The Immigrant Invasion: European psychodrama and political opportunism

Francesco Sorana
Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash
Published on December 20, 2019

The current European and national legislations have shown several limits and shortcomings: Member States have failed to ensure the same of national citizens fair access to the labour market, health care, education and social security to migrants, avoiding any form of discrimination and rights abuse. Hate speech and xenophobic manifestations of citizens and political actors, ethnic profiling and other forms of discrimination against migrants and asylum seekers have increased in many countries. Furthermore, there is still a huge gap in the possibility for migrants to access at any level the political and civic life of the country in which they reside.

Recommendations in this regard have been provided by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights: non-citizens should be naturalized in any Member State after a maximum of 10 years in the country, and their children should have full right to become citizens of the Member State in which they were born and educated. States should address and eradicate all forms of discrimination in citizenship acquisition on the basis of gender, age or ethnicity. Migrants should also be represented at local and regional level and be able to vote at least in non-national elections after a maximum of five years of legal residence.

These recommendations are based on two European conventions concerning the reception and integration policies of migrants that Member States should ratify and implement in order to achieve the respect of human rights and the moral and juridical duties to which they are called by the European Union: the 1992 Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level and the 1997 European Convention on Nationality. Ultimately, EU member states should stop criminalizing the irregular entry of migrants and their presence on the national territory. Migrants are in many European countries still detained like prisoners. Even minors are detained, despite the international provisions prohibiting the detention of migrant children, while their asylum application is being elaborated.

While migration flows since 2015 have fallen systematically by more than 95%, the belief that the European Union is facing an ‘invasion’ is still widespread, even if the relevance of the topic among Europeans has showed a strong decrease. In 2017, irregular migrants arriving by sea in the EU have been around 187.000, roughly the half of the previous year, and the decreasing trend continued throughout 2018-2019. Consequently, it’s clear that the number of migrants is unquestionably small, and hence manageable, compared to the total EU population of 512.6 million. However, many politicians and the media are still portraying the migration from North Africa and the Middle-East as the main threat faced by the EU. Immigration and terrorist threats have been often combined to support the idea that in order to protect European citizens it is necessary to close European borders and adopt more restrictive policies on migrants’ reception:

Source: Eurobarometer

The answer proposed to tackle the ‘problem’ of migration varies according to the country: border countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain have experienced increasing levels of growing populist drifts, mainly coming from right-wing and far-right representatives supporting the need to close borders and share the responsibility among the EU Member States towards the implementation of SAR and patrol operations in the Mediterranean Sea; Eastern European countries, namely the Visegrád Group, have decided to reject any compulsory quota of migrants to be transferred to their countries, promoting the belief that migratory flows are a threat to the national and social fabric. In addition to that, numerous cases of police officers and border guards abusive and humiliating behavior have been reported by migrants; lastly Northern European countries, less interested in adopting a new system of joint redistribution, failed to provide a common response to the migrant crisis and to the extremist movements that feed xenophobic and racist feelings among the population.

It is clear that a new approach is necessary. An approach that is first of all shared by all the member states of the European Union, and which will take into consideration the capacity of the individual states and at the same time distribute the duties among all the EU countries. To construct a framework of this type it is necessary to overcome the premises of the Dublin III regulation and in other EU provisions concerning the arrival, reception and relocation of migrants.


DW. Austria, Italy propose processing refugees on ships. 15.9.2018 |

UN NEWS. General Assembly officially adopts roadmap for migrants to improve safety, ease suffering. 19.12.2018 |

Hellenic League for Human Rights. Conditions at Moria are “shameful”. 13.9.2018 | 

UNHCR. Desperate Journeys. September 2018 |

Shaun Walker in Velika Kladuša, The Guardian. Refugees crossing from Bosnia ‘beaten and robbed by Croatian police’. 15.8.2018 | 

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Periodic Data Collection on the Migration Situation in the EU, November Highlights: 1 September – 31 October 2018. 

IOM, IOM Releases New Data on Migrant Fatalities Worldwide: Almost 40,000 Since 2000 | 

Nils Muižnieks, OpenDemocracy, Berlingske. “Europe can do more to protect refugees”. 2.9.2015

Council of Europe. Report 2018: Human rights of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers

Huddleston T. (2016), Time for Europe to get migrant integration right – Issue paper by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe

Fundamental Rights Report 2018 – FRA Opinions – European Union Agency For Fundamental Rights | 

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