Political leaders face moral conflict when developing immigration policy
As the main political parties as well as UKIP officially launch their manifestos this week ahead of the General Election next month, Dr Marius Luedicke, Senior Lecturer at Cass Business School argues political leaders face a myriad of moral intricacies when trying to attract certain types of immigrants while rejecting others.
“Western politicians are facing a moral dilemma when shaping immigration policy based on framing immigrants as economic resources, rather than whole persons. Shaping immigration policy based on economic logic requires applying market criteria for immigration and integration of people into the local workforce, but not the society.
“UKIP have announced their intention to tighten up UK borders to only allow people into the country that can show their "deservedness" in terms of economic value, if they were to gain power in the General Election.” By implication, UKIP (and other parties) argue that immigrants with low economic value can rightfully be rejected at British borders, notwithstanding the often desperate conditions that forced them leave their homes.
“Unfortunately, this wide-spread approach of reducing immigrants to market resources has become the solution du jour in many European countries. If you look at Austria for example, the Austrian National Office for integration pulls all available strings to win the global competition for the most talented immigrants. The government tries to convince members of the ‘qualified foreign labour force’ to emigrate to Austria, contribute to the local economy, and rejuvenate an aging population. Immigrants that do not serve this ‘interest of the Austrian state’ are denied access at the border, unless they formally recognized as political refugees.
“However, humans are people, not merely production factors. Shaping immigration policy based on humanistic values would require a more complex approach that builds on solidarity and requires mutual adaptation of local and foreign cultures and communities. Opening their communities to foreign cultures, however, creates unsubstantiated but powerfully felt anxieties among citizens that fear for their culture falling prey to immigrants.
“The moral dilemmas of immigration are significant and ubiquitous. During the last five decades, considerable waves of human migration have changed the socio cultural fabric of many societies. The influx of migrants has brought about countless positive collaborations between immigrants and local citizens but it has also contributed to considerable exploitation, discrimination and ethnic group conflict.
“Recent right-wing political victories in England, France and the Netherlands and a surge of anti-immigration demonstrations in Germany remind us that immigration is not merely a challenge for immigrant consumers. “Immigration also requires the adaptation of social relations, cultural practices and individual expectations of indigenous citizens who have long inhabited, defended and shaped the places at which immigrant consumers arrive.”