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Thread: Europe's Migrancy Problem Gains Urgency

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    Post Europe's Migrancy Problem Gains Urgency

    Europe's Migrancy Problem Gains Urgency

    As yet another shipload of illegal migrants is discovered off southern Italy, the pressure increases on EU states to resolve the migration issue.

    At least 13 people were found dead in a small wooden boat adrift in the Mediterranean between North Africa and Italy, and many more are believed to have died during a strenuous three-week odyssey to Europe’s shores.

    On Monday a spokesperson for the Italian coastguard, which fished out the 40-foot vessel southeast of the island of Lampedusa, said that the pile of decaying corpses and severely emaciated survivors was like something straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

    Captain Stefano Valfre, who first sighted the ship drifting near Sicily, told reporters that the 15 surviving refugees had said that as many as 100 people had originally boarded the boat, and that they had thrown the bodies of the dead overboard, until they had become too weak to do even that.

    The incident, the second to have hit Italy in just a few days, draws attention to the plight of illegal migrants heading for Europe. Although Italy has been most recentlyaeffected by the ceaseless wave of refugees lapping at its door, the problem is one that all of Europe faces.

    Europe dogged by migrant problem

    Last week, Spanish authorities detained over 550 migrants trying to reach European shores in 12 boats. And in September, seven illegal migrants thought to be from Pakistan were killed by landmines as they attempted to cross from Turkey into Greece -- whereevery year tens of thousands are smuggled over to Europe from countries such as Turkey, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    The recent surge in illegal arrivals along Europe's southern shores brought the question of migration control into especially sharp focus at the meeting of EU interior ministers currently being held in La Baule, France.

    During the talks which focussed on migration and terrorism, Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu described the latest incident as "a human tragedy that weighed, above all, on Europe's civil conscience." But he also urged African states to do more to stem the flood of migrants in search of a better life in Europe, adding that "it puts in the spotlight African governments who are doing nothing to control this exodus."

    A non-quantifiable figure

    Bodies such as the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) estimate that the population of Europe is rising by up to one million a year, including illegal migration, but stress that the phenomenon is not statistically quantifiable.

    Each year, hundreds of thousands slip through Europe's borders and wash up its shores, unobserved and uncounted. And as the EU expands eastwards and its borders touch those of states such as the Ukraine and Russia, where human trafficking is already a known problem, many in the European Commission fear Europe will be overwhelmed with even more illegal migrants.

    "Fortress Europe"

    With seemingly more urgency than ever, the interior ministers from France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain forged ahead with their plans for toughening up their border security.

    French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the creation of a "European security zone" for protection against illegal immigration via the Mediterranean Sea, which would be patrolled both along the European and African coast.

    The five ministers discussed a "three plus three" cooperation deal involving France, Italy and Spain sponsoring efforts in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to halt the exodus of clandestine migrants.

    The "Big Five" also announced they had agreed to boost police cooperation, reforming the collective EU police agency Europol, clamping down on gangs dealing in human trafficking, and putting microchips on visas for the EU's Schengen area that would include fingerprints and face-scans in digital form.

    Nicolas Sarkozy rejected suggestions the EU was being turned into "Fortress Europe," reducing the numbers arriving by making migrants' chances of entry less and less likely.

    National sensitivities

    Last week, a number of EU states resisted a plan to introduce quotas on legal immigration, expressing doubts about how it could work in practice. The scheme foresaw decisions made at a national level on how many people to admit and from which country, with the European Commission assuming a coordinating function.

    For now, the Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force on May 1, 1999, provides the legal basis for a common European Union immigration policy. The deadline for a new common asylum and migration policy is set for May 2004.

    But with EU states still wrangling over the border management agency which would coordinate existing centers responsible for border control and the migration issue still a sticking point in the first European constitution, it seems that when it comes to migration, most countries are unwilling to hand over the decision-making to Brussels.

    The pressure on governments to cooperate is considerable. Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes pointed out in La Baule that "we will be forced, sooner or later, to share a part of the cost, because if a member of the European community does not defend its borders, then we will all pay for the consequences."
    And all my youth passed by sad-hearted,
    the joy of Spring was never mine;
    Autumn blows through me dread of parting,
    and my heart dreams and longs to die.

    - Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)

    Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; since it is experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind.

    - Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)

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    Not content with causing societal pollution by exporting themselves as 'overspill' to swamp European society, even in death, they succeed in causing pollution of our beaches. It seem harsh to say that, but it is the truth.

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    Demographers say immigration cannot solve Europe's aging problem

    Europe Faces Challenge of Aging Population

    Saturday , 22 July 2006

    By Michael Drudge

    The population of Europe is aging faster than that of any other continent. In the coming decades, there will be only two workers or fewer for every retiree, putting huge strains on European pension and health care systems.
    Correspondent Michael Drudge examines the issues in this report from the VOA News Center in London.

    Nearly every country in Europe is faced with the prospect of a population that is getting older, and eventually smaller.

    Women in the 25-nation European Union are, on average, bearing just 1.5 children, whereas the average should be 2.1 children per couple simply to replace the current population.

    A study by the Rand Europe think tank says the population trends pose significant barriers to Europe's 21st century goals of full employment, economic growth and social cohesion.

    European governments are pursing different policies to deal with the challenge. France gives generous benefits to couples to encourage births. Britain, Ireland and Sweden have attracted more foreign workers. But governments have been slow to take more controversial steps, such as cutting benefits and increasing the retirement age for pensioners, who are also a strong voting bloc.

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has already announced his own intention to retire from politics, says he will introduce pension reform legislation late this year that could eventually raise the British retirement age to 68.

    In response to a question from VOA at a recent news conference, Mr. Blair said similar reforms are needed across Europe.

    "I think on any basis the frank truth is that Europe's pension systems are going to have to be reformed and they are going to have to be reformed pretty radically," said Tony Blair.

    From the British leader's viewpoint, workers are going to have to start saving more of their own money for their old age.

    "The answer doesn't just lie in more taxpayers' money because the answer also has got to lie, and indeed principally lie, in people making provision for their own security," he said. "Now the problem, certainly, in the UK but also in other European countries, has been that there hasn't been the ability, the right vehicles, for people to go and save for their retirement. So that's the reason for the pension reform."

    On the question of how lavish government should be with benefits to encourage couples to have babies, Mr. Blair, who has four children, says he likes bigger families but the matter should be left for couples to decide.

    "I don't think you can do this artificially," explained Tony Blair. "It is not something I think that government can enforce, but it is obviously one of the purposes of having for people proper child care policies and enabling with better maternity rights and so on enabling families to balance work and children. That is one way that makes it easier for people to have larger families, which is a good thing."

    One method of increasing the workforce is to attract more working-age immigrants. When the European Union expanded to 25 members in 2004, Britain, Ireland and Sweden allowed residents of the new members in without restriction, despite fears in some quarters that migrants would overwhelm their economies.

    Britain alone has taken in more than 300,000 eastern Europeans, mainly from Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia.

    The EU Trade Commissioner and former British cabinet minister Peter Mandelson says Europe needs more immigrants to complete globally and meet its economic growth targets.

    "I think that other countries in the European Union should now look at the facts, learn from our experience and realize that removing barriers, opening ourselves to trade, opening ourselves to business is the best route forward for Europe," said Peter Mandelson.

    But demographers play down immigration as a solution for Europe's expected population decline. United Nations statistics say Germany alone would have to take in three million workers a year.

    A natural source of new immigrants for Europe would be North Africa and the Middle East. But that seems unlikely given the current tensions with Europe's existing Muslim populations.

    Many native Europeans point to the riots in France last year, the controversy over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and terrorist attacks in London and Madrid as reasons to not invite more Muslim immigrants.

    There also is a segment of European opinion arguing that a smaller population on the continent will be a good thing in the long run.

    One such advocate is Norman Myers, an environmental scientist at Oxford University. He believes that fewer European consumers will mean less exploitation of natural resources and degradation of the environment. That could leave a Europe for future generations with cleaner air and water and less congested cities than today's Europeans must deal with.

    VOA News


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