The recent migration crisis has brought longstanding tensions in Europe’s immigration and integration policies to the forefront. This is compounded by a concern in Europe and the US that hosting refugees and migrants from fragile and conflict-afflicted states in the Middle East and North Africa increase domestic security risks and that such persons are not easily integrated into existing socioeconomic and political systems. We believe the US and Europe need to develop a holistic approach toward their development, migration, and integration policies, as success in each field is interlinked. More effective aid can help to address the root causes conflict and fragility, reducing the pressures of forced migration at the source. At the same time, more open, inclusive, and integrative policies at home serve to buttress our credibility as a value-based community, making our efforts to address global security challenges more effective.
Development Cooperation: Coordination and Financing for a more Effective Aid System
Successful development cooperation goes back to the origins of the transatlantic partnership. The legacy of the Marshall Plan allows Europe and the US to act from a position of economic strength; today, the US and Europe are the world’s two largest donors in development and humanitarian aid, and are generally at the forefront of international efforts to respond to humanitarian crises. However, both the US and Europe often do not invest the necessary resources and attention to prevention. Both parties should be committed to meeting the 0.7% of GDP development aid target for OECD countries. But even small, continuous investments in development projects – when carried out effectively – can help to address some of the root causes of conflict, political violence, migration, and other challenges. This will be less painful and costly than dealing with the fallout of major international crises after the fact.
However, one of the major bottlenecks of effective developmental assistance in fragile and conflict-affected states has been the lack of coordination among different actors. Over the short term, the American and European aid agencies should improve their coordination mechanisms, to more systematically and formally improve synergies in their activities, while reducing programmatic and funding overlap, duplication, and competition. This needs to take place at the level of in-country actors in embassies and delegations, but should mature into more coordinated policies between US and EU at an international level. As this coordination matures, a joint comprehensive review of the development system should be carried out – including a reexamination of some of the orthodoxies of the development sector. For instance, regulations that lead to a “move the money around or budgets will be cut” mentality must be avoided. Over the long term, more sustained pooling of resources should take place. For instance, a joint trust fund can be established to provide a self-sustaining source of development finance. The differential remaining in the fund can be invested productively in the economy, prioritizing businesses involved in the green energy transformation or providing services to those in need. National ownership, rigorous policy research, and independent evaluation mechanisms should guide transatlantic efforts.
Organizational Partnership for Refugee Asylum and Protection
The massive flow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa over recent years has tested the capacity and willingness of the US and EU member states to keep their doors open to refugees. A sustainable balance between competing policy objectives, including humanitarian aid and burden-sharing, remains to be found. We propose several measures to increase fairness, efficiency, sustainability, and legitimacy of the current system.
Emergency situations like the 2015 refugee crisis make short-term burden-sharing measures inevitable. The subnational actors affected most by the admittance of refugees need to be included in decision-making and diplomatic efforts between the US, the EU and UNHCR should continue to fight traffickers as well as reach agreements on resettling refugees. Sharing expertise and best practices could also be used to increase the transparency and coherence of the asylum application procedure, thereby preventing a populist backlash, while at the same time ensuring equitable protection for asylum seekers.
All transatlantic partners must be held accountable for reducing “push factors” of forced migration by improving employment of refugees as well as standards in camps, particularly in Eastern Africa and Syria’s neighboring states. For this aim, securing the financing of UNHCR and investing in research and pilot projects is vital. Over the long term and with respect to probable climate-refugee scenarios, we support an equitable transatlantic solution and propose pooling resources, a regulated asylum system, and a humanitarian visa based on criteria of vulnerability.
Empowering NGOs and Local Communities toward Effective Integration
The steady flow of immigrants into the US and Europe is an inevitable and positive tenet of contemporary society in these regions. There must be systematic and consistent initiatives to successfully integrate migrant (including refugee) populations to stop culture-based polarization in western countries. The surge of immigrants into Germany should force the country to critically reexamine its integration practices. The US may have a long history of successful integration but this threatens to be undone by the Trump Administration.
Many key innovations in integration resources are from or will require non-governmental actors. Two services essential for integration are employment support and language skill courses. NGOs, usually not-for-profit, organize language courses and are key to softening anti-immigrant attitudes in local communities. The US non-profit sector has better organizational and funding structures than in Germany. Successful American NGOs in integration work should be committed to sharing best practices and partnering with German non-profits. Also, German and US public funding for integration should be increasingly tailored towards NGOs as they have greater operational flexibility and empower local actors to take part in the integration process.
The most successful integration initiatives are not top-down but bottom-up. Therefore, we believe municipal governments in both the US and Germany should exercise broad discretion with respect to integration policies. This includes starting private sponsorship programs for refugees, offering incentives to companies for hiring underrepresented migrant populations, and providing a cultural education curriculum. This local approach to integration ensures that the community most responsible for making migrant groups feel welcomed is an active participant in the ground-level process. Both the US and Germany have failed to be consistently transparent and communicative in describing how schools, religious institutions, and the private sector must locally engage migrant populations for successful integration.