respecting the prevailing values and laws of the country he/she is residing in. It is necessary to protect an immigrant from all forms of discrimination, including economic and racial discrimination, and revisit all legislations and procedures that are discriminatory to all native and immigrant workers guaranteeing the right to promotion and equal treatment. While we regard this Rabat Declaration as a source of pride, we remain humble. All too often, similar initiatives are launched with great pomp, yet once back in the grey reality, they become forgotten. European Liberals are therefore eager to take responsibility! We currently run a campaign focusing on ageing population and migration called "ELDR Focus year 2010 – Challenges of Demographic Change" – We have also repeatedly called for The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) to be taken seriously, so that it becomes a silver bullet rather than a paper tiger. What is needed, not least to counter prejudice and misunderstandings, is an increased dialogue – not only intra-European, but also cross-regional. The UfM should serve as the natural forum for cooperation on migration and development in and around the Mediterranean. This can also be achieved by joining regional efforts together to make migration a force that serves stability, growth and development for both home and host countries. This is especially important for Southern Mediterranean countries to make it more capable of absorbing migrants. Also, it will attract Arab diasporas who are able to deliver a new experience and participate in the development process. * Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck is a member of the European Parliament and President of the ELDR Party. Mohammed Tamaldou is President of the Network of Arab Liberals (NAL)

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