By Yaël Ossowski | 3H Magazine, translated into Turkish by Zübeyr Kavık
Spanning over 420 million people and thousands of kilometers of
territory, the Schengen Area, the area of complete freedom of movement
within Europe’s borders, is one of the greatest successes of the modern
Though less than 20 years old, it is one of the best live models for
how the principles of open trade and open borders can actually be
implemented into the real world and according to real political
But as many people in Turkey know, the ability to travel freely
within the EU does not guarantee the same for those seeking to get in,
and it surely does not provide a perfect solution for dealing with
people from the outside.
In fact, “Fortress Europe”, the external borders of the European
Union, are today at the very forefront of so many facets of complex
immigration and refugee policy. Whether it’s in the south or west of
Europe, states on the periphery of Europe commit themselves to keeping
foreigners from entering the EU, and by extension, the Schengen Area.
The latest plan handed down from the European Union suggests
shuffling around as many as 40,000 refugees throughout the European
member states, aiming to put as many as possible in economically vibrant
areas. It would also equip southern states with the ability to destroy
the ships of smugglers who are bringing people to the continent from
northern Africa, Turkey, and more.
So while all may be harmonious inside, just outside the borders,
people are not allowed to vote with their feet and move to Europe if
they so desire. And the EU states spend millions on this.
Aided financially by the EU, Greece pays over 200 million euros to
guard its external borders while Bulgaria pays just under 40 million.
This year, the Greeks earmarked 6 million euros alone for Operation
Aspida, the plan to implement total protection and surveillance at the
Greece-Turkey land border.
This reduced the number of migrants entering into Bulgaria from
Turkey from a high of 8,000 in 2013 to just 202 in 2014, according to
the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry.
But that’s including the fact that over 60 percent of these migrants
are refugees escaping the violence and destruction in Syria, estimates
While war is on their doorstep, these people are turning to the
Mediterranean Sea and the hope of escaping and finding better means to
care for themselves and their families in Europe.
Have no doubt: most economic migrants and refugees can actually
afford the trip. What they can’t afford are the complex bureaucratic
requirements that come with applying for a visa in any first-world
nation such as my native Canada or the United States. Immigrants are
asked to complete so much work for a tourist or permanent resident visa,
and normally don’t have the resources to file again once if they are
As such, politicians and bureaucrats have made it next to impossible
for well-meaning people to enter into the EU with dignify. This drives
many of them to take risky, dangerous ships which carry them from Libya
to an island in Italy or Greece, where they later claim asylum and then
hope to make it to the UK, Sweden, or France. And those are the lucky
Approximately 25,000 people since the year 2000 have died trying to
cross Europe’s outer borders, according to the International
Organization for Migration. All of them must dedicate huge portions of
their savings to give to the smugglers in order to get them across,
despite whether they actually make it ashore or not.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
If one is to imagine a European Union system in which asylum seekers
and all migrants are welcomed within Europe’s borders without
justification, what would this mean for our societies? Would they be
richer? Poorer? Less free? More free? All the studies on mass
immigration have revealed the plain fact that immigration is very
positive for the economy, generating new jobs and new opportunities not
The latest estimate posits that scrapping migration restricts would
help grow global GDP by as much as 147 percent, or $80 trillion.
Considering Europe’s high unemployment numbers and the problem of its
slowing birthrate, more immigration could be exactly what nations need
to get back on their feet and make their countries prosperous again.
This kind of unfettered immigration is exactly what existed for many years and allowed western nations to develop.
Austrian author Stefan Zweig recounts the devastating transition to
requiring passport travel documents in the 1910s by stating that
“perhaps nothing more graphically illustrates the monstrous relapse the
world suffered after the First World War than the restrictions on
personal freedom of movement and civil rights,” he rote in his
autobiography The World of Yesterday. “Before 1914 the earth belonged to
the entire human race. Everyone could go where he wanted and stay there
as long as he liked.”
If Zweig’s romantic vision could be restored, what would it mean for
the thousands of refugees aiming to better their lives in a new country?
But will the refugees and immigrants be able to adapt properly?
That’s a very fastidious concern from the populist parties of the
right-wing across European countries. They believe the introduction of
new cultures and new peoples within a society creates “divided
communities” which may threaten the very fabric of society.
Thankfully, fellow Canadian journalist and author Doug Saunders can shed some light on this aspect.
His recent reporting in Germany reveals asylum seekers have actually
been well integrated into German life and the economy, contrary to the
wishes of many anti-immigrant voices within the country.
“It helps considerably that Germany has recently ended its policy of
banning refugees from seeking employment: This had left many earlier
asylum seekers loitering in public squares and shopping malls, falling
into marginal lives and giving a bad image to immigrants in general –
and depriving Germany of badly needed labour. Now they can work after
three months, and employers and municipalities are pressuring Berlin to
let them work sooner,” writes Saunders in the Globe and Mail newspaper.
It is these kind of observations which lead us to see that having
more open borders in Europe would not be some kind of disaster scenario.
In fact, it would save lives, create economic growth, and open up an
entire continent to the diverse and beautiful countries throughout the
All in all, the fact remains that people are willing to cross borders to seek a better life.
If the European Union can adopt this attitude and move towards a more
relaxed policy which allows more and more people to immigrate and start
their lives over, it will be a net benefit for all.