The recent migrant 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 United States that hosting refugees and migrants from fragile and conflict-afflicted states in the Middle East and North Africa increase the risk of terrorism. Beyond a military or intelligence response, we believe the United States and Europe need to develop a holistic approach towards their development, migration, and integration policies, as success in each field is interlinked. A more integrated approach can aid in the prevention of violent extremism and