Category Archives: attitudes towards immigrants

We too have got pens and phones….

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The right-wing (they claim to be non-partisan sic!) research organization known as Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has reacted to the now famous quote by President Obama–“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone, and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive action”–with a long backgrounder outlining 79 immigration actions the next president should take. The recommendations suggest, among other things, denying asylum to any forced migrants (my terminology; CIS calls them aliens) who could have sought asylum in countries through which they traveled en route to the United States; limiting Temporary Protective Status to one year; and prosecuting relatives of unaccompanied minors who paid smugglers to get their children to the United States to reunite with families.  These are just a few examples of issues that are part of my own research agenda.You can read the full list of the proposed immigration actions here http://cis.org/A-Pen-and-a-Phone-79-immigration-actions-the-next-president-can-take.

At this point it is difficult to say which of these points the President-Elect will act on immediately. As the election results were coming in, I was thinking about DACA. It is a low-hanging fruit, and the new president will undoubtedly reach for it. As a  professor at a university that educates DACA recipients,  immigrant students, and foreign students (many of the latter ones are Muslim), I also worry about their educational prospects, physical safety, and emotional well-being.

As a migration scholar and a migrant myself, I am worried that the new president will listen only to those who want to come down on the immigrant communities like a ton of bricks and destroy any progress in integrating diverse groups of refugees and immigrants into the fabric of the American society. When I sought refuge in the United States some thirty years ago from a Communist Poland, I came to this country because I wanted to be part of a multiracial, multicultural, and multi-religious society.

I still do! But I also see that the diversity of America is under a serious threat. So what are we do do? Like President Obama, we’ve also got pens and phones and can start writing and calling to make sure that we take back Congress in two years–the way Republicans took it in 1994 and 2010–to preserve the American values and fight racism, misogyny, and injustice.

As Thomas Lacroix, a French migration scholar, wrote yesterday, we need to fight the hysteria about migrants and migration with our knowledge about migratory processes and migrant communities. Thomas call us to action: to visit schools, community centers,  and publish in local newspapers instead of esoteric migration journals, appear on radio talk shows instead of conference panels.  Each reader, each listener, each viewer we can convince that migration is not a plague will bring about a paradigm shift and hopefully change people’s views about us, the migrants.

So let’s reach for our pens and phones to write, to make arrangements to visit schools and preschools, to show solidarity with the Others because they are US!

 

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Become a border hunter…

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The Hungarian police is recruiting 3,000 “border-hunters” to join some 10,000 police and soldiers patrolling a razor-wire fence built to stop refugees crossing the border from Serbia. The recruitment posts are scattered all over Budapest, including the Keleti Railway Station that became a de facto refugee camp for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan in the summer of 2015.

Ten thousand police and three thousand “border-hunters” to deal with fewer than 200 refugees that are reaching Hungary’s southern border with Serbia every day. As we travel from Keleti to the refugee camp in Bicske, I ask my research assistant to find out more about the “border-hunters.”peterThey have to have a high school diploma and will receive a six months training that will prepare them for the job. They  will apparently  be earning approximately 200,000 HUF (or $709) a month, and there will be other perks: housing and clothing allowance, and discount on travel and cell phones. The recruiter cannot–or does not want–to answer how many people he managed to recruit today.

During a recruiting fair in early October, a pack of teenagers ogled a display of machine guns, batons, and riot gear. A glossy flier included a picture of patrols in 4x4s, super-cool equipment to detect body heat, night-vision goggles and migrant-sniffing dogs.

Because that’s how Hungary’s new “border-hunters” roll.

The country that once sat behind the Iron Curtain is offering a glimpse into a world where the build-a-wall mentality to keep refugees out rules the land.

