Finally, every country in the EU has capitulated to the lowest common denominator of the immigration obsessed tabloids. At least we were the last one standing.
Migration is one of the great touchstones points of our age. It tends to make people slightly irrational, both those for and against.
Worriers tend to see great hordes of the unwashed coming across the horizon to take our jobs, inundate our culture and introduce us to female circumcision and foul-smelling herbs.
The blasé see interesting shops and liberation from spuds and cabbage.
Common sense rests somewhere in between. Two facts arise: first, eighty per cent of the world’s people would be better off if they moved to Ireland, and second, even so, they’re not all coming.
With one billion people living a dollar a day and another billion living on two dollars a day it is difficult to argue that some of them wouldn’t want to come to Ireland. The anti-immigration crowd are on the side of common sense there. Furthermore, a huge number of poor people are risking everything to come to Europe. That’s a fact – all to frequently testified to by drownings and suffocations en route.
The flipside is that in the medium and long-term immigration is good for the recipient countries. Migrants, by their very nature, tend to be dynamic people. Migrants tend to be ambitious, they tend to be entrapreneurial, they tend to pack off their kids to university and the like.
That’s when all things are equal. If they are weighed down by prejudice and racism, or if they split themselves off from society, things may not go so well.
It also depends on what part of their societies they come from. Generally, people who make it to Ireland are not the poorest in their own countries. The people who live on a dollar a day wouldn’t have the wherewithal, financial or otherwise, to make it to Ireland.
In any case, economic disparity is a prime cause of migration. Rather like a house has a ‘K’ value that measures the insulation properties of the walls. The amount of heat passing through the walls will be dependent on the difference between the cold on the outside and the heat on the inside. The bigger the difference, the more heat will be passing through the wall.
As the EU expands, those on the other side of our new borders will be that much poorer. If we can accelerate the economic growth rates of the new countries (which is the prime purpose of the EU) then the disparity at the EU borders will grow.
Those who live in a cold house will know that at this point you try to improve the insulation – ostensibly to keep the cold out but in reality to keep the heat in. To bring the analogy to its logical conclusion, that’s when you end up with ‘Fortress Europe’.
At some point the real answer to ‘unwanted’ economic migration will have to be faced and that is to move the world’s wealth in the other direction to end once and for all the obscene gap between rich and poor.
Somehow, I think bigger walls and higher fences will be more attractive in the short-term. But they won’t last.