January 2019, Volume 25, Number 1
Europe continues to grapple with foreigners seeking asylum. In November 2018, 77 migrants from South Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Somalia who were rescued in the Mediterranean and taken to Misrata in Libya refused to dis-embark, saying they feared torture in Libya. Some 8,000 migrants were being held in Libyan detention centers in November 2018.
The EU-funded Libyan Coast Guard has reduced the number of migrants reaching Europe across the Mediterranean from 27,000 in October 2015 to less than 1,300 in October 2018. Spain has become the major southern European destination for migrants, with over 57,200 arriving by sea in 2018, followed by 32,500 arriving in Greece and 23,4000 in Italy.
UNHCR reported that 115,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in 2018, down from 172,000 in 2017.
Eurobarometer polls found that immigration is the main concern of 40 percent of EU residents in Fall 2018, double the 20 percent who named terrorism as their number one concern. Between 15 and 19 percent of Europeans considered government finances, the economic situation, and climate change as the top EU concern. Immigration and terrorism have been the top concerns of EU residents since 2010.
Hilary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, warned Europeans in November 2018 to deal with perceptions that migration is out of control to slow the rise of populist parties. Clinton said that European leaders should announce that their countries would no longer "be able to continue to provide refuge and support" to migrants.
Former President Barack Obama in July 2018 said "It's not wrong to insist that national borders matter? that laws need to be followed [and] whether you're a citizen or not is going to matter to a government. [Immigrants] should make an effort to adapt to the language and customs of their new home."
Global Witness and Transparency International released a report in October 2018 that concluded the "golden visa" programs that offer residence or citizenship in exchange for investments fuel corruption. EU nations offering golden visas attracted almost $30 billion since 2008, including $5.5 billion for Cyprus, while granting 6,000 new citizenships and offering residence to 100,000 foreigners. Many of those investing to become citizens are Chinese and Russian.
Britain. Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government struggled to win approval of a 585-page Brexit deal that leaves the UK in a customs union with the EU but allows Britain to regulate immigration from EU countries. British voters in June 2016 approved Brexit by 52-48 percent. During the 2017 general election, both the Conservative and Labor parties promised to honor the Brexit referendum result.
Some view the Brexit vote as symbolic of the tradeoff between the economic benefits of international cooperation and integration and the political urge for national sovereignty. The weak recovery from the 2008-09 recession in the UK and other European countries highlighted growing inequality and gaps between nationalists and globalists.
France. France was rocked by "yellow vest" protests against higher gasoline taxes in November-December 2018 that reflected broader dissatisfaction with stagnant wages and inequality. Vandals or casseurs joined the protestors, burning cars and smashing windows along the Champs Elysees boulevard in downtown Paris on several Saturdays before Christmas.
In response to the protests, President Emmanuel Macron postponed fuel tax increases for a year, reduced a tax increase on pensions of less than E2,000 a month, and announced a E100 a month increase in the minimum wage in 2019. Macron, whose approval rating dropped to 30 percent in December 2018, threatened to crack down on the vandalism that accompanied the protests.
The question is whether Macron can continue to implement policies that make the economy and labor market more flexible. Macron wants to reduce taxes on business to encourage investment and job creation, but raise other taxes to generate revenue for an expansive welfare state (French solidarity) that Macron wants to shrink. There is pressure on Macron to reinstate a wealth tax and to reverse payroll tax adjustments that aimed to lower employer-paid taxes.
The OECD reported in December 2018 that France had the world's highest taxes: central, state and local governments absorbed over 46 percent of economic output, slightly more than in Denmark. The average tax take of all levels of government in OECD countries was 34 percent. The US tax take was 27 percent, while Mexico's tax take was the lowest in the OECD at 16 percent.
Germany. About three-fourths of the 1.5 million asylum seekers of working age who entered Germany since 2014 were from eight countries: Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.
Of those who arrived after 2014, eight percent were employed at the end of 2015 and 28 percent were employed in mid-2018. Smaller shares, six and 23 percent, were employed in jobs for which employers and workers contribute payroll taxes for social insurance. The gap reflects the fact that some of those considered employed are in paid internships and other forms of on-the-job training.
Chancellor Angela Merkel in August 2015 announced that Syrians who passed through safe countries such as Greece and Hungary en route to Germany would not be returned to the safe countries through which they passed. Merkel said "wir schaffen das," meaning that Germany would succeed in integrating Syrian refugees. Time magazine called Merkel the Chancellor of the Free World and named her Person of the Year for 2015.
Merkel's announcement opened the floodgates, and over a million migrants set out for Germany, Sweden, and other countries, with a record 12,000 arriving in Munich September 12, 2015. Most Germans welcomed the newcomers, volunteering at shelters that housed them and sometimes opening their homes to them.
But there were arson attacks on housing meant for asylum seekers, and protests against Muslim migrants after terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and attacks on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve in 2015. The Alternative for Germany party, which opposes especially Muslim immigration won 13 percent of the vote in 2017 elections.
Merkel was replaced as leader of the governing CDU party in December 2018 by Saarland Premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Merkel will serve out her term as chancellor until 2021, and may be replaced by Kramp-Karrenbauer.
In October 2018, voters in the states of Bavaria and Hesse punished the mainstream CDU-CSU-SPD parties that form the national coalition government, giving more votes to leftist and rightist parties. The anti-migrant AfD party is now represented in all 16 state parliaments and is the main opposition party in the federal Parliament, with 94 seats.
New anti-migrant groups such as youthful Generation Identity have raised money for publicity stunts, including hanging a "secure borders ? secure future" banner on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. They call for re-migration, or returning migrants to their countries of origin, rather than allowing Europe's Muslim population to grow. Some members of the Generation Identity movement have links to the AfD.
