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Migration



Are we ready for it?

Michal Vašečka:
I have the honourable duty of being the moderator for this interesting topic. I work for the Centre for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture in Bratislava and at the same time I give lectures on sociology at the Masaryk University in Brno. The title of today's topic itself is a bit problematic. It should probably be stated in the plural: Are we ready for migrations? Today, it is difficult to speak about one migration. We have seen the photo exhibition about refugees from Cuba. They finally landed in Mexico and Mexico sent them back to Cuba. This interesting but sad story from Cuba shows us that it is almost impossible to judge if it was a story of economic migrants or refugees who had escaped from the communist regime of Castro or something different altogether; perhaps they were people who had a deep-rooted culture of migration. In order to determine the type of migration we need more detailed information. Our four lecturers from the four Visegrad countries will represent different views on the same topic. They will bring us a little closer to understanding which type of migration we are prepared for and which we are not. Let me introduce you to our guests. Endre Sík, sociologist, and university professor from Hungary. He has been dealing with the issue of migration for many years. He works for several associations. Mária Čierna, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic, Department of Migration and Integration for Foreigners. She has represented the friendly attitude of the Slovak Republic regarding applicants for asylum for many years. Tomáš Urubek, Czech Republic, Department for Asylum and Migration Policies of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Czech Republic. He has been working in this field for ten years. He deals with the regulation of migratory and asylum policies towards different migrants. Jakub Vyśniewski, polimetrician, researcher who comes from Poland. He works for the Office of the Committee for Europen Integration.
 
The character of recent migration has changed in many aspects compared to the situation we had got used to a few decades ago. Migration has become a global phenomenon, involving all countries of the world. Migration flows are expanding, they are more diversified, and there are more types of migration in one country than there were during the 50s and 60s of the last century when only the economic type of migrants came to Germany and Holland, either Turks to Germany or Moroccans to Holland. Recently, the types of migrations have begun to blend together. Migration is becoming more and more "feminised", compared to the past, when there were more male migrants. Today migration, contrary to the past, is turning into a huge political problem, that influences the character of local policy and could eventually become the number one topic for all governments of the so-called "rich north" in the future. Also in our panel we will be able to see the different attitudes towards migration which is a question of different paradigmatical views. Many people, who study this problem, emphasise the structural view, and try to put migration into wider contexts. Mrs. Čierna represents a completely different tradition. She sees migration in a human rights context and thus breaks from the more scholastic approach. Today we can observe a global movement towards this post-modern approach; there is a struggle to show that migration can not be explained by only one factor, but rather it is always a combination of different factors. Unless we are able to completely understand the migrant, we will never be able to explain why the migration came about in the first place and how the state should react to it. So, we have a much more difficult task than analysts in the second half of the 19th century did when the first migration laws were created. These laws were relatively simple and most of them are no longer valid today. Migration was explained in one dimension and also economic theories referring to it explained the entire process of migration in a very simple way. Today this task is more difficult. We have to firmly distinguish the certain types of migration: economic, job related (of course, job related migration does not automatically mean for economic purposes) and forced migration as well. Within the concept of globalisation, economic reasons, in most cases are not decisive factors. The same can also be said about forced migration. It is often just a struggle to move to big urban centres like New York, Paris, and London. Are we technically, conceptually and, with regards to public opinion, prepared for migration from the position of the Visegrad Four countries?
 
Endre Sík:
I would like to emphasise two important aspects of migration. Two aspects which are widely known but very often not recognised, taking into consideration the extremely misleading concept of methodological nationalism. Methodological nationalism means that every country focuses on certain social issues from the economic and national point of view emphasising the uniqueness of the phenomenon. In my opinion this is wrong, as far as migration is concerned. Migration has always been a global phenomenon. I know that my colleagues will focus very much on the role of state, the role of regulation and integration, so I would like to extend the positions into two ways, adding an old and an extremely new form of migration. More precisely a non-methodologically nationalistic concept of migration.
 
The first, the old one is about the role of ethnicity. Very often we have heard that ethnicity is not important any more, as we are modern societies, we belong to certain nations as citizens, we develop a citizenship-based consciousness, we define ourselves as someone who belongs to a certain state. But ethnicity is always there. And ethnicity, especially in crisis situations is a resource. Some would say, ethnicity is a form of capital, and we can rely on it in crisis situations. And migration is a crisis situation. Whoever is forced to leave a country finds himself or herself in a crisis situation because he or she will lose certain investments, find him- or herself in an environment which is very often hostile, but definitely unknown, unpredictable, so therefore it is a crisis. In a situation like this ethnicity is the only resource which a person can rely upon. I want to emphasise this old-fashioned concept of migration, because especially in Central Europe, with the moving borders, in the course of history people very often find out that ethnicity is an extremely important resource. Despite of the new world and the globalisation process ethnicity is still an important aspect of every migration movement. That was the old approach, but I think it is very current, very much with us.
 
The opposite is the trans-national form of migration. A lot of migrants do not want to be integrated. They want to spend as few time as possible abroad, to earn as much as possible, and then to go home and invest. Thanks to the modern technology they can actually be at home in two points of the world. In the era of internet and skype trans-national migrants, Slovaks, Czechs, Hungarians, Poles working in England can actually be very powerful in influencing the political life and the economic activities back home, and they also can be extremely important in a cultural sense. Trans-national migration actually reduces the importance of integration and settlement, these traditional forms of migration can create entirely new forms of problems and resources. I think this is what the 21st century will bring us.
 