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Brussels or Budapest, that was the question…

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Foto by Elzbieta M. Gozdziak

Caption Translation: Do not take chances, vote “No”

In October 2 referendum Hungarians were asked a simple question: “Do you want the European Union to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of the National Assembly?” Voter turnout was only 39 percent, far short of the 50 percent participation required to make the referendum valid under Hungarian law. Never one to let facts get in the way of politics, the Prime Minister, Victor Orbán, whose Eurosceptic Fidesz party has more support than all opposition parties combined, said in a televised speech: “The European Union’s proposal is to let the migrants in and distribute them in mandatory fashion among the member states and for Brussels to decide about this distribution. Hungarians today considered this proposal and they rejected it. Hungarians decided that only we Hungarians can decide with whom we want to live. The question was ‘Brussels or Budapest’ and we decided this issue is exclusively the competence of Budapest.” Orbán, the Victorious, as he is called by the opposition, decided that the 3.3 million Hungarians who voted “No” in the referendum speak for the whole country of 10 million Hungarians. After his speech, there were fireworks over the Danube River in the colors of the Hungarian flag. The EU asked Hungary to find homes for 1,294 refugees who fled war. But rather than accept it, the Hungarian Government spent 16 million euro on a xenophobic anti-immigrant campaign. This is over 12,000 euro per refugee! This amount would have gone a long way towards providing refugees with livelihoods in a country where people live on about 257,000 HUF or $857 a month. In order to prevent the European Union from sending refugees to Hungary, Mr. Orban has proposed a constitutional amendment to reflect “the will of the people.” It was presented to the Parliament on October 10, and, if approved, it would come into effect on November 8. I wonder if any of the other Visegrád Four countries—Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia–could seek to emulate Hungary and concoct a moot referendum of their own. Anti-immigrant sentiments and xenophobic rhetoric are on the rise in Poland where Mr. Orbán’s friend, Lech Kaczyński, the Chairman of the Law and Justice ruling party, spews the same hatred of Muslim refugees. Sadly, EU institutions, including the European Commission and Council, have remained virtually silent on the Hungarian government’s hate campaign and the referendum.

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Building Contact between Immigrants and Host Communities is Vital to Integration, guest post by Jonas Bergmann

Extensive evidence shows that fostering contact between natives and immigrants decreases intergroup prejudices, anxieties, and perceived threats, which can pave the way for successful integration, social cohesion, and development.

The growing scale of human mobility worldwide has rendered immigration a salient topic with a prominent place in public discourse. European citizens, for instance, currently perceive it as the most critical issue facing the EU overall.[i] Prejudices and anxieties surrounding immigrants have reached a startling scale that fuels exclusion, discrimination, violence and a lack of support for integration policies. The ensuing risks to social cohesion and human development of both immigrants and natives should be a critical concern for policy makers.

New evidence-based action is required to address these anti-immigrant prejudices and sentiments. Policy makers can learn from recent advances in social psychology: Extensive empirical research shows that fostering contact between natives and immigrants decreases prejudices, anxieties, and perceived threats, while increasing empathy and mutual understanding. Building contact can ultimately facilitate more positive group relationships and yield high pay-offs for all involved stakeholders.

Rising Mobility Calls for Effective Inclusion

In 2015, there were 251 million international migrants, 78 million more than in 2000 and including 20 million refugees. At least three times more people migrate within countries than across borders, and about twice as many are displaced internally than internationally. Regional asymmetries, such as economic ones, as well as phenomena such as conflict and climate change will drive voluntary and forced migration further in the future. As more people move internally and internationally, better integration could yield significant benefits to migrants, host societies and governments (and even to sending regions)[ii]: Inclusion facilitates self-sufficiency and human development, which in turn reduces welfare costs, raises tax income, and improves social cohesion.[iii]

Successful integration, however, is a challenging two-way street between immigrants and host communities. Immigrants have different capacities to integrate, and host communities have different abilities and willingness to absorb them. The ability of host communities depends on various economic and institutional variables; their willingness or social receptiveness, in contrast, is shaped by beliefs and attitudes about immigrants. Thus, perceptions and social attitudes held by natives are highly important for integration dynamics; they form one of the two pillars of a host society’s absorption capacity.

