Skip to navigation
Skip to main content
April 2015, Volume 21, Number 2
France. France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls in January 2015 began a debate on "apartheid" in France, saying that even though the French constitution says all citizens are equally French, there are stark differences between French citizens based on race, ethnicity and religion. Valls said that France suffers from "territorial, social, ethnic apartheid."
On January 7, 2015, French-born terrorists attacked the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing staffers for what they said was desecration of Islam.
In a bid to better integrate central cities and suburbs with immigrants and their children, Paris Metropole will be created in 2016 with a regional council to oversee seven million residents. The question is whether people living in suburbs beyond the circular Peripherique that rings Paris will identify with those on the Left and Right Bank after they become part of metro Paris.
Laicite or state secularism is a defining principle of the French republic. Religious education is banned in public schools, and the French government declared that henceforth December 9 will be the Day of Laicite to ensure that "secularism is a guarantee for France." Students and parents will have to sign a charter of laicite principles and "demonstrate their willingness to respect it" beginning in Fall 2015.
France legally separated church and state in 1905 and urged citizens to keep their religious beliefs personal. In 2004, France banned head scarves and other conspicuous religious symbols in public high schools, and in 2010 banned full-faced veils in public places.
The French census does not ask questions about race, religion and ethnicity, so there is little data on incomes, employment, and other socioeconomic factors by place. One study suggested that France had only four million Muslims, not the often-suggested six million in a population of 66 million.
Germany. There were 8. 2 million foreigners registered to live in Germany at the end of 2014, the most since record-keeping began in 1967. Two-thirds are from other EU member states. Net immigration reached 519,340 in 2014, the most since the early 1990s when 613,500 arrived in 1992 and 539,800 arrived in 1991.
Some 626,000 foreigners applied for asylum in the EU in 2014, up from 435,000 in 2013, including 202,000 in Germany and 81,000 in Sweden. The largest single source country was Syria, 123,000 applications, followed by 41,000 Afghanis and 38,000 Kosovars. About half of the asylum cases decided in 2014 resulted in the foreigner being allowed to stay in the EU.
Over 60 percent of the immigrants to Germany in 2014 were from EU member states, led by almost 88,000 Romanians and 36,000 Bulgarians. Syrians were third; there were over 61,000 Syrians in Germany at the end of 2014. Turks were the largest group of foreigners in Germany, some 1.5 million at the end of 2014, but their number is declining as more become naturalized German citizens.
German leaders are struggling with a response to the Dresden-based Pegida movement, the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, which began organizing Monday demonstrations in October 2014 similar to those that eventually led to the fall of the East German leadership. Pegida supporters want to reduce immigration to Germany.
The Social Democratic party in March 2015 proposed a point system similar to that of Canada to attract skilled non-EU foreigners. Without immigration, Germany's labor force is expected to decline by over 500,000 a year as the number of retirees exceeds the number of school leavers, prompting the junior partner in the coalition government to assert that Germany must "prevent the expected decline in the potential labor force." The senior coalition partner Christian Democrats say that dealing with the influx of asylum seekers is the more pressing issue.
Over 60 percent of Germans in a Fall 2014 poll said they did not want any more non-EU immigration to Germany, but a group of 50 younger Christian Democrat parliamentary members issued a statement in support of more immigration, saying "Germany needs immigration. In 15 years, twice as many people will retire every year as offspring will leave school. The already clearly noticeable shortage of skilled workers will worsen dramatically."
Greece. Greek voters in January 2015 made the anti-austerity Syriza party the largest in the 300-seat Parliament with 36 percent of the vote, marking an end to the two-party establishment that has dominated Greek politics for four decades. Syriza promised to clean up Greece's corrupt political system, overhaul the country's public administration, and reduce the tax burden on the middle class while raising taxes on the rich and business.
The anti-immigrant Golden Dawn party won six percent of the vote, making it the third-largest vote getter.
Greece has a GDP of E 220 billion and E 320 billion of public debt. Syriza wanted creditors to write off at least half of this debt but, when other EU member states resisted, Syriza leaders instead offered to repay the debt if EU lenders allowed Greece to relax its austerity program. The Syriza-led government wants to raise the minimum wage and pension payments, rehire some laid-off government workers, and crack down on tax evasion and corruption.
Turkey grants visa-free or visa-on-arrival rights to over 120 countries, including some that are the source of unauthorized migrants in the EU such as Georgia, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia. Greece has a fence on its border with Turkey, and Bulgaria in fall 2014 began work on a 100-mile fence to prevent foreigners in Turkey from crossing into Bulgaria. Tougher land crossings encourage many migrants in Turkey to go by boat to Greek islands.
Italy. Migrants from Syria and sub-Saharan Africa continue to make the trip across the Mediterranean to Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost island, sometimes with tragic results. Italy in 2014 mounted an ambitious search and rescue program that, some argue, encouraged smugglers to send migrants into the Mediterranean in dangerous boats by assuring the migrants that they would be rescued.
Italy stopped its Mare Nostrum migrant protection program at the end of 2014, and the European border agency Frontex took over Mediterranean patrols in 2015 with Operation Triton. The International Organization for Migration estimated that, of the 218,000 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2014, over 3,500 died en route.
Over 280,000 foreigners entered the EU illegally in 2014, and in winter 2015 almost 5,000 migrants a month were trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Italy. Smugglers reportedly encourage migrants to board unsafe boats by giving them telephones programmed to call Frontex rescuers.
The EU is trying to stem the movement of migrants across the Mediterranean by opening centers in Niger, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco that allow people to apply for asylum.
UK. British voters go to the polls May 7, 2015, and immigration is a major issue. Conservatives led by Prime Minister David Cameron won the most votes in 2010 by promising to reduce immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by 2015.
