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August 30, 2012 |  8 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Elizabeth Collett

Towards More Strategic Immigration Enforcement in Europe

Elizabeth Collett: The deportation of unauthorized immigrants can be enacted through various policy initiatives, each with its own challenges. European governments should adopt a more ‘nuanced’ approach to enforcement policies - both return and regularisation - based on an understanding of risk, effectiveness and need.

Governments are often under pressure to place resources in the most visible areas of illegal immigration policy, not least border management, bolstering immigration control in airports and augmenting border patrols. However, they must also address the pool of migrants who have circumvented migration policies, both those who entered illegally and those who arrived legitimately but overstayed the terms of entry (the majority of the unauthorized in Europe).

On both sides of the Atlantic, the preferred policy goal for dealing with this population is identification and return (or deportation). A number of countries in Europe have articulated a zero tolerance approach, in some cases criminalizing unauthorized residence. Achieving 100 percent return, however, is both expensive and unfeasible. Governments need to begin to make strategic choices about how they enforce immigration laws, focusing on cost, likely harm and feasibility, and about which groups to pursue and who to protect.

The recently announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy in the United States is one example of this type of policy-making. Under this initiative, unauthorized immigrants who arrived as children may be granted two-year relief from deportation, thus narrowing the pool of unauthorized immigrants subject to scrutiny from immigration enforcement agencies, by eliminating those who had little or no choice in their migration journey.

There are two options facing governments in the implementation of return policy: removing the greatest number of unauthorized immigrants or removing those who pose the greatest threat. Many governments, including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, use the latter approach, focusing on organized criminals and gang activity as a priority. This is a more targeted approach, but also resource-intensive in terms of intelligence and careful police work.

Some governments opt for a universal approach that prioritizes numbers, often pursuing a predefined quota. The drawback to this is the uncertainty with respect to cost allocation (closely linked to how many individuals are located) and the fact that enforcement officers frequently target those posing the least threat as they present the low-hanging fruit. For example, in 2010, 30 percent of effected returns from France were Romanian nationals, and nearly a quarter of the remaining returns were made up of just three additional nationalities, Algerian, Tunisian, and Moroccan.

There are additional policy challenges. First, locating and identifying unauthorized individuals for return is challenging, particularly if the country of origin is uncooperative. Second, processing returns is expensive. In 2011, the European Union conducted 39 joint return operations, returning 2,038 individuals at a cost of €7.84 million - or €3,845 per person (much lower than national costs). This is just a fraction of those returned from Europe each year.

It is in this context that regularization has emerged as a "policy valve" to complement incomplete enforcement strategies. In Europe, many governments are loath to employ regularization policies: they are unpopular among publics and are perceived as an acknowledgement of policy failure. Regardless, a number of countries, from Spain to Poland, have effected regularizations in recent years. The central enforcement goal of regularization is a pragmatic one: to reduce unauthorized residence and labor, though not the size of the immigrant population itself. As such, focusing regularization on those who have deeper ties to the country is one way of making the policy more palatable and effective.

Given the deep sensitivities and heated political debate that surround immigration enforcement, governments tend to articulate a high standard for successful intervention, or rather, a low tolerance for policy failure. However, applying laws mechanistically, without consideration for context or nuance, is not the answer any more than making rules that are unenforceable, applied inconsistently, or that the government does not intend to enforce. Doing so breeds cynicism among publics, invites further illegal behavior, and, over time destroys a government's credibility.

European governments should consider adopting more nuanced, contextualized policy, incorporating the full range of policy tools at their disposal. In this respect, the US DACA policy holds a number of policy lessons for European governments still focused on a one-size-fits-all enforcement approach for unauthorized immigration.


This article draws from a memo co-authored with Will Somerville, Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, for the most recent meeting of MPI's Transatlantic Council on Migration, entitled "Trade-offs in immigration enforcement".

Elizabeth Collett is the Director of Migration Policy Institute Europe, a non-profit, independent research institute that aims to provide a better understanding of migration in Europe. She holds a master's degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and a bachelor's degree in law from Oxford University.

This article is published as part of the "Border Policies: Lessons for Improvement" theme week.