Michal Vašečka:
The presentation of my Hungarian colleague was a rather theoretical view of the situation. It has helped us to take a significant step forward, since countries of the so called "rich north"--and the Visegrad Four are nowadays certainly a part of it--will be exposed to migration from different parts of the world. We will not have to react only to a humanitarian crises, but we will be exposed to job related migration and migration within trans-national networks as well. For this, it will be necessary to differentiate between asylum policy and methods on how we regulate them, thus between migration and integration policy, because all the migrants want to integrate for different reasons. In this global period of the post-modern world, modern technologies enable them to keep in touch with home.
 
Mária Čierna:
In Slovakia, we got used to dealing with applicants for asylum and refugees rather than with voluntary migrants who come to work. Slovakia and Czechoslovakia were countries, which produced refugees, in other words, people who ran away from the country because of the previous communist regime. Our people were not and they are still not prepared enough to accept people from other countries, even though Slovakia, since 1993, has made huge changes regarding its migration policy. From among the whole range of different migration movements we can talk about voluntary and forced migration. Forced migration is about the abuse of human rights. They become refugees, according to the Geneva Convention, because they have escaped from their country due to pursuit, human rights violations, or for political, religious or other reasons. Slovakia has intensively dealt with this category of migrants and applicants for asylum since 1993, when the migration office of the Ministry of Home Affairs was established and the principles of migration policy were drafted. They were updated in 2005. Currently, we are preparing a new action plan for migration. It is an asylum policy, which has its own structures. In Slovakia, we have refugee camps, asylum facilities and an integrating centre as well. We also have a system of refugee integration. However, voluntary migration came into existence in connection with the borders opening and mobility of the labour force. This is a new situation in Slovakia. People from Europe or developing countries can come to us in order to improve their own economic situation, to earn a better salary or just to get to know a new country. The question is whether we are ready for this stream of people from an institutional, organisational and capacity point of view? Since we joined the EU, new structures have been built as well as new capacities have been created in order to support migrants and applicants for asylum. The second question, taking into consideration the conditions in Slovakia, is also relevant; if we are prepared with regards to public opinion. This question is constantly pushed into the background of political and social dialogues. If this issue does not become a major issue for politicians or does not become a hot topic on Sundays talk shows, but only remains the subject of a small group of experts and non-governmental organisations, it will never garner the significance and weight that European Union would like to see. Regarding institutional security, the Ministry of Home Affairs, especially the migration office and the frontier police have dealt with applicants for asylum and refugees. But the regulated job related migration was institutionalised in October 2007. There are a number of other organisations, including non-governmental, in Slovakia, which deal with the solution of the migration issue. Besides the traditional asylum problem, it is necessary to search for mechanisms, strategies and approaches, especially in light of an integration policy which aims at the acceptance and integration of migrants, and how to move them closer to our perception of life style, as well as opinions on religion and culture. Furthermore, it would be necessary to bring the group of migrants and the native population closer together.
 
Tomáš Urubek:
I would start from the other end. Initially, I thought that I could torture you with a 300-page report, which is submitted annually to the Czech parliament by the ministry. But in my opinion, it would be really exhausting for you. The basic question for all of you is: What has actually happened in Central Europe during the last 10 years? What has happened in the Visegrad Four countries regarding migration? I pulled out one of my favourite books, which opens up a simple question as to what has happened in this region. In my opinion, you surely know it since it is a basic manual for understanding the point of the migration. The title of this book is "The Chaplain Still Loves the Class" ["O Kaplan! My Kaplan!" by Leo Rosten--editor's comment]. It is a story of a migrant who lives in Manhattan. He spends 10 hours at work and then he rushes to night school to learn English. The book was translated into Czech by Antonín Přidal in an unbelievably fantastic way. The translator made a little modification that the chaplain learns to speak Czech in Manhattan. But similar men, chaplains will learn to speak Slovak in Bratislava, Polish in Warsaw and Hungarian in Budapest. The situation of migration in Central Europe is characterised by integration. The basic point of integration is to speak the particular language. It is the way towards successful integration. What was the development like in the middle of the 90s? Before joining the European Union, the main goal was to fight against illegal migration and eliminate illegal migration through the green borders. If we compare the situation in the middle of the 90's with recent data, then the percent of illegal migration has fallen to 10%, which means 30 thousand versus 3 thousand. A similar decrease can also be seen regarding illegal migration within the territory, hence those, who came to the territory of the Visegrad Four countries as tourists and then stayed there illegally. Thanks to the economic development of the region, the illegal migration gradually changed into a job-related migration. This type of migration is connected to the question of integration. So, the main challenge is to understand our recent situation, and only then we can answer the question whether or not we are ready. This region underwent enormous development within a really short time. Not too long ago, the region of the Visegrad Four countries was only a transit region for those who wanted to migrate to old member states, but recently it has become a target region. It is a qualitative change.
 
Jakub Wiśniewski:
It seems to me that we are never ready for migration, because the reality is too complex to be predicted in terms of migratory flows. So what we need is a good law and common sense. Poland and the other Central and Eastern European countries very often overlook that the migration happening here is a part of a global process, which has two main aspects in the European Union. One is the free movement of persons and workers within the EU, and the other is the inflow of workers or immigrants from the so-called "third countries".
 