In May 2015, no single party is likely to obtain a majority of the 659 seats in Parliament. Cameron in 2013 said that, if he won a second term, he would renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and then hold a referendum on EU membership under the new terms by the end of 2017. Most business leaders, who generally support the Conservatives, believe that leaving the EU would be economically disastrous for Britain.
In Britain and most other European countries, governments are formed by coalitions of political parties rather than one party. The Conservatives formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. Similar coalitions rule in other European countries including Germany, where a so-called grand coalition of the two major political parties governs. With the number of people voting for mainstream political parties dropping, these parties must find wedge issues such as immigration to motivate their key supporters.
Cameron failed to reduce immigration below 100,000 a year, a fact trumpeted by the UK Independence Party. Ukip leader Nigel Farage argues that, if the UK were to leave the EU, net migration would fall from almost 300,000 a year to 30,000 a year. Net long-term migration to the UK was 298,000 for the year ending in September 2014, up from 210,000 the previous year.
One reason for the upsurge in immigration to the UK is that EU nationals, who have the right to move to other EU countries and seek jobs, are attracted to the relatively strong British economy. The British unemployment rate in winter 2015 was 5.7 percent, about half of the Euro zone average.
Israel. There are about 22,000 Thai guest workers in Israel. Many pay up to $10,000 to Thai and Israeli brokers to get their jobs despite a bilateral agreement that caps recruitment fees at $850.
The Israeli government says that it has 50 full- and part-time inspectors to check working conditions on Israel's 5,000 farms. Many guest workers say that they are paid far less than the minimum wage, as little as $30 a day.
Israel has some of the most advanced dairy farming systems in the world. The average cow produces 28,000 pounds of milk a year, among the highest in the world. The government encouraged dairy farms to consolidate in the decade after 1997, and today 60 percent of Israel's dairy farms are located on kibbutzim, many of which have 1,000 or more cows.
Japan. Japan has 127 million residents and a population shrinking by about 250,000 a year. PM Shinzo Abe wants to admit 200,000 skilled foreigners a year to fill jobs and help to stabilize the population.
However, many Japanese oppose more immigrants. DeputyÿPrime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso in 2005 said that Japan was the only country with "one culture, one civilization, one language and one ethnic group," and that admitting immigrants would reduce this homogeneity.
Well-known author Ayako Sono in February 2015 published a column in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper acknowledging the need for more foreigners to care for the elderly, but added that foreign workers should be segregated: "I've come to believe residential areas should be separated, so whites, Asians and blacks will live among themselves? Humans can do together everything from business, research to sports. But living quarters had better be segregated." After widespread criticism, Sono said "that piece doesn't have any errors."
Japan will host the 2020 summer Olympics, and many commentators expect the government to allow construction employers to employ more foreign workers. However, a 2014 Yomiuri Shimbun poll found that only 10 percent of Japanese support admitting foreign workers to fill manual-labor jobs.
Korea. Korea allowed 42,400 foreign workers to be selected by employers in 2015 under the Employment Permit System, which allows smaller employers in manufacturing, construction and agriculture to select workers from 15 Asian countries who have passed tests of basic Korean under government-to-government agreements. The 2015 quota allocated 32,890 EPS slots to new or first-time migrants and 9,510 to migrants who were previously employed in Korea.
The EPS in 2003 began to replace an earlier foreign trainee program launched in 1993, and has since 2007 been the only way for Korean employers to hire low-skilled and non-ethnic Korean foreign workers.
Southeast Asia. The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) aims to reduce barriers to trade and investment beginning in 2016, but does not anticipate more low-skilled migration. However, low-skilled international labor migration may increase as the AEC speeds up changes that are already underway, such as the movement of youth out of rural areas, some of whom are likely to become international migrants.
In other areas of the world, free-trade agreements had major impacts on such migration, as with the movement of Mexicans to the US under NAFTA in the 1990s and the movement of Eastern Europeans to Ireland and the UK after 2004.
Over 300 mostly Burmese men who were lured to the remote Indonesian island of Benjina west of Papua New Guinea and forced to work on fishing boats escaped in April 2015. The fish they caught was sent to Thailand and exported around the world. There may be up to 4,000 trafficked and enslaved men on Benjina and surrounding islands who have been stranded by an Indonesian Fisheries Ministry moratorium on fishing in the area.
ANZ. Australia and New Zealand have programs to admit Pacific Islanders as seasonal farm workers. Up to 9,000 a year enter New Zealand, but only 2,500 enter Australia under its Seasonal Worker Program, even though Australia has far more labor-intensive fruits and vegetables than New Zealand. The Australian quota of 3,250 a year was raised to 4,200 for 2015-16.
By some estimates, there are 40,000 to 70,000 unauthorized foreign workers in Australia. Some advocate a crackdown on unauthorized migrants and an increase in the quota for Pacific Islanders so that they can earn money to rebuild after natural disasters such as Cyclone Pam that struck Vanuatu on March 13, 2015.
One reason for fewer Pacific Islanders in Australia is the availability of backpackers, youth from many countries on Working Holiday Visas who can stay in Australia up to two years if they work at least three months in agriculture, mining or construction in rural or regional Australia. An estimated 40,000 backpackers do three months of farm work each year, reducing the need for Pacific Island workers. In New Zealand, foreign backpackers get an extra three-month stay for three months of farm work.
Australia and New Zealand allow free migration between them for citizens. Until recently, up to 40,000 more New Zealanders a year moved to Australia than Australians to New Zealand, prompting the Australian government in 2001 to deny newly arrived Kiwis most housing, healthcare and unemployment benefits. There are still slightly more New Zealanders moving to Australia than vice versa, but net New Zealand to Australia net migration has fallen from over 1,000 a day to less than 100 a day in recent years.