The revelation that two perpetrators of the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks entered Europe by posing as Syrian refugees has called the safety of Europe’s open immigration policy into question. Since the attacks, public fear of immigration has contributing to the growing popularity of far-right, anti-immigration parties in Europe. Fear has also led to higher rates of hate crimes against immigrants already living in the European Union (EU). While EU leaders should not capitulate to their most xenophobic citizens, they should adopt a more cautious, calculated, and regulatory approach to managing immigration. Adapting policies now will ensure that Europe remains a welcoming place for refugees by: undermining the political platforms of far-right, anti-immigrant parties; alleviating citizens’ irrational fears of refugees already living in the EU; and helping to prevent another foreign-born terrorist attack.
Anti-immigrant parties such as Jobbik in Hungary, the Swedish Democratic Party, and Golden Dawn in Greece have exploded in popularity since the November Paris attacks. These parties threaten European ideals because they spread xenophobia and racism that create divisive societies. A disturbing reality is that parties such as Golden Dawn have neo-Nazi roots. These parties’ increasing presence in national legislatures and the EU Parliament is undermining the European ideals of free speech, human rights, and integration.
To prevent further growth of these threatening parties, tougher immigration regulations should be enacted to counter their fear-mongering. Increasing the number of active border patrols and forming standards for systematic migrant processing, for instance, are two options for increasing regulation of migrant flows in the EU. These measures would: decrease the likelihood that terrorists enter Europe; prove that the EU is taking adequate steps to bolster security; and ultimately undermine fair-right parties’ arguments that incoming immigrants pose security threats. In effect, tighter controls of European borders would decrease these parties’ power while still allowing refugee populations to seek safety in EU countries.
Increasing immigration regulations will also improve quality of life for new immigrants. Currently, immigrants face prejudices upon settling in their new homes. A Gallup poll from October 2016 found that 52% of Europeans held negative views toward immigration, making Europe the most anti-immigrant region of the world. Alarmingly, some EU citizens have taken their views to the extreme by committing hate crimes. For example, refugee-housing centers have been deliberately burned in Germany and makeshift refugee communities have been brutally disbanded in Calais, France. The most efficient way to end this unacceptable and ‘un-European’ behavior is to convince fearful publics that refugees have been vetted and pose no safety threats. This shift in public perception can be achieved by proving that the EU to is taking a more stringent approach to immigration. Alleviating public fears would improve quality of life for the refugees by increasing their interactions with residents of their new communities and facilitating integration.
Finally, taking a more cautious approach to European immigration would decrease the possibility of another Paris-style terrorist attack by refugee or immigrant imposters. Another attack like the one in Paris would no doubt be the death knell for future European immigration. For the sake of would -be immigrants and Europe’s human rights values, this cannot happen. Measures such as the pre-screening of immigrants in their home countries, combined with strict enforcement of entry processes at the EU’s borders, would be formidable obstacles for terrorists. Although these measures are not entirely foolproof, the EU owes both immigrant and non-immigrant citizens enhanced safety regulations as the migration crisis continues.
There are those who would argue that additional regulatory measures on immigration contradict both the EU’s values and the ‘open-door’ immigration policy that Angela Merkel has set. This is simply not the case. Increasing European security through immigration controls and accepting immigrants deserving of a safe life in Europe are not mutually exclusive goals. Continuing to operate under haphazard and divisive immigration policies will only jeopardize Europe’s security and its generosity. The European Union needs a stricter approach to immigration in order to ensure that Europe remains a safe place for its citizens, and that it is always a welcoming haven for asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants.
Tyler West is a second-year graduate student in the Global Communication program at the Elliott School for International Affairs. He graduated cum laude from Elon University in 2011 with bachelor degrees in International Studies (European concentration) and Broadcast Journalism. Tyler spent this spring 2015 semester at Sciences Po, Paris studying Eastern European politics, and he recently served as Communications Trainee at The European Parliament Liaison Office with the U.S. Congress (EPLO). Tyler’s research interests include 21st century transatlantic relations, and also the relationship between Internet communication and public diplomacy.