Something strange and unpredictable has happened in Poland. It has become an immigration-emigration country, whereas it used to be an emigration country for centuries. There have been massive changes in the Polish labour market. As you probably know the rate of unemployment used to be very very high, now it has gone down to some reasonable level, recently it is about 9-10% depending on the method of counting. And now we have deficit of labour force, so we are discussing how to attract all the Polish people back. After 2004 lots of people have gone abroad to start a career in Great Britain, Ireland or Germany. And according to some estimates, there are 2 million people from Poland employed in other European countries, even in such countries as the Czech Republic where there are 50-60,000 Polish people working. Of course there are some important social consequences for the country. Some of them are good, and some of them are terrible. We have money flowing in from abroad to Poland, so the rest of the family can live from the money which is sent back home. But on the other hand the families are not together any more, which leads to divorces, the children can develop bad habits, get addicted to narcotics, alcohol and so on. And we have a lot of discussions concerning the so-called "brain drain", because we are losing our best people abroad. And this might be a problem, especially if you think of the Polish health care, where salaries are not very high, and a lot of dentists, doctors, nurses have left the country and there is nobody to take up employment in Poland. There is another problem, maybe even bigger than this one, and it is called "brain waste" [brain drain--editor's comment]. Many well-educated people, for example lawyers and dentists have left abroad, and what do they do? They wash dishes in British pubs. That is a terrible waste of human capital.
 
There are really lots of aspects of migration. In the receiving countries like Great Britain some say that the Poles have gone for social tourism, they want welfare benefits in Britain and Ireland. It is usually an exaggeration. Of course the patterns of migration have changed very much. In these days we talk about circular migration, which means that people travel back and forth, they spend 3 months abroad and then go back. This might be a good phenomenon in the era of cheap flights, cheaper communication and internet. The families can be kept together even if they spend a lot of time apart.
 
And now let me say a few words about our common interests in the Visegrad Group. We are all part of the European Union, which has its own priorities as far as attracting labour from foreign countries and dealing with problems like Belarus, the Ukraine etc. Countries like France and Italy want to put more pressure on the so-called Mediterranean policy of the European Union. It seems good for us as well. We should engage in dialogue with countries of North Africa like Morocco or Algeria. But we need to have a good balance and to keep an eye open to countries like the Ukraine, Moldova or Belarus, because it would be unforgivable to build another iron curtain on our eastern borders. Our borders must be well-protected, but at the same time they must be open for people who want to come to study or want to be legally employed. Central and Eastern Europe has its own characteristics, and Brussels do not understands it very much. For example, we have been a part of one country in the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and we are culturally very close, so sometimes it is difficult to for example demand visas for Ukrainian visitors going to Poland.
 
The countries of the Visegrad Group share so many common challenges and contexts that we need co-operation on a European level, for instance, we have to exchange views. And the so-called policy-shopping is vital. We have a lot to learn from each other.
 
Mária Čierna:
Let me continue the train of thought of Mr. Wiśniewski. He has mentioned a very important aspect, which is the efflux of labour from Poland. We heard very high numbers. In our country, we cannot hear about the efflux of labour very often, except the efflux of doctors and nurses. According to recent statistics, the number of those who leave the country in order to work somewhere else is annually about 180-230 thousand people. We also have a list of the most needed jobs, like assembly workers, welders, plumbers, masons, locksmiths, shop-assistants, but mostly doctors, experts, nurses, ambulance-car drivers. At the same time, in regards to new migration flows as well as new migration types, the European Commission has called attention to the social aspect of migration, that is the danger of modern forms of exploitations. It is about domestic slavery when young women working as caregivers for the elderly or children go abroad where they are often abused and exploited. They have to work very hard and put in a lot of overtime. It is one of the negative aspects of job related migration. However, today's topic is more about the migration of foreigners to our countries. But if we talk about new forms of job-related migrant recruitment, groups which are interested in our labour market, then it is necessary to look at this migration in both directions, which is a new aspect.
 
Michal Vašečka:
We can see here that all three paradigmatical views have been mentioned. Somebody said we need proper laws, which means we do not really have them. In some of the Visegrad countries the situation is better, while in others it is miserable. The types of migrations have changed a lot as well as the character of the countries. These countries are really close to each other. They have a common feature: all of the four countries have a relatively negative approach to their asylum policy. Slovakia has probably the most negative attitude concerning the number of refused migrants. But this problem concerns all of the Visegrad countries and, compared with older member states, it is a sad story. Many countries do not have an integrated migration policy, they react only to humanitarian crises. The Czech Republic started to create its own migration policy in response to demographic trends. This policy is going to be proactive. Other countries are much more paralysed by discussions about compatriots or cumulative effects, which arose as a result of joining the European Union in 2004. In Poland, for example many people went to Ireland or Great Britain, where there was a shortage of manpower. The void that they leave is often filled by migrants from Ukraine. The biggest problem lies in integration policies in each Visegrad country, since there is no consensus regarding the conception of integration at all. We do not know if we want to integrate migrants other than within the labour market. As a result, integration policies from a social point of view seem satisfactory, but from a political and cultural point of view they do not.
 
