The uncertain times for European society call for a rapid shift in our collective perception from its reactionary mode.
The recent decade has shaped the terms “immigrants” and “refugees” into frequently-heard words.
The Russo-Ukrainian war, Afghan regime overthrow, rising inflation, climate change, the list of the processes that push people out of their countries is virtually endless.
It is in the midst of this reality that the European continent is still known for its immigration-avert reputation, with media hysteria, populist sentiments, and nearly half of society either condemning immigrants or differentiating between the welcomed and unwelcomed categories of newcomers.
The label of a vilified being threatening European liberal values, stealing jobs, and burdening the state’s welfare, is haunting a typical immigrant.
Being a refugee myself, I thus feel the urge to scatter some commonly held misconceptions about immigrants. I invite you on a lenses-change-journey where an immigrant is your friend in building an economically and culturally stronger Europe.
In a world preoccupied with capitalistic dogmas, we are all tempted to apply rational cost-benefit calculations to measure an immigrant’s worth.
Let me reassure you: immigrants stand this test just well. With an estimated 1% annual increase in the rate of EU economic growth attributed to the influx of labor force from abroad, immigration is a powerful complementary force to Western economies.
Just take a quick look at the number of Eurovision or EEFA country representatives with an immigrant background, give a tribute to the input of many doctors and nurses from developing countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, or reflect on the steadily increasing numbers of immigrant-owned businesses, the innovative potential of migrants is hard to deny.
Let us not forget that the costs of migration are a viable filter for only the most educated, and promising people reaching Europe, and thus making our joint lives better.
While those success stories seem alluring, should we then turn a blind eye to the influxes of low-skilled immigrants invading the European stage?
I dare to suggest that Europe is in exact need of this type of workforce. Take the United Kingdom for a vivid, yet sorrowful demonstration. The post-Brexit country is still recovering from the labor shortages in the sectors that were traditionally reliant on the migrant workforce.
With most European countries falling victim to the same problem, it is in our best interest to let the market do its job in attracting immigrants to fill the niches that are traditionally regarded as low in prestige and omitted by natives.
On the market demand side, I similarly encourage people to remember the growing life expectancy of the European continent. Although the reason to celebrate, the reality should not escape us.
People are aging. Skilled labor is getting scarce. The pension funds are shrinking and the caregiving burden may get incompatible eventually.
With an average immigrant being under 29 years old, migration channels appear as a best-suited solution to attract the age cohort that is most likely to join the workforce with little reliance on the national welfare.
Finally, in the midst of the surging level of violence globally and the increasing fear of Islamism, I am strongly convinced that an open outlook toward immigrants is vital for testing the viability of our liberal democracies and fueling European unity.
Europe’s soul is vested within the Judeo-Christian tradition, with values like the uncontested liberty and effective remedy of all humans forming the basis of the state’s constitutions, laws, societal order, and the structure of the European Union itself.
Biblical teaching is centered on this exact message of compassion and human dignity as a crucial reminder about the importance of showing mercy to a stranger, foreigner, or any person in need.
In the midst of uncertain times for European society, immigrants are not the vexatious problem but rather the innovative solutions that we have been looking for.
But how do we balance the human rights of migrants and the security concerns without becoming the victims of our hospitability? How do we shape the newcomers into valued citizens? And most importantly how do we coordinate the cultural heritage brought from abroad with what we stand for as a society?
The answer lies in the integration policy mindset that promotes stronger involvement of immigrants in the democratic processes of their host countries and more substantial contact between natives and newcomers.
The time calls for a rapid shift in our collective perception from its reactionary mode and a determinant pushback to an over-manipulated populist agenda.
At last, what a great chance to strengthen the economy while testing the mercifulness of our hearts!
Valeriia Petrechkiv is a Ukrainian activist, tailoring her experience of studying in multiple cultural contexts towards betterment and responsiveness of the public policies.