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Unregistered User

August 30, 2012

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Wow, that is incredible that it costs the European Union ¤3,845 to return an illegal immigrant on average. And that is less than what member states spend...? A plane ticket should be much cheaper.

Thank you for your recommendation that the EU can learn from the US DACA policy. What measures should the EU adopt in addition to granting unauthorized immigrants who arrived as children two-year relief from deportation? Besides, what happens after two years? Won't this make deportation even more harsh for the kids, you build a life during that time?
 
Jason  Naselli

August 30, 2012

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I wonder what the author thinks of today's UK government decision to withdraw visa sponsorship rights from a British university for the first time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19419395

Seems designed to do just what she is suggesting: get the most bang for the buck. By making an example out of a prominent uni, I'm sure they are hoping to 'scare straight' a number of other institutions with a history of dubious enforcement of regulations. They've even set up a task force to assist legitimate students of the uni: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/aug/30/taskforce-london-me...

If it works as intended (jury is of course still out), then I would argue it is a good example of a government on this side of the Atlantic using 'the full range of policy tools at their disposal'.
 
Veronika  Valdova

September 2, 2012

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Deportation of EU nationals back to their “home countries” is the end of the EU
This argument is a prima facie dangerous inflammatory nonsense. There is nothing like “an illegal immigrant from an EU member state to another member state”. All treaties which gave legitimacy to the foundation of the European Union would have to be abandoned, broken, disregarded, and ignored. There is nothing wrong with deporting people who got to the EU illegally and were convicted of a crime, including forgery of official documents.

1) You do not deport EU nationals just because you do not like them.
2) You do not deport victims of identity fraud, witnesses, freelancing professionals, victims of organized crime, and plaintiffs whose legal matters you do not feel like dealing with
3) You do not deport perfectly good professionals from other EU member states just because some retarded politician believes that it is cheaper to get the same workforce from India

Let’s look at the facts. Some people need to visualize the facts in a little bit more straightforward manner to be able to understand them:
1) United Kingdom is a group of islands, surrounded by sea from all sides. All points of entry such as ports and airports can easily be controlled. Very few immigrants swam over the Channel or used their Magic Carpet to get in. Somebody allowed them in.
2) The people who allowed them in
a. Followed regulations which were in place at that time and therefore these immigrants cannot be illegal. If they overstayed their visa they naturally fall in the category of illegal immigrants and their cases should be dealt with through standard means and not via inflammatory language and popular demand for mass deportation
b. Did not follow the regulations which were in place at that time and in such a case they should not be in public service.
3) Let’s put things in perspective: deporting perfectly good EU nationals who are only trying to make their living within the rules of supposedly functional EU whilst pampering individuals like Abu Hamza, Abu Qatada, and Saif al-Islam smells like a rat. This analogy requires some basic level of abstract thinking to modify the Duck test to the Rat test: If it smells like a rat, walks like a rat, and behaves like a rat, it is probably a rat.
Tags: | EU | immigration | deportation |
 
Tabatha  Robinson

September 3, 2012

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Veronika,

Thank you for your comment. It seems as if you are making the case that the deportation policy should prioritize those individuals whose presence in the EU is not only unauthorized but also serves as a menace to society. Could you elaborate more on what this policy would look like? Where is the cut off for menaces and positive contributors? Does criminal activity determine who should be allowed to stay and who should be returned to their country of origin?

It seems that you suggest a rather targeted approach, and as Elizabeth's article notes, targeted approaches are often resource-intensive. Is there any way to use a targeted approach efficiently and with limited resources?

Thanks,
Tabatha
 
Veronika  Valdova

September 4, 2012

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Tabatha,

thank you for your response. Deportation should not become a tool for promotion of nationalism and a way how to resolve economic crisis by dropping other EU nationals who took the risk and traveled abroad to make a living outside their home country job market from welfare systems. This particularly affects new EU member states.