Tomáš Urubek:
The discussion about economic migration in the Czech Republic is closed. For further development of the Czech Republic the economic migration is unavoidable. The immigration of EU citizens has its own specifications and the Czech Republic, as well as other Visegrad countries, have immediately opened their labour market to both old and new member states. Recently, the emphasis has been on immigration from developing countries. It is competition for a foreign labour force. We compete in the Ukraine, with one another within the Visegrad Group, and with Russia and we will probably move further into South-East Asia as well. Furthermore, we compete with Australia, the USA and Canada. It is a global competition for labour force. We can talk about groups, both qualified and non-qualified labour manpower. The Czech Republic, at this moment has demands for all segments of the labour market. Currently, we are discussing the possibility of offering green cards in order to reach the highest efficiency. Jobs, which cannot be filled by citizens of the Czech Republic or the European Union, should be filled by citizens from other countries. The basic problem, on the one hand, is how to attract citizens from other countries to the Czech Republic as soon as possible, while, on the other hand, maintaining all the security measures and guarantees. The issue of job-related migration raises several other questions. From a demographic point of view, it would be very naive to think that migration solves the problem of an ageing population. It is just one of the remedies which we support but it has to run in conjunction with other measures. Asylum is also an interesting question. The Czech Republic has been criticised for its restrictive asylum policy. The priorities of our asylum policy were moved elsewhere. In the past few years we have had approximately 1,800 applicants for asylum annually. A few years ago this figure was almost twenty thousand. According to the Czech Republic the most effective support is the one nearest to the conflicts. We are planning to transfer a group of foreigners to the Czech Republic from different parts of the world, in order to make it easier for neighbouring countries like Malaysia, renegades from Myanmar, and Eastern Africa and Somalia. To transfer people from these regions to the Czech Republic or Central Europe is extremely challenging financially. We have to be much more effective in searching for ways to help those people.
 
Jakub Wiśniewski:
In Poland the debate concerning immigration policy is not very advanced, unfortunately. We still have not answered several basic questions. For example: what is the basic ground for an immigration policy? Why do we need these people in our country? Should we attract Polish people from Kazakhstan even if they are uneducated, to repair something wrong in history, for example the atrocities of Stalin? This would be good in terms of morality, but might not be very good in terms of economy, since these people would be unemployed because they lack specific qualifications. So we might prefer a person from the Ukraine who will integrate quite easily and we do not have to spend money on this persons' language courses and so on, and his qualifications will be well used.
 
I am not speaking on behalf of my government now, this is my personal opinion. It seems to me that the Polish asylum policy is a mess. We do not offer very much to the refugees. Refugees are even denied lodging once they finished the integration programme which lasts up to one year. This is reflected in what these immigrants, refugees want in Poland. They do not want to settle down here. Ninety-five percent of the Polish asylum seekers are people from Chechnya , and they want to move further westwards. In the run-up to enlargement of the Schengen zone in December 2007 the number of asylum seekers has increased 7 times. All these people were waiting simply to cross the border and to join their families in Germany, France, Belgium and other countries of Western Europe. So if they have this kind of approach, they are not interested in learning the Polish language and culture. They pretend that they follow the course in order not to lose some benefits. This is a sort of a vicious circle, and it is not easy to find a way out of it. Let me just point out that economic migrants are not eligible for any kind of integration policies or programmes like in Canada or Australia. And this is bad because currently the majority of our economic migrants are Ukrainians who integrate, out of their own will, quite easily, because of the linguistic and cultural affinities. But some problems might arise once the other groups come and they will be left helpless. There are certain groups of Vietnamese immigrants in Poland, and these people tend to isolate themselves in social exclusion ghettos. And once their numbers grow and the Polish authorities would not come up with some response, some offers to them, these people will be lost, the two societies will live next to each other without much contact. This will be very very bad for Poland, and we will somehow repeat the mistakes that were made in the 1960s and 70s in Germany with the Turks, in France with people from Algeria and other countries.
 
Mária Čierna:
Slovakia has a lot in common with Poland in terms of integration policy. In Slovakia, we warmly welcomed the refugees from other countries in times of humanitarian crises, primarily from Bosnia and Herzegovina, later also from Afghanistan, and, in 2003, from Iraq and Chechnya, as well. However, Slovakia has perhaps one of the most restrictive asylum policies. Since 1992, a total of 53,812 people applied for asylum in Slovakia, out of which 610 received refugee status. The situation culminated in 2004 with a total of 11,390 applications (the highest number in CEE), out of which 15 asylums were granted. The language courses offered in refugee camps in Slovakia are very demanding, and therefore the native Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians have a relatively good command of the Slovak language, and they can participate in re-qualification courses. Nevertheless, they have to wait 2-3 years before receiving asylum, and if their application is rejected, then it is very difficult for them to apply their knowledge and skills in practical life. But yet, we do have Afghans in Slovakia working as doctors, lawyers, teachers and scientists, who have significantly contributed to the development of Slovakia. The question is how to integrate the groups of migrants from developing countries who arrive in the country as part of the so called "circulatory migration", which means that they come to stay here for a certain period of time, get employed, make some money and leave again? In Slovakia, we have such groups from Vietnam, China, and also, most recently, from Korea. Integration policies to tackle this challenge have only been drafted this year. We are not ready (in fact we are 2 years behind in terms of designing integration policies) and we are trying to catch up with the reality, and different institutions as well as politicians have already included this issue on their agenda.
 
Michal Vašečka:
Our colleague from Poland mentioned the specific situation in Poland, namely the discrepancy between migration policy aimed at persons arriving from different parts of the world, and the care provided to Polish citizens. Does this problem also influence the migration policy in Hungary?
 
