Immigration anxieties played a significant role in British people’s decision in June 2016 to vote to leave the EU. This has fuelled a debate over the quality of media reporting on migration issues. Continue reading
In its paper of 13 March 2017 on “The Rights of EU Nationals in the UK Post-Brexit”, Migration Watch UK has put forward a range of proposals aimed at clarifying – and limiting – the rights of EU nationals in the UK in the context of Brexit. These proposals are illegal under EU law and the UK Government must ignore them in their process of shaping the UK’s migration policy towards EU nationals as a result of Brexit. This post summarises these proposals and details the reasons why they are illegal under EU law.
The proposals of the Migration Watch UK paper focus on two main categories of EU nationals: first, those that are residing in the UK at the time of triggering Article 50 Treaty of the European Union (TEU) but will not qualify for permanent residence at the time of Brexit (which the paper assumes to be March 2019) (category (a)). Second, those that will continue to arrive to the UK between the moment in which Article 50 TEU is triggered and the moment when Brexit becomes legally effective (category (b)). Even if the paper is not very clear about it, the proposals would also affect the rights of European Economic Area (EEA) nationals, as well as those of individuals whose residence and work rights derive from those of an EU/EEA national. For simplicity, though, I will stick to the use of the expression “EU nationals” to cover all of them. Continue reading
Last month I led an ESRC Funded Thinking Futures Event on Migration and Belonging at the St Werburgh’s Community Centre, Bristol. The event was attended by twenty-six people who had experience of applying for British citizenship or had personal stories to share about migration. Storytelling gives a direct voice to research participants and this was the theme of the event. Artist Sam Church who is a graphic artist simultaneously sketched the stories which were being shared. Continue reading
Around a quarter of British Indian Sikhs, and half of British Pakistani Muslims have a spouse who migrated to the UK as an adult, making these two of the largest British ethnic groups involved in this kind of transnational marriage.
In recent years, such marriages have increasingly been seen as an obstacle to integration – with suggested implications ranging from poverty to lack of attachment to the UK, and persistent gender inequality. In Britain, as in some other European countries, the demands of integration now also feature in justification for restrictions on spousal immigration, such as the income requirement for sponsors introduced in 2012.
It is surprising to many to learn that the empirical research on relationships between marriage migration and integration has actually been rather limited, and has produced varying results.
Recently the public and media became aware, through one image across Europe (and the world) of the plight of people fleeing for their lives. Within the UK this image produced an awakening after months and years of warnings about the consequences of policy failures, wars and discrimination against migrants. Evidence of the catastrophic failures of UK and EU migration policies, which are based solely on immigration control, borders and ‘security’, have been disbelieved or treated with scepticism by policy makers, officials and many academics.
Repeated reports of deaths in the Mediterranean were ignored or seen as someone else’s problem, the public having been fed a relentless ‘diet’ of poisonous ‘news‘ and rhetoric about migration in general. Institutional racism and discrimination was further embedded as asylum seekers (including children) in the UK were detained, portrayed as troublesome, instead of being welcomed and offered protection. Furthermore, the consequences of austerity are continuously blamed on migrants.
There is a crisis of democracy, as well as policy and a humanitarian crisis, which has been fuelled by the action and inaction of our government.
How can we respond to the refugee crisis? Ten practical ways.
In the past couple of weeks, an issue that has long been an issue has hit a ‘tipping point’ in terms of public awareness. It’s strange when this happens. Suddenly the language of ‘crisis’ proliferates. Suddenly everyone wants to know what they can do to help. Historically, it’s often been images of suffering children that either provoke such tipping points, or channel them to a wider audience.
Perhaps it is the powerlessness of a baby in the face of indifferent natural or political forces that brings this rise out of us. Or perhaps it makes a far-off struggle suddenly feel very near.
Personally, I find it problematic that, first, we are (almost) only moved to action by such images and second, that the action we are moved to is largely motivated by pity or sympathy. I wish we were as easily moved by the struggle or suffering of any person. Still more, sympathy can unwittingly depoliticise what are extremely political situations. If I feel sorry for you and want to help you, I am largely ignoring the fact that I have, and am, part of creating this situation that you are in. Better to be angry, outraged, repentant, about it.
Perhaps it would be better if, for once in our long history, we actually did nothing. But we still want to act. It’s also true that systems, attitudes and policies need to change, if people seeking liveable lives are to be able to do this within our current world. So what will we do? How can we respond?
Given that only 3.2% of the world’s population live outside their country of birth it is remarkable that migration has become such a topic of public debate. Even in those regions where groups of states have granted their citizens freedom to move, like in the EU, the number of people that actually do so remains at the same 3% of the total population. Contrary to popular belief, most people (around 97%) do not move: migration is an exception rather than the rule.
This issue of numbers is fertile ground for misconceptions. Usually, the general population vastly overestimates the figures. For example, in 2013, respondents to a survey in the UK guessed the percentage of migrants living in Britain to be 31% when it was in fact 13%. Despite the fact that moving between states is certainly easier in the modern era, the figures of global migration have remained roughly the same during the last 50 years when taken as a percentage of the world’s entire population. Most people still do not move.
Considering the tone of the political rhetoric in the last few months, the positions of the main parties on the topic of free movement of EU citizens seem less salient that one would have expected.
EU citizens or ‘EU migrants’?
It is worth stating from the outset that when we discuss free movement of people inside the European Union (EU) we are not referring to migration from a legal point in view. Indeed, the term ‘EU migrants’ often used by the media may define a sociological reality (an individual crossing a border between two countries with the intention to reside in the host -country) but it is legally incorrect. EU citizens (the nationals of any of the 28 Member States) have an individual and fundamental right to move and reside anywhere in the EU provided that they are working or self-employed or, if not performing an economic activity, that they have sufficient resources and medical insurance. This freedom is exercised by both the approximately 2.3 million EU nationals residing in the UK, as well as by the circa 2 million British nationals who reside in the other 27 Member States.
Free movement of people in the European Union (EU) is currently under attack by certain political and media sectors across Europe, with proposals arising on how to limit its scope. At the same time, other regions in the world are adopting free movement regimes. This is important to highlight as it allows us to demonstrate that the EU’s free movement regime is not an anomaly as its opponents often argue. It also enables us to compare how different regions function in this area which can lead to ideas and proposals for refining legislation and policies. As such, current debates on the construction of a South American citizenship as well as the MERCOSUR Residence Agreement, effectively establishing an open border area in the region, deserve our attention in Europe.