Europe's migration problem

Europe's migration problem

Some years ago, Germany realised it was not educating enough engineers and scientists to meet the needs of the economy. Gerhard Schroeder, Chancellor at the time (1998-2005) decided to create a ‘green card’ system to allow engineers and scientists from India to work in Germany for a limited amount of time, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

Germany expected huge numbers of highly qualified Indians to grasp the opportunity and increased its consular staff to cope with the expected demand. The idea was a huge flop. It raised no interest in India.

Today Europe is suffering from a brain drain of qualified people combined with an ever increasing stream of ‘refugees’ mainly from Africa. A large number of them are less skilled, and many are not really persecuted refugees but people searching for better life. Some are attracted by Europe's welfare systems and others seek better opportunities.

Thousands of immigrants are coming to southern Europe every week, some successfully and others face drama, drowning and exploitation on their perilous journey.

Why do we face this unhealthy combination of a brain drain of talent and, to a larger extent, an influx of unskilled immigration?

The main reasons for the brain drain are the lack of opportunities and the huge amount of regulation which is stopping innovation. There are simply too many rules.

The refugees are desperate people fleeing their home countries who are unfortunately, and to their detriment, also joined by people who want to take advantage of Europe' welfare systems.

Countries in southern Europe, which are suffering high unemployment, have been left to face this problem on their own. Immigrants are arriving in huge numbers. In the first six months of 2014 around 100,000 undocumented migrants crossed the Mediterranean to Italy In 2013 there were 42,000. Spain has a very similar problem. Thousands have drowned as their makeshift boats have foundered in the Mediterranean.

This is a European problem. Spain and Italy cannot be left to face this alone. It is not possible to build a wall to keep them out as the US is planning across its border with Mexico.

The Economist claims ‘the burden should be shared’. I disagree with the wording, especially ‘burden’ and ‘ share’. We should convert this situation into an opportunity. The opportunity can certainly be ‘shared’ and countries can find projects to improve their infrastructure and invest in the future. More business-friendly environments and less state intervention would also help business to create new jobs.

Europe has to jump the barrier of over-protecting labour and social laws and offer these people the chance to work across Europe. It may appear difficult as many of the migrants are unskilled and Europe already faces an unemployment problem.

The refugees should certainly not be exploited, but they should also not be left idle and receive all sorts of benefits. There is enough work, as Germany showed, but too many jobs are left unfilled because of bureaucratic and over-protecting labour laws in most European countries.

A united European effort is required. The challenge is to reduce the brain drain, or even better, substitute it with a ‘brain exchange’ by eliminating over-regulation which is limiting growth and employment. The other challenge is to integrate the flow of unskilled into the work process.

Chances should be given to those wanting to work and adapt. But criminal behaviour should not be tolerated. It should be punished quickly and effectively, and followed by immediate deportation.

Related reports

Europe’s demographic tsunami

The EU’s foreign policy overreaction

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