Endre Sík:
Hungary does not have a migration policy. In 1994 me and my colleagues started to work in a commission by the Hungarian government and we came up with a general framework of a migration policy, but then it has never reached the policy level. But I think it is not a problem. I am the only migration analyst in Hungary who is happy not to have a migration policy. Because what we have instead of migration policy is a practice, which is covering bits and pieces of different migration issues in a very down-to-earth way, a very low-profile form, and I think this is what a state should do. I do not like big systems, which are very expensive, and only increase the number of bureaucrats who are just wasting a lot of money. They always have ideologies, and invite sociologists to analyse, just to prove that they deserve their jobs. I prefer a type of asylum policy that we have now. And there is a Diaspora policy, a very strong Hungarian consciousness of ethnic Hungarians living across the border and focusing on them separately. They are not migrants in this sense, but they are very important
providers of labour force, and there is a special policy towards them. So I think this focused form is the modern form of migration policy, and that is why I am very much in favour of not having a Hungarian migration policy.
 
Michal Vašečka:
In many Western European countries, and in all Visegrad countries, there have been entire sectors of the economy gradually taken over by particular ethnic groups. This is going to be characteristic for our countries as well. We can see it with the Vietnamese and the Chinese, but gradually there will be other people arriving from other Asian countries. For example in Brno there is a vegetable and fruit market occupied by the Armenians. This is a trend we will all have to face in the future, this type of economy will certainly be one of the key issues we will have to discuss in 10 years. And now I would like to open the forum for all participants. Do you have any questions, any expressions of consent or disagreement?
 
Elena Kriglerová:
I am Elena Kriglerová from the Ethnicity and Culture Research Centre. I have the impression that this debate on migration has been reduced only to its economic dimension. Even if (in an ideal world) we could find jobs for all migrants tomorrow, we would still be far from being able to say that those people have been integrated into society. This does not only relate to language and their placement in the labour market. The more culturally different and ethnically differentiated groups arrive to our country, the more obvious those problems are. The debate over the integration policy of Slovakia has already started. A department in charge of the integration of foreigners was established at the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family. This fact symbolically implies to me that integration will relate to learning the language and finding jobs for those people. But the question is to what extent will this future policy also reflect the cultural differences of those people? And to what extent will it reflect other factors, which undoubtedly relate to the lives of those people? In the future, they will not only be individuals any more: they will form communities, and ultimately new minorities. Does Slovakia have any considerations in this respect? And, how does it work in other countries?
 
Mária Čierna:
You are asking this question at the most appropriate moment. In March 2008 the European Commission launched the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, with the aim of opening a debate between politicians, selfgovernments, various levels of communities and the communities of foreigners, on the basis of their religious or cultural self-determination. Are we prepared for an intercultural dialogue? Are we ready to build a mosque in Bratislava or in any other Slovak town? Do the representatives of self-government and the Association of Slovak Towns and Villages communicate with the communities of foreigners? Do they know what communities of foreigners live in their areas? How much do we know about our Vietnamese fellow-citizens who we can meet when making trips to the countryside? People, especially those older living in the countryside, often ask me: What do we need the foreigners for? Don't we have enough problems of our own like unemployment, etc.? Is Slovakia going to have an integration policy? Is it also going to include chapters about intercultural perception? Of course, at first, we have to consider the most fundamental measures, language courses, re-qualification courses, actions by labour offices aimed at finding jobs, social security and healthcare, social housing-these are the main areas of integration. The issues you have been referring to is a task for the broader community, education system, a dialogue to be launched between the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture, but primarily between the particular communities of people. I would like to hear the opinion of my colleagues from other countries as to what measures they have adopted to start up this issue. At the end of 2007, the Ministry of Labour established a Cross-Sectoral Committee on Migration and Integration of Foreigners. This year we plan to take one of the first steps, namely to have meetings with the communities of foreigners, including the members and representatives of the Association of Afghans in Slovakia, associations of asylum seekers, refugees and the Vietnamese and Chinese communities. We would like to find out what their perception of their own life situation is in this country, how they are accepted by the local population, with what problems do they have to struggle with. There are still major problems in relation to their health insurance and health care.
 
Jakub Wiśniewski:
It seems to me that the subject of the social aspects of migration is the most interesting, even if this is the most difficult one. How to make these people feel at home? This question was put many times in many countries. We can study the cases, we can look at the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Denmark. They lavished welfare benefits for people coming from all over the world. And it was effective to a certain extent. There is also the so-called French model, the model where a certain ideology was imposed on immigrants. But it crashed to pieces in 2005. There was another model in Great Britain, the liberal, Anglo-Saxon one, but it seemed to follow the same route after the terrorist attacks. As you can see, the problem is very complicated. Probably the United States might be presented as some kind of an example. But if we study this example very closely, we can see that the success story was based on the specificity of American society. Probably it is not the immigrants who are not ready to integrate. It is our problem: how do we respond when we meet a stranger? What kind of chauvinism there is in us? We should not lie to ourselves that the integration programs can fix everything. Probably the most effective tool would be to come up with some kind of information campaign directed to the native population in order to break down certain stereotypes concerning a black person, a roma and so on.
 
As you can see, the climate of discussion over immigration has got nasty in the whole of Europe. Think of Le Pen in France. The ideology of Le Pen has been picked up to certain extent by Nicolas Sarkozy. All these programs concerning DNA, acceptance of the immigrants, etc. There is some flavour of the policy of Le Pen in it, and probably this was one of the keys to Nicolas Sarkozy's success as the presidential candidate. I know that what I am saying is controversial, but I just want to start a debate over this. Think of Jörg Haider in Austria, or think of the scandals with the cartoons in Denmark. Of course it is a problem of free speech, but it is also can be described as "the neighbour syndrome", the problem of accepting the person who has come to live next door if he is cooking something which smells strange for us.
 