Among many misperceptions, host societies tend to err by wide margins in the pace, scale, and impacts of immigration. Even if data proves different,[iv] this can elevate a sense of anxiousness and perceived threats. Such feelings complicate integration needlessly for two reasons. First, they directly fuel exclusion, discrimination, and violence that undermine social cohesion, as witnessed in various regions of the world. In Germany, for instance, more than 200 asylum seekers were injured in attacks in the first half of 2016 alone, a more than threefold increase as compared to midyear 2015.[v] Such violence and less manifest exclusion threaten integration drastically. Second, negative perceptions and sentiments can indirectly lead to restrictive policies that obstruct more positive immigration outcomes. For instance, studies by the OECD and EU show how restrictions can prolong labor market integration of refugees by years. Similarly, harsh asylum policies not only violate human dignity, but can also largely increase financial costs for governments.[vi]

Thus, intergroup prejudices and negative sentiments resulting in exclusion and inhospitable policies ultimately impose costs on all societal stakeholders. They imperil social cohesion as well as human development. Mitigating prejudices and anxieties should therefore rank high on the agenda of policy makers, which holds also true from a legal viewpoint: Public international law establishes inclusion rights for both displaced persons and migrants.[vii]

Contact as a Potent Win-Win-Win Tool

While a variety of factors shape attitudes towards perceived ‘outgroups’, extensive empirical evidence shows that contact is one of the most effective entry points to counter prejudices and negative emotions. A meta-review of 515 experimental studies involving 250,000 participants in 38 nations finds that intergroup contact significantly lessens prejudice across nations, genders, and age groups, by reducing anxiety and enhancing empathy. The synthesis of 50 years of research shows how individuals generalize their positive contact experiences to the entire perceived ‘outgroup’ and even other ethnic groups. Contact also positively changes attitudes towards social policies critical to integration.[viii]

These laboratory findings are confirmed in a meta-review of 123 real-world contact interventions with more than 11,300 participants, showing that contact effectively reduces prejudices and tensions between ethnic groups.[ix] Contact works in direct face-to-face settings, but also in indirect formats, such as through a friend knowing immigrants, observing how others interact with, and even reading about or imagining contact with immigrants. Optimal conditions such as institutional support for the contact facilitate particularly positive outcomes, yet are not necessary prerequisites for success. That said, negative contact in involuntary and threat-producing encounters can exacerbate prejudices and anxieties and need to be avoided as much as possible. Yet even where negative contact cannot be averted, it can be neutralized by previous experiences of positive contact.[x]

To illustrate these findings, a UNHCR study showed that only 20% of Austrians in personal contact with displaced persons described their experiences as negative, as opposed to 68% of the rest of society.[xi] Thus, while no panacea, evidence shows that contact can be a powerful tool for increased trust and reduced anxieties for both immigrants and natives. For policy makers, building contact is a win-win-win tool: It simultaneously helps immigrants, natives, and governments by providing more fertile grounds for integration that ultimately yields pay-offs for the whole society (and even sending regions).

Building Contact

Creating contact constitutes a powerful, flexible, and highly adjustable policy tool that has proven successful in many real-life interventions. To tap the potentials of contact, a three-pronged approach is detailed below. Civil society, donors and interested public institutions should jointly pursue a multi-level approach to create more contact between natives and immigrants. Interventions should be adapted to local contexts, build on good practices, and embrace sound sequencing and timing.

First, contact strategies should aim to ‘tap the untapped’, i.e. to map and cater to existing interest in contact through tailored matchmaking efforts. In Germany in 2014, for instance, as much as 42% of natives were interested in getting to know asylum seekers and 66% ready to support them; yet only 22% were in relevant contact with, while 47% had never met asylum seekers.[xii] Established good practices to foster direct contact include early integration at community-level, equal access to education, language training, productive activities, and integrative housing, as well creating platforms for structured intergroup contact. Conditions known to enhance the benefits of such contact include institutional support for the contact, pursuing joint goals, cooperation, and equal status in the encounter.[xiii]

Second, prejudices, anxieties, and perceived threats lead to the avoidance of direct contact. Where strong biases exist, structured direct contact techniques have proven beneficial. In these cases, it is also highly important to ensure that indirect contact is positive. Indirect contact may be increased by educational and community interventions, information campaigns, supportive public framing and media reporting, as well as giving immigrants voice and visibility themselves. Indirect vehicles have a wide reach across society, and public institutions hold significant leverage in shaping them. Providing accurate data and information is a proven policy instrument to counter misbelieves, as embraced by the World Bank’s Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) and others.

