Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Call a spade a spade: Refugees? Migrant workers!

21 December 2015

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Politicians from left to right are getting worried over refugees. Some countries act irrationally, like Denmark (eg, DailyMail, WP). Germany may be on an ego or a guilt trip (eg, Bloomberg, Guardian, Reuters). And in other countries, like my own, the left side of the political arena is now also waking up and is noticing that our welfare state is at the verge of being eroded: “Mr Dijsselbloem said his aim was to preserve the Schengen zone, but if countries did not shoulder their fair share of refugees the principle foundations of the EU’s generous welfare states would be undermined and could not endure” (ReutersTelegraph).

The solution to the refugee problem is however far less complicated than everyone assumes it to be.

Europe should just treat all of these people as migrant workers who come to Europe to earn money. Migrants get a 1-3 year work and residence permit, directly on arrival. They have no choice but to integrate ASAP within their new society in order to make a living. Migrants will become calculating citizens like every other citizen. As long as their income exceeds their cost of living, there is reason to stay. If the cost of living becomes too high then the migrant will find a better option elsewhere.

Refugees need to be accommodated, clothed and fed and all at their host country’s expense as they are often not allowed to work, not allowed to send their children to school, and hence not able to integrate in society. Once refugees are accepted as citizens they are entitled to municipal social housing programs and social welfare. Dutch government studies indicate that unemployment levels amongst non-Western migrants (eg, refugees) are problematically high (eg, MinSZWRTL, SCP). The 2014 press release of the SCP’s annual report on Integration is actually quite gloomy (PDF).

It is impossible to stop the influx of new refugees as long as refugees realise that they are “entitled” to a house and social welfare once their refugee status is accepted. For the local population this social welfare may be a minimum but this minimum may still be rather generous for a refugee who left a situation in which there was hardly money to feed the children. Once the refugees are accepted then they are on their own. Integration becomes their sole responsibility. But why should they bother??

There are two basic and simple options:

  1. Treat people like refugees and do not allow them to work, or to attend schools, or to integrate in local society until all paperwork has been cleared. When refugees are finally accepted then often their initial enthusiasm has been replaced by bitterness over their host country.
  2. Treat people like migrant workers and issue (temporary) work and residential permits and immediately on arrival. A special tax status may increase their chances on rapid employment. 

Essentially, Europe would do what the Gulf States and other countries have been doing for decades. Use external – and often cheap – labour to boost the local economy. No undermining of the welfare state, no social tensions, no voting rights, and no complex immigration procedures. It is really that hard to see which option is the best??

As Groucho Marx would say: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

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