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'Europe can't close borders in answer to hardening attitudes towards immigration'

Published time: July 02, 2014 14:36
Some two hundreds people demonstrate in the streets of Paris against the government immigration policy on March 9, 2014 in Paris. (AFP Photo / Miguel Medina)

A closed border policy cannot be an answer as it is an even more intolerant attitude towards asylum seekers, Jews, Muslims, women and immigrants, political and social commentator Mohamed Ansar told RT.

RT:We have a great clash of interests: refugees fleeing conflicts at home, and heading to Europe, but finding they're not welcome there. So where's the solution. To close borders or adopt policy changes?

Mohamed Ansar: I don’t think having a closed border policy is a right policy for the EU to move at this time. We have seen a rise of the far-right across Europe. In the recent European parliamentary elections we saw huge gains for the far-right across Europe. At the time we are seeing a schism in European politics, and we have seen left-wing socialists making large gains in response, and a counter-movement to what we have seen from the right-wing. [There is] widespread intolerance towards minority groups within Europe, and we saw a research piece a few years ago from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, another political foundation of the social democratic party in Germany, on intolerance, prejudice and discrimination in different countries which it selected throughout Europe. There has been a hardening of attitudes towards particularly immigrants, asylum seekers, Muslims, Jews, women and other minority groups. The answer can't be to close borders and to have a more intolerant attitude towards them. What we need to do is work together more closely with civil society organizations, to work closer with government and political organizations to try to find a solution to some of these problems.

RT: Germany's expressed more willingness to house refugees from Syria. But how much is the country doing to help them find work and to obtain legitimacy?

MA: Research going back to 2006 showed that this current trend that we see at the moment of prejudice against immigrants, Jews, black people and increasingly also Muslims, forms the central component of the right-wing populist and extremist attitudes and we do also see this in Germany. Whilst Chancellor Merkel and the German government have been extending their hands towards Syrian refugees and asylum seekers, what we have also seen at the same time is a hardening in attitudes towards refugees. Germany is the country in Europe which is most likely to imprison refugees; they have a very intolerant social attitude towards refugees as we have seen over the last few days in a recent stand-off with North African and Syrian refugees who are held up in a local school there.

RT: Far-right activists have become more active as the number of immigrants rise - what will it lead to? More violence on the streets?

MA: It’s a sad but understandable consequence that we will see tensions increase in Europe as the European political and social project looks to try and understand how the future is going to look in a closer working relationship with migrant communities. Some of the leading statisticians who look at population growth said that up to 2050 and 2100 whilst the European population and population in the Americas will remain relatively static, we’ll see a doubling of the population from Africa and in South-East Asia. So this challenge that we have, this societal challenge that we have for Europeans to become more tolerant, to integrate successfully into the rest of the world is going to be something that we are going to need some profound solutions on.

Far-right protesters walk during the annual far-right march, which coincides with Poland's National Independence Day in Warsaw November 11, 2013. (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)

These things don’t have added violence but we certainly do need to consider what are the best forms of dealing with some of the social problems. Largely many of these problems relate to infrastructure, housing, health, education, and while a government lives and functions in an environment of austerity and is unable to fund those areas well, we also see a complacency towards integrating funding for minority communities who are moving into Europe and new settled communities, but this is going to be the pattern of the future. If European governments are getting onboard with dealing with new migrant communities, they can find themselves increasingly isolated on the world stage.

RT: An inflow of people from other cultures and religions is often perceived as a threat to local Europeans. Is there any way to incorporate the immigrants into society?

MA: There are three main steps to prejudice which happen within Europe. One is a categorization of what I deem to be ‘the other’, the second is stereotyping and the third is a judgment or effective priming is done against these communities, which increase the likelihood of attacks, the marginalization and alienation of those communities.

Within Europe we know that the largest migrant populations in France, for example, are from North Africa and Algeria making up around 10 percent, in Great Britain they make up around 9 percent, 4 percent of whom are we believe to be Muslims. In Hungary we have far smaller populations, as we do in Italy. We have relatively large populations in the Netherlands and in Portugal as well. What we see in these countries is that the West access integration model has worked, based on education. Europe is not a Christian entity, it is a multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious region of the planet, and we need to start encouraging a more broad-based education which looks more inclusively on the contribution of those communities to European life, not just looking merely at questions of integration, hard-line counter-terrorism policies and other policies which are looking to marginalize, alienate in a culture of hysteria minorities that come from other parts of the world.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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