Tomáš Urubek:
I would start with the remark my colleague made in relation to the coordination mechanism. All we have done over the last two years was done in order to be able to answer our government's simple question: What is going on in the Czech Republic in terms of migration? To answer this question, we need to gather all information and data, and we also need to address all relevant ministries (not only those traditionally dealing with migration such as the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs), but also the Ministry of Finance (due to customs issues), and the Ministry of Tourism. Last year a specialised facility called Analytical Centre was established, which prepares weekly analyses of operative information and reports for the government. We try to answer the basic question as to whether there is any migration pressure on the Czech Republic. We also take our embassies into the process, as in some countries there is an enormous interest in obtaining a visa for the Czech Republic. All of the aforementioned measures have moved the countries closer to integration. At present we are focusing specifically on the Vietnamese community. We decided to analyse the situation in this particular community, because, within the Vietnamese community, there are significant differences between the first generation immigrants and the newcomers. We have information about how successful the second generation of Vietnamese is--and it gives reason for optimism: they integrated successfully, managed to master the language and are very successful in their studies at secondary grammar schools and universities. It shows the ongoing process of integration. I would also like to point out another fact in relation to integration. This is a reciprocal process. On the one hand, we integrate the migrants to our societies, but on the other hand, there is an important aspect of safeguarding their rights. As of yet, we cannot talk about a concept of multiculturalism, but we to ensure the right of the migrants we have integrated into our society.
 
Questioner 1:
I did not assume to get an answer to the question as to whether we are prepared for migration, emigration or immigration. It is a complex issue and, essentially, we are always rather late in addressing it. We always try to catch up to what we should have predicted, at least partially. There were people who had predicted this future, and now, we will have to deal with this issue whether we like or not. Do institutions dealing with these issues cooperate with the prognostics in order to foresee the further development of migration? Or, can we, at least partially, assume what problems may arise? We can be prepared for such problems only if we were already expecting them. Is there any cooperation whatsoever between scientific institutions?
 
Jakub Wiśniewski:
There is an interesting level of cooperation named the European Union. And our countries, the Visegrad Group has common goals as far as both aspects of migration are concerned. The first one: free movement of workers in the European Union. Until 2011 our countries are in a transitional period as far as free movement of labour is concerned. The time of the Czech presidency is nearing, so we are expecting that in 2009 the Czech Republic will make strong steps for abolishing all these restrictions on taking up employment for the Czech, Polish, Slovak and Hungarian people in Western Europe. In most of these countries we are already allowed to take up employment freely. But there are some member states like Germany or Austria who keep up certain restrictions even if they go against the idea of the common market of the EU. They also go against the idea of the Lisbon strategy, the reform programme from 2000. The second aspect of migration is immigration from the third countries. And here we also need to cooperate. We all know that countries like Malta, Portugal, Spain or Italy are faced with a terrible humanitarian problem, because many people from Northern Africa come on boats to start living in Europe. These people must be protected somehow from drowning, but our borders also must be protected. The countries of Southern Europe want to adapt a policy. And we all agree on this. But at the same time the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland must not forget about their Eastern neighbours--Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, where there are also humanitarian problems, and we must not allow to channel our resources to this Mediterranean dimension of the European policy.
 
Michal Vašečka:
I think that we will have to accept the presence of the migrants, however, there are also some theses claiming that we have to keep the migrants as far from the Visegrad Group as possible. To what extent is it at all possible to "manage" migration? Experts have had quite extensive arguments over this issue. The question is whether we can predict migration flows in advance, whether we can estimate the demand of our labour market (which will be insufficient without migrants), and/or whether the migrants will resolve the population crisis (actually they will not resolve it, but undoubtedly help the situation). But the cooperation is far from exemplary even between the academics and politicians, who can make decisions. Perhaps we will get a more optimistic view from the Czech Republic.
 
Tomáš Urubek:
I think I'll pour some oil onto the fire. At the Ministry of Interior we tried to establish long term cooperation, in particular because the "old member states" had quite precise estimations. It is generally known from those analyses that from 1980 to 2020, there will be a 20% decrease in the active population. We initiated cooperation with Czech scientific institutions, but there was no interest on their end. That has led us to carry out activities hoping to capture their interest. Next year, the Summer School of Migration Studies will start its activities in the Czech Republic. We think that migration, as a phenomenon, has not been given sufficient attention in the academic field. In general, the role of the Ministry of Interior, including public administration, is to somehow establish this topic in the academic field. So while we would like to increase involvement, the response has been quite poor, we can even say that there is no interest whatsoever.
 
Mária Čierna:
This question has given me a very interesting idea, namely to intensify the cooperation with the Institute of Prognoses of the Slovak Academy of Science. What we do have at this moment is a demographic prognosis indicating an insufficient labour force after 2015. Before 2010, we do not predict an acute crisis nor an insufficient labour force, so in fact this issue has been postponed for the following 5-7 years, however, we have to be much more prepared. Upon the request of the Commission on European Integration we delivered to Parliament a report on the state of regulated migration and about professions in shortage. The Ministry of Labour has processed this survey. However, there is no long-term prognosis for the demand in terms of accepting migrants. This means that the number of migrants to be accepted by the Slovak Republic has not yet been, from the prognostic point of view, specified. In late 2007, the European Integration Fund was launched, and the first programmes in Slovakia will be implemented in 2008. This fund also has available financial resources for scientific and research projects. But I am convinced that the European Commission does have a long-term prognosis regarding the demand for accepting migrants into EU member states. In Brussels, there is an expert group called "the national contact point on integration" coordinated by the European Commission's Committee for Migration and Asylum, which intensively works on these issues and its future prognosis. Many countries, in particular the older, more experienced ones in the field of migration, have a clear position on this problem and they also have those prognoses available.
 