By some estimates, two-thirds of asylum seekers arriving since 2015 were economic migrants rather than refugees. However, those whose applications for asylum were rejected have proven difficult to deport.
The German government in December 2018 approved a new law to attract skilled non-EU workers. The Fachkr?ftezuwanderungsgesetz ends labor market certification, the requirement that employers prove there are no EU workers available before receiving visas for non-EU workers, but certification can be reintroduced if German workers are adversely affected by more foreign workers. Skilled non-EU workers can receive six-month job search visas to enter Germany to search for a job.
The most contentious issue involved rejected asylum seekers. Tolerated foreigners who cannot be deported may stay in Germany up to 30 months if they have jobs and are considered "well integrated." Critics fear that this provision may encourage foreigners to seek asylum in Germany, not be accepted as refugees but tolerated because they cannot be returned, and then work legally for several years. In June 2018, 174,000 of the 230,000 rejected asylum seekers were being tolerated in Germany.
The Wall Street Journal on October 17, 2018 reviewed conflicts between rival Arab and Kurdish gangs. Foreigners are about 15 percent of German residents, but they are three-fourths of those arrested for pick pocketing and a third of those arrested for all types of crime.
A dozen predominantly Arab and Kurdish families with an estimated 1,000 criminal members dominate organized crime in Berlin. Most receive welfare payments and operate drug and prostitution rings. The influx of asylum seekers in 2015 has given these families new recruits, but new rivalries also lead to increased violence.
Some politicians say that political correctness prevented the government from dealing effectively with ethnic criminal gangs. Police say that convictions are hard to obtain because witnesses are reluctant to testify and criminals register their wealth as owned by relatives who are abroad.
Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the League and one of the two leaders of the populist government, uses an "Italians First" slogan to build support for an anti-migrant and nationalist message. Coalition partner Five-Star won more votes, but has been eclipsed by Salvini and the failure of the Five-Star mayor of Rome to govern effectively. Rome's trash collection has become erratic.
The mayor of Lodi in the Po River Valley in October 2018 ordered immigrant parents to prove they did not have assets or wealth in their country of origin to obtain subsidized school lunches for their children or pay E5 a day for lunch. After an outcry, donors provided E80,000 so that the immigrant children could eat subsidized lunch with other students. Most of Lodi's pupils are considered foreigners, including some born in Italy.
The population of Venice (La Serenissima or The Most Serene) fell to 53,000 in 2018, while the average number of visitors rose to 82,000 a day. Many ex-Venice residents live in Mestre or Treviso on the mainland, which has 175,000 residents. Venice in the 1950s had 175,000 residents.
Poland. Some 200,000 legal migrant workers from Ukraine were employed in Polish agriculture in 2014, but over 500,000 worked on Polish farms in 2018, the world's largest seasonal farm worker program. Another 60,000 Ukrainians were employed on German farms in 2018.
Turkey. After a failed June 2016 coup attempt, Recep Tayyip Erdogan led a crackdown on dissent, arresting and firing hundreds of thousands of public employees who were alleged to be sympathetic to Fethullah Gulen, a preacher living in the US.
One result has been rising emigration: 178,000 Turks emigrated in 2016, and 250,000 in 2017, and 33,000 applied for asylum abroad. Many of the emigrants are the best and brightest who are confident they can find good jobs abroad.
Secular Turks began to protest Erdogan's policies in 2013, when Erdogan supported a plan to convert a park in Istanbul into a shopping center. The trickle of younger emigrants after 2016 was joined by wealthier Turks who invested in countries that offer golden immigrant visas for investments such as Malta and Portugal.
China. China's economy is slowing, and overcapacity in many industries and in housing could lead to a severe recession. An estimated 65 million apartments in Chinese cities, about 20 percent of the total 325 million, are believed to be vacant because developers built more than could be sold or rented. Housing contributed a third of China's recent economic growth, and many families bought additional housing because they could not move their money overseas and the Chinese stock market has been falling.
Japan. Beginning April 1, 2019, the Japanese government will allow up to 345,150 semi-skilled foreign workers to work in 14 occupations with renewable five-year work visas. The government suggested that 50,000 caregivers for the elderly could be admitted; 45,000 restaurant workers; 35,000 construction workers; 30,000 janitors; and 25,000 farm workers. Those with technical skills may arrive with families and stay indefinitely.
December 2018 polls suggest that two-thirds of Japanese oppose the new guest worker program. Japan has put a higher priority on social stability rather than faster economic growth. The new labor migration policy will test how this balance.
Japan had 2.6 million foreign residents and 1.3 million foreign workers in October 2017. Over 40 percent of these foreign workers were trainees who work-and-learn on farms and in construction and small manufacturing firms and foreign students who may work a maximum 28 hours a week, but in practice often work far more hours in convenience stores and restaurants.
Many trainees and students consider the fees and tuition they pay the cost of working at high wages in Japan. Trainees must remain with the employer to whom they are assigned for their maximum five years; foreign students may change employers.
Trainees will be able to get a second five-year visa if they acquire skills as a trainee, giving them up to 10 years in Japan. Some Japanese say that the result could be migrants in Japan a decade who decide to remain illegally. Korea converted its trainee program into a foreign worker program, and had 353,000 unauthorized foreigners in 2017, up from 209,000 in 206.
Uganda. Uganda has 1.25 million refugees, for which it receives $200 million in aid to allow refugees to farm small plots of land that are donated by rural villages; a third of this refugee aid goes to natives. Natives often live segregated from newcomers, as when natives are in one part of a rural village and refugees in another.
During the rule of Idi Amin and the terror of Joseph Kony, many Ugandans fled to South Sudan. Some of the refugees moving to Uganda today are from South Sudan.