Third, segregation is often perpetuated by systematic barriers. Lifting such institutionalized obstacles could broaden contact opportunities across the board. Barriers to contact include segregated housing such as large asylum reception facilities, time spent in isolating reception processes, and constraints on employment. Such obstacles can (re-)produce detachment on the side of natives, but also exacerbate impediments on the part of immigrants, such as linguistic and cultural barriers. These systematic barriers thus constitute key entry points for policy makers seeking to break cycles of segregation and alienation.

Conclusion and Outlook

In conclusion, with human mobility likely to increase further and surrounding prejudices and anxieties reaching a startling scale, new evidence-based action is needed. Building contact between natives and immigrants has a strong empirical track record in improving attitudes and in creating demand for better policies. It is adjustable to numerous contexts and allows for a flexible multi-level implementation. Ultimately, contact can be an effective win-win-win-tool yielding benefits for all stakeholders.

Recognizing the need for better approaches to large movements of refugees and migrants, the UN will convene a summit on 19 September 2016. In line with the recommendations given here, the UN Secretary General has launched a global campaign ‘emphasizing direct personal contact between host communities and refugees and migrants.’[xiv] In the latest Draft Declaration, all heads of state pledged support to this contact-building strategy and promised ‘a range of steps to counter [xenophobic] attitudes and behavior’.[xv] It would be an important and much needed leap forward if tangible action followed.

REFERENCES

[i] European Commission, ‘Standard Eurobarometer 83: Public Opinion in the European Union’ (2015).

[ii] Daniel Cervan-Gil, ‘Host Society Integration as a Development Vector: A Literature Review’ (2016). KNOMAD Working Paper 9.

[iii] Oecd, Making integration work: Refugees and others in need of protection (2016).

[iv] Ipsos MORI, ‘Perceptions and Reality: Public Attitudes to Immigration’ (2014); GMF, ‘Transatlantic Trends: Mobility, Migration and Integration’ (2014).

[v] Amadeu Antonio Stiftung and Pro Asyl, ‘Neue Dimension der Gewalt’ (30 June 2016) <https://www.mut-gegen-rechte-gewalt.de/news/reportagen/neue-dimension-der-gewalt-2016-06&gt; accessed 25 July 2016.

[vi] Oecd (n 3); E. R Thielemann, Richard. Williams and Christina Boswell, ‘What System Of Burden-Sharing Between Member States For The Reception Of Asylum Seekers?’ (2010).

[vii] UN General Assembly, ‘In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants: Report of the Secretary-General, A/70/59’ (2016).

[viii] Thomas F Pettigrew and Linda R Tropp, When groups meet: The dynamics of intergroup contact (Psychology Press 2011).

[ix] Gunnar Lemmer and Ulrich Wagner, ‘Can we really reduce ethnic prejudice outside the lab?: A meta-analysis of direct and indirect contact interventions’ (2015) 45(2) EJSP 152.

[x] Stefania Paolini and others, ‘Positive and extensive intergroup contact in the past buffers against the disproportionate impact of negative contact in the present’ (2014) 44(6) EJSP 548.

[xi] UNHCR, ‘Stimmungslage der österreichischen Bevölkerung in Bezug auf Asylsuchende’ (2011) <http://medienservicestelle.at/migration_bewegt/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/IBIB_UNHCR_Asyl_%C3%96sterreich_2011.pdf&gt; accessed 21 July 2016.

[xii] Robert Bosch Stiftung, ‘Asyl und Asylbewerber: Wahrnehmungen und Haltungen der Bevölkerung 2014’ (2014).

[xiii] Pettigrew and Tropp (n 8).

[xiv] UN General Assembly, ‘In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants’ (n 7) 11, 15.

