Thursday, August 2, 2012

How we could benefit from multiculturalism in Europe.

I am Greek and I live permanently in Dublin, Ireland. Out of curiosity and excitement I decided to travel in Europe a few years ago, but fate had its plans as they say and I decided to stay abroad permanently.

Before I decided to leave home, I always wanted to see a modernized Greece, cosmopolitan and "colorful" or multicultural as we call it. Not because it is 'fashionable' in Europe. But because I personally believe that as a country we need to come more in contact with other nationalities and learn to think as Europeans and citizens of the world, if we'd like to take advantage of globalization and its advantages.

Globalization is a fact now and all nations are preparing for the new "status quo" on our planet. It has actually started centuries ago with the European conquests and colonization but has grown to its present form after several wars and ideological conflicts.

But multiculturalism gives advantages in a society only when governments manage the changes in the society positively, fairly and always with the contribution of public opinion. When I started traveling to Europe, I noticed that most European countries had failed in many points in the consolidation of a successful multicultural society. This does not mean that the idea is multiculturalism is wrong. Just badly managed in Europe.

And this happens for decades, which only resulted in the rise of many far right groups in many countries of our continent, the alienation and isolation of immigrants and their "ghettoization", but also the recent criminal terrorist attacks in Norway.

When I visited Belgium and saw that the majority of young men of Moroccan origin were unemployed and relied on the unemployment welfare for their survival, then I started to think that this can happen in Greece and many other countries. What is the point of giving approval to a large number of immigrants to enter your country, if you treat them like second class citizens with not the same rights in employment.

I began to understand that such style of multiculturalism is nothing but a modern kind of slavery. Immigrants never become members of the society where they live, even if they gain citizenship. This makes them more vulnerable to exploitation and condemn them to make a low-paid jobs in society.

Many of them start to exploit the "system" and are then regarded as parasites from the rest of the indigenous population. And of course with any economic crisis, immigrants and their mistakes or the problems that they bring in a society are the first to be addressed. The main issue then is why a country allows a large number of migrants in the country when it has not the ability or intention to give them equal rights with the rest of the population.

Personally I think that if a country wants to take advantage of multiculturalism, it should integrate migrants in its society equally. With all the political and social rights that every citizen has and equal treatment from the start. Once someone enters a country legally, pays taxes and contributes in this way in the economy of this country, he or she should have a voice in how those taxes are used.

Besides the real benefit of immigration comes when we do not silence the immigrants and thereby exclude some possible new ideas and opinions on the society we live in, or even criticism of it. Of course I'm talking about legal immigration, not illegal. Because illegal immigration contributes to the human trafficking crime through smuggling, with the only purpose of human exploitation.

Illegal immigration should not in any case be acceptable in a society. For the simple reason that encourages events such as violent and illegal smuggling of women from third countries outside of Europe or the E.U. to exploit them in prostitution.

A society should create a fully functional and controlled immigration policy in order to attract the right people with the right skills and education. In numbers that would not allow future ghettoization and unemployment, but depending on the needs of each country for skilled or unskilled labor.

But perhaps another issue for the inability of some ethnic groups to be integrated in a society, is the country of their origin. Some nationalities face difficulties in being part in the society they live in and this may be due to factors of discrimination and racism, but also prejudices or cultural issues and differences deriving from their home country's culture and heritage.

Mainly nationals from certain Muslim countries of Asia, face difficulties when it comes to marry the culture of their home country with their adopted European culture and to become part easier and quickly of the society in which they chose to live in. The result is cultivated hatred and antipathy towards their host country.

Possible solutions are to help the democratization of the countries of their origin through various institutions and programs and the participation of the EU, its member states and the countries of their origin. Alternatively, cutting  the number of immigrants from these countries and search for more compatible workforce that is closer to European culture. For example, many South American states.

And finally, new ways for integrating those immigrants through various programs, to enable them to understand the culture of their adopted country and to bring all communities living in it more closely. The arts and sport are two suitable instruments that could be used for strengthening the relations between migrants and the native population.

My personal view is that we should have less immigration in Europe, but with full integration of immigrants into our society and with equal rights as citizens from the beginning. The immigration of mankind existed and will always exist, playing a role in creating all the great cultures of our planet, including the Greek. To believe that it will just stop one day is simply silly.

This of course does not mean that we must open all borders and let immigration in our country uncontrolled. If this ever happens, it will be in a utopian global society with all countries having the same standard of living and people migrating simply for pleasure, or to study.

At the moment this has not been achieved. And I am neither willing to "downgrade" the Greek or European culture and lifestyle as many believe. I do not want to alter, as many ultra nationalists claim,  the lifestyle and our culture with the arrival of foreigners among us. Only to enrich the Greek and European culture with that of other nationalities. But this can only be achieved with a responsible and controlled immigration policy, which at present, Greece and Europe in general have yet to create.

The root of this situation lies with the interests and the greed of people who want to exploit other human beings and the unending desire for power and money. A common European immigration policy would be an institution of great help, but like anything else on our continent is very difficult to achieve unanimously.

Especially when the interests of different countries are in conflict and in many cases still keep their colonial past flavor. Too bad because those who lose out are ourselves. The USA, Canada and Australia have built successful working immigration policies that attract workers with the qualifications they want from the countries they want. In Europe in contrast we are left with mainly unskilled workers that enter our countries, and in many cases with very little education.

Some wonder why immigration in Europe has failed. But after all, all we ask for is cheap labor and in fact slaves to do the jobs we do not want to do. How you integrate a slave in your society? What benefits can you expect from them except their tireless work? But when you do not need them anymore what happens to them? You just enroll them in unemployment benefit schemes for the foreseeable future, with the hope that they and the economic and social problems they present will just disappear as if by magic.

With such attitudes in Greece and Europe in general, I believe that not only we are not going to solve the various problems that concern us on this issue, but that we certainly have no idea what we want to do and what we could have.