Questioner 2:
The question I am going to ask is broad. We are talking about these problems on an official level. Unofficially, there are two separate systems, which were not mentioned by any of the speakers. I am talking about employing the migrants in the system of "black-work", and, in this respect, we cannot talk about any integration whatsoever, we cannot even talk about chances for integration. My second question relates to the employment of certain ethnic groups in the system of almost semi-slave work. The fact is that not only our people are exploited elsewhere in developed countries: we do the very same thing to our migrants from other countries-and with regards to this it is impossible to even dream of integration. On the aforementioned official level we have a certain vision or idea. I am not talking about a policy, but about a vision of what are we going to do with our migrants? What is our goal? Do we want to have Slovak Afghans of the second or third generation here? Or do we want to turn Afghans to Slovaks? Or do we want them to remain Afghans even in the second, third or even fourth generation and the only thing we would want from them is to respect our laws?
 
Jakub Wiśniewski:
I agree with you that the problem is complicated, and as far as illegal immigrants in Poland are concerned, there are two aspects of the phenomenon. The first is organised crime. We have people who come to Poland and are forced to be prostitutes, and we have human traffic. The problem is dealt with on a legal level, organised crime is fought within the means of the Polish state. But there is also another aspect which has to do with the state of Polish economy. The tax deduction is so big that employers are not willing to employ immigrant workers through legal means. And this problem is improving. The procedures of acquiring visas for workers from Ukraine have been eased these days, for example the fees have been lowered from the astronomical level of 700 zloty to the minimum wage, which is 100 zloty. The problem has to do more with our labour law, with how the economy functions in general. In order to make a point about it, let me tell you a short story as an example. On the 20th of April 1980 Fidel Castro declared that anyone who does not want to live in the socialist paradise of Cuba, was free to go to the United States. In the period of five months 125,000 people left Cuba on self-made boats. As a consequence, the local labour market in Southern Florida expanded. And believe it or not, the unemployment rate barely moved. The reason for this was that the local labour conditions, the local economy and the law were totally flexible, and the conditions were favourable. So the success of these immigrants depended on the state of economy. I know that to a certain extent it is a simplification of the problems of immigrants. But give these people a job and you have guaranteed the half of the success. This is my conclusion.
 
Tomáš Urubek:
I would like to get back to the original question, as this issue is causing us one of the worst headaches at the moment. The black system, or trafficking aimed at forced labour or the client system is a partial failure of one on the state's functions. The government has declared, and repeatedly supported its position, that migration in the Czech Republic, as well as in the other four Visegrad countries, is regulated by the state. However, this function to regulate migration has been taken over from us by somebody else-namely the semimafia structures exporting humans for obvious purposes. It is not possible to immediately eliminate this system. The question at this moment is: can we as the ministry or the state offer the migrants the same service so they do not have to use the services of the so-called client system? Can we prevent them getting involved with the mafia structure? Can we regulate migration? We have been operating a range of pilot projects in the Ukraine and Mongolia, where the NGOs try to find a way to regulate migration and to mediate jobs in a legal way-to form some competition to this client system. But I am not at all convinced that, if we meet next year, I could tell you that we were 100% successful. This is a fight that will last a rather long time. There is a lot of money involved, it is a big business. This is not a story about asylum seekers, this is about big money, and a part of the economic success of the world is rooted in this phenomenon.
 
Endre Sík:
This is a complete misunderstanding of the migration problem. The Hungarian employers are happy to exploit the Hungarian workers, because they are capitalists. If there is a problem, it is the high tax and the high public salary level, which cannot be solved. And I think the migrants only suffer slightly more because they are more vulnerable. But believe me, romas and poor, defenceless Hungarians in the countryside suffer as much as migrants from this exploitation. On the other hand, I do not believe in any mafia of this sort. There is only one very lucrative business, which is trafficking prostitutes, trafficking human beings. That is really an organised crime, a security problem, and not a migration problem. It should be dealt with by the police force and the border guards, but not particularly focusing on the migration issue, because that would mislead the whole discussion and discourse in the society on migration.
 
Michal Vašečka:
We just had some input, which I could evaluate, from the paradigmatic point of view, as one copying the theory of dual systems, or slightly in a neo-Marxist tradition, which has given us a completely new view of migration. It is interesting that we all have successfully avoided the question as to what do we actually want to achieve with the migrants, because this is the least pleasant question as to the objectives of migration policies. But I am afraid we won't get to that question today.
 
Questioner 3:
My name is Zsolt Gál and I am from the department of Political Science of Comenius University. I have one comment and then one question. I want to defend the Slovak asylum policy, because I think this was a not very fair attack on it. We have to put it in a broader picture. As it was presented here, we are very bad and we refuse 99.9% of the people, which is not true. What usually happens in Slovakia, and I think in all the Visegrad countries is, that illegal migrants come and cross the border, they are caught by the guards in the territory of the Slovak Republic, and they immediately ask for political asylum. All of them. Regardless if they are political refugees or economic migrants. Then they are taken to an asylum camp, and what happened in 2004 was that over 95% of them left the country before finishing the asylum procedure. So it was impossible to give them asylum in Slovakia because they went on to Austria or Germany and asked for asylum again. In 2006 and 2007 the numbers decreased rapidly, because the European Union's new system was introduced, which means that the border guards and the authorities in our country are taking fingerprints from the migrants and they are comparing them, so there is one common European database, and the migrants cannot escape from a Slovak camp and ask asylum again in Austria. I think we have to see the process in this context, and it is not fair to criticise the Slovak asylum law.
 