[xv] UN General Assembly, ‘Draft Declaration For High-Level Meeting To Address Large Movements Of Refugees And Migrants’ (12 July 2016) Para. 1.11 <http://www.un.org/pga/70/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/08/High-Level-Meeting-on-addressing-large-movements-of-refugees-and-migrants.pdf&gt; accessed 25 July 2016.

Jonas Bergmann is a consultant for the KNOMAD Thematic Working Group on Migration and Environmental Change as well as for the Climate Policy Team at the World Bank. Prior to this, Mr. Bergmann worked and interned with the Institute for the Study of International Migration, Human Rights Watch, the Berkeley Center, the Global Public Policy Institute, the International Human Rights Unit of the German Foreign Service, and the Chilean National Human Right Institute. Mr. Bergmann has also participated in various refugee and migration networks and co-founded two local empowerment NGOs in Germany and the USA. Migration, Human Rights, and Sustainable Development have constituted key areas of interest in both his graduate studies as a Fulbright/DAAD fellow in the M.Sc. in Foreign Service at Georgetown University and in his B.A. in International Affairs in Dresden, Valparaíso, and Lyon.

The author wishes to thank Dr. Sylvie Graf, Dr. Stefania Paolini, and Prof. Dr. Uli Wagner for their helpful comments on an earlier draft.

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Catholic Poles react to Pope’s washing the feet of refugees

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On the evening he was betrayed, Jesus “poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:5).

On Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees, declaring them children of the same God. The root of this tradition can be found in the hospitality customs of ancient civilizations, especially where sandals were the main footwear. Many people watching Pope Francis washing the feet of refugees perceived this ritual as a gesture of welcome and brotherhood at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has spiked following the Brussels attacks.

While the Pope’s gesture brought tears to the eyes of the migrants, the reaction in Catholic Poland was the opposite of what the Pope intended. The Pontiff wanted to sharply contrast the gesture of fraternity with the gesture of war and of destruction committed in Brussels just three days before Holy Thursday.

The reactions of the Polish faithful? “The Pope (if you can call him that) desecrated the Holy Thursday, ” “Francis! Sorry, but you keep on losing the respect of the faithful,” “It’s a gesture of submission, weakness, and stupidity,” “I wonder whether he will be washing the feet of jihadists when they bomb Vatican,” “The Pope lost his marbles!”

Who are these commentators? Hooligans? Nationalists? PEGIDA members? Unfortunately, similar sentiments are expressed by some of the Polish clergy, often from the pulpit, and politicians. Conservative Catholic politicians have denounced the key issue of the Gospel, so near and dear to the heart of Pope Francis, of welcoming the stranger and loving thy neighbor. Instead, they accuse Muslim refugees of spreading diseases, being barbarian, murdering and raping European women, and wanting to introduce Sharia law in Europe. Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the Law and Justice Party, said Poles should be afraid of parasites and other diseases refugees and immigrants bring with them. Some journalists hoped that Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, would want to distance himself from the opinions expressed by Kaczyński, but sadly he only reinforced these fears.

Polish citizens share sentiments expressed by politicians. According to a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center in Warsaw, the majority of Poles opposed resettlement of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. After the attacks in Paris, two-third of Poles (64%) opposed resettlement of Muslim refugees. The same cannot be said about attitudes to Ukrainian refugees from areas of armed conflict. They have always enjoyed higher support than refugees from Africa and the Middle East. At present, three-fifths of Poles (60%) support giving asylum to refugees from Ukraine, while a third of respondents (33%) oppose this policy.

So what is at work here? On the one hand, Poles and the Polish government extol the virtues of adhering to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but on the other hand seem to be very selective in choosing Gospel messages to follow. It seems that a primordial ideal of national identity—ironically often equated with being a Catholic—trumps the card. Poles think that Muslim refugees would always be loyal to their countries of origin and could never be counted on defending Poland.

Poland is not a country for Catholics in the style of Francis. When the Pope visits Poland this summer, government representatives and politicians will shamelessly kiss the papal ring, promote papal masses , and maybe even pose for a selfie with the Pope, but when the Pontiff will call for building bridges, the Poles will continue to call for sealing borders.

 

 

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