Deportation of freelancers, so-called migrant workers and professionals who stayed in a specific EU member state for period shorter than is required for eligibility for specific benefits, including unemployment benefits and maternity, and later pension, creates a very dangerous social phenomenon: individuals who are the most active and flexible group on the job market, able to cope with multilingual environment of the EU, and most capable of transferring their skills to a different cultural environment, are exactly those who are punished by the system the worst. Their "home country" is not going to provide any assistance in case of distress because they did not pay taxes there, and the country in which they do pay taxes does not acknowledge their contributions and eligibility unless a specific time limit is met. This is specifically a problem for freelancers and contractors in many industries, from IT to pharmaceuticals, but also for all other professionals who make their living outside their home country on permanent basis but do not meet specific criteria for eligibility for welfare.

This exclusion has the potential to create large numbers of internally displaced persons with limited legal rights and eligibility for welfare compared to persons who never left their home country outside the context of pleasure trips. In worst case scenario, refugees of this kind are likely to end up in concentration camps once they have no more money because there is no group which would defend their lives and liberties.

Deportation policies have to be consistent across Europe because otherwise member states will inevitably end up undermining each others efforts depending on their domestic interests and populist demand.

Elizabeth's approach is by definition fascist because instead of targeting the problem via standard legal means it focuses on emotional needs of the populus and political agenda.

The fastest growing crime in the UK is identity fraud and document fraud which is central to the problem of illegal immigration. Logic suggests that this is impossible to achieve without the cooperation of authorities. Therefore, the public funds get misappropriated by a specific agency in order to make these unauthorized entries possible, just to be used later on by the same people to tackle the problem they themselves created.

Regards
Veronika






 
Veronika  Valdova

September 4, 2012

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Targeted approach allows targeting of perfectly good people who happen to be labelled as a threat to society for whatever agenda. Not even major players agree on one meaningful definition of terrorism.

" I. Terrorist offences
The offences listed in Article 1 form the basis for the definition of all offences mentioned by the Framework Decision: offences mentioned in Articles 2 to 4 require a connection with an Article 1 offence.
Under Article 1 of the Framework Decision, the terrorist offence is characterised by two objective elements (incrimination under national law and effective or potential consequences)28 and a subjective one (the aim of: “seriously intimidating a population,” “unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act,” or “seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental … structures of a country or an international organisation.”).
In order for an act to be qualified as a terrorist offence under the Framework Decision, judicial authorities thus have to answer the following three questions: a) Is the act at stake already incriminated under national law? b) By its nature or context, does the act “seriously damage a country or an international organisation”? c) Was the act committed for one of the aforementioned aims?"

The E.U.’s Definition of Terrorism: The Council Frame-work Decision on Combating Terrorism By Eugenia Dumitriu
http://www.germanlawjournal.com/pdfs/Vol05No05/PDF_Vol_05_No_05_585...

Defining Terrorism WP 3, Deliverable 4. Transnational terrorism, security, and the rule of law. Oct 2008.
http://www.transnationalterrorism.eu/tekst/publications/WP3%20Del%2...



Tags: | security | terrorism |
 
Tabatha  Robinson

September 4, 2012

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Hi Veronika,

Thank you for responding to my questions so soon. What I think Elizabeth was trying to get across, and she can correct me if I am wrong here, is that the targeted approach is a tool used, not that it is the best nor the worst. In fact, she doesn't seem to make a judgment about it, only that it is resource-intensive.

Secondly, I agree with your point about the dangers of a targeted approach. It can definitely, and has already, opened up the stage for racial profiling and ethnic criminalization. Nationality or ethnicity should never be the basis for conceiving of someone or someones as a threat to society. However, legitimate criminal activity is by definition a threat to the cohesion of society. Perhaps, what needs to happen is a re-evaluation and reconsideration of criminalization criteria so that they respect the rights and freedoms and diversity of all persons, including those whose presence within a country lacks authorization. This just proves the work that needs to be done must also take place beyond the offices of the decision makers; the police, for example, should be brought on board too.
 
Tabatha  Robinson

September 12, 2012

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Thinking more about regularization policies, I do think that a targeted approach--provided it is ethical and respects the rights and freedoms of immigrants--could be the best policy focus. Nonetheless, there is some controversy about giving a "pardon" to irregular immigrants just because they don't have a criminal record or have been working for a number of years. I think host countries should do all of these, but they should set a quota each year for the amount of regularizations that corresponds with the labor market somehow. Coordinating policy with the labor market could be a way to ensure that all parties involved reap benefits.
 

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