Europe Angered Over Immigrants

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Immigrants have suddenly become a major source of irritation and apprehension in, of all the places, countries that until recently flaunted their secular, liberal and inclusive outlook. They championed the promotion of diversity features to also developing nations in Asia and Africa.  But the handle of such ideals is creaking and cracking slowly but threateningly. Growing number of people in countries considered describing themselves as liberal and secular are beginning to sound like religious fanatics and racist. Bafflingly, there is hardly any rebuttal of such statements that have all along been labelled poisonous when similar sentiments were aired elsewhere.

Hypocrisy is at play. What is defined and prescribed for others through thick and thin is cast aside when the time comes for the prescribers’ own ailments. In the process, one loses its value, largely on wrong premise. Since the beginning of this year, foreign migrants are drawing mounting criticism in Europe. The West’s club of English speaking “Five Eyes” choose to be busy in things other than the ones raised so sharply by their European cousins. In fact, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, stretching from both sides of the Atlantic to the Australian shores in the Pacific are hand in gloves over the issue of foreign migrants. 

Gear-shifting 

European leaders are not as much in opposition to the foreign tag of the migrants than the culture and religion the latter assert and demonstrate in the new lands of their adoption. Most of those showing concern have a history of colonising, enslaving, forcing upon countries enriched with ancient civilisations and initially populated by larger populations.  European rightists in the real sense of the term have begun to sound shrill with threatening notes against “illegal” immigrants, who they used to welcome or tolerate for decades but are now their target of vitriolic attack for the cracks, disorder and decline in European life. A vociferous champion of Brexit and Honourary President of Reform UK party, Nigel Farage warns of “catastrophic consequences” caused by illegal immigrants. He is among an increasing tribe of political leaders who identify the European Union for much of the “problems” witnessed today.  

European parliamentarians fume over a series of serious setbacks their people suffer with severe effects. They attribute the “disaster” to wrong immigration policies pursued for too long. If anyone had made such statements a few years ago, the same lot would have reviled the thinking as ultra-rightist, racist, divisive, far removed from humanitarian considerations, jingoism, xenophobic, rabble rousing and what have you. In the past decade and a half, a steady rise in concern expressed over immigrants is noticeable. The miscalculations in the Ukraine war and subsequent repercussions on European economy, including inflation and slower growth rate, have heightened the pitch of criticisms. Some sections find fault with foreign migrants for all the ills the once “liberal”-sounding continent faces.

In reality, Europe is in decline. So is its first cousin on the other side of the Atlantic, the United States. All good things come to an end, but not all has to be given up. Only a spirit of adaptation and accommodation can steer the tides of emerging changes and shifting sands in deference to a new age and aspirations of successor generations.  At least that is what the ones shaking and trembling so hard presently would have previously reminded the children of lesser deities. When their own positions beg for a change in their attitude to new realities, they shy from taking the very path they prescribed for others with a sense of confidence and arrogated authority. Failing to read what the conditions signal would inflict a bleeding wound in the midst of a losing battle. The trend can be stemmed for smoother sailing and, hopefully, for yet better times, even if generations later. 

In their pledge at public forums for making Europe great again, self-described conservative forces have raised their voices and fists against the “misled ideology” of multiculturalism. The bandwagon of multiculturalism had been lambasted since the early 2010s. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had pronounced it as a “failed” ideology that weakened Europe. Its effects are more audible and visible in Europe today. Rightist voices chorus the need for heavy curtains sealing off “illegal” immigrants from their shores and border crossings. They list a plethora of unwelcome consequences triggered by immigrants: “disintegration of society”, “gang wars”, “overrun welfare programmes”, “Islamism”, “breakdown” in European norms and public security in “many cities”.

hand in gloves over the issue of foreign migrants. Gear-shifting

hand in gloves over the issue of foreign migrants. 

Gear-shifting 

The British politician and broadcaster, Farage, appreciates that politicians are now beginning to “wake up to reality” of what consequences illegal immigrants from different cultures can lead to. But the harsh reality to the world at large is an emerging distinct departure from stands propagated with even strongarm tactics to it by societies and leaders from where the voices of intolerance now echo with vehemence. Fate forbid that the bitterness does not deteriorate to violence. Some European parliamentarians warn of “terrible Islamic ideology” and “misguided ideology of multiculturalism”. They want the “madness” to stop. One European Parliamentarian them moaned: “They live parallel lives. After settling, they don’t think themselves as British, Americans, Germans or French”. 

The underlying streak of racism laden in vitriolic criticisms cannot go unnoticed. More than overpopulation, the cultural equations in the immigrant landscape has attracted the wrath of turncoats and bigots. It would be hypocritically uncharacteristic of the industrially advanced democracies in the West to abandon values like globalism, humanitarianism, diversity and identity values, which they so powerfully and for so long championed. Sane minds should step in to defang venomous outpourings unleashed by a desire to find scapegoats for the frustrations they feel. Among them, a few black sheep might not be cause for any big worry. If the tribe grows, grimmer situations might follow. 

Deeply disturbing would be the growth in the size and strength of legions of prejudiced outlook crying hoarse against the spirit of an interdependent world keen to mingle and share ideas and experiences. Early initiatives from democratically responsible quarters can keep things under control well before the tide of volcano-like intolerance erupts and ruptures peace and harmony in an already troubled world.

(Professor Kharel specialises in political communication.)

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