I want to ask all the participants from the Visegrad countries, how many asylum applicants their country can absorb politically, economically and by the means of the public opinion. I am asking this because I see huge problems in Western Europe with asylum. The combination of mass refugee migration and very developed welfare states led to a situation that many of these migrants are unemployed, and there is a high criminality within these groups. And it is not insignificant.
 
Michal Vašečka:
You have added a new dimension to this issue. I would like to say something concerning those numbers. This is not the case of being sadomasochistic or flogging ourselves, but granting asylums in our country is still very poor. The life stories of refugees are really very painful. Many families from Chechnya were refused asylum just because they were from the Russian Federation, and then, after continuing to the other side to Austria, their stories became so powerful that a high number of them were granted asylums in a relatively short time. I myself remember well a story from my practice: the Migration Office refused asylum to a communist family from Afghanistan. The official resolution said that the Republic of Afghanistan observes all rights and has a democratic constitution. Just to remind you, this happened during the times when the Taliban cleared Kabul. Those people were the most typical textbooklike examples of refugees, but despite that, at that time, they didn't have a chance.
 
Mária Čierna:
I agree with both of the previous speakers--i.e., with the young man from the audience as well-who completed my paper with information, that in fact, a rather large part of asylum seekers, in particular in 2004, continued to migrate and did not stay in the camps until receiving the resolution. This was also due to the fact that the asylum process took extremely long. Mr. Vašečka mentioned the story of a family from Chechnya, let me now share my most powerful story with you. I am writing a book of memories from asylum camps. Also during the period of the Taliban, I met a young girl who wanted to study medicine in our country. The husband of her mother was shot in front of her eyes, and her 13-year old brother was forced to join the army. These two women--mother and daughter--had waited for almost two years for an asylum, which was ultimately refused. The girl could, after that time, speak good Slovak and also English. They contacted the Afghans in neighbouring Austria, and at night they escaped from the refugee camp in Gabčíkovo. According to the information we received, they were granted asylum quite soon. I would say that there is a piece of truth on both sides. Yes, many migrants continue to transit, and many of them were only economic migrants, in particular those from Pakistan, India, China and Bangladesh. And paradoxically, the opening of the borders and measures to regulate economic migration should serve to suppress illegal migration, and to decrease the number of asylum seekers misusing the asylum procedure in support of those asylum seekers who really want to live and work in our country,
 
Tomáš Urubek:
This explanation was very precise. I would not want to find myself in a situation where we would consider the Austrian asylum system to be the European system. The Austrian asylum system is so specific that it differs, in all its specifics, from any other European asylum system. We are lucky enough to know that system. The Austrian asylum system and the way it functions is an exception within Europe. Even the Scandinavian asylum systems are not as benevolent as the Austrian one. It would require a thorough review to understand the role of the Austrian senate of appeal and the judiciary system. I would not want Slovakia to be subject to the criticism that some of the asylum seekers refused in Slovakia received asylum in Austria. That does not mean that Slovakia made a mistake. I don't want to misuse the stories. They were really very strong. But it is not an argument. Slovakia, by joining the European Union, fulfilled certain requirements, also in the area of asylum procedure. There is a judiciary system allowing appeals against the resolution of the Migration Office, just like in any other country. And this appeals system (to appeal against the resolution of the Ministry of Interior) should be used. And as for the issue of the absorption capacity: I think the absorption capacity of the Czech Republic is endless.
 
Jakub Wiśniewski:
I cannot answer this question, because it depends on many things. For example if a person from Belarus, who is fighting for democracy, crosses the border and integrates easily to the Polish society, the extent to which he is accepted by native people will be much bigger. The objective numbers of people Poland can accept are not very high. It is related to the existing problems like the high rate of unemployment in Poland and the rapid pays of economic restructuring. But there is another factor: the spirit of hospitality. And I am not exaggerating. People in Poland react very spontaneously and emotionally to personal tragedies, it is probably the good heritage of something we experienced during the communist era, especially in the early 80s, during the state of emergency we were thankful for the help we have got from the United States and from Western Europe. That is why people often react very generously by giving lots of money on charity or giving shelter. Strangely enough, there is not a lot of racism in the Polish media debate about immigrants, contrary to the cases of Western Europe or the Western world in general. The other day I have read an interesting article about the situation in Australia, the country which receives a lot of humanitarian immigrants every year. An Afghan immigrant waited seven years for receiving his humanitarian visa in a closed refugee camp. And if you compare this personal tragedy with the lofty ideas expressed by the government, you find out that those are empty words. I do not want to criticise them, I just want to show that sometimes the catching up countries like Poland and Slovakia can be more generous than the wealthy Western democracies.
 
Michal Vašečka:
With these beautiful words of our colleague we can finish our session: there is hope for the future. The feeling of solidarity of the people in the four Visegrad countries, in relation to those who have arrived and will continue to arrive to our countries, is rather strong.
 
Thank you for you attention.
 


Guests:
Endre Sík (sociologist, founder of TÁRKI Social Research Institute), Mária Čierna (Department of Migration and Integration of Foreigners, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic), Tomáš Urubek (Department for Asylum and Migration Policies of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Czech Republic), Jakub Wiśniewski (Researcher Office of the Committee for European Integration); moderator: Michal Vašečka (sociologist, assistant professor at the School of Social Studies of Masaryk University Brno and director of the Center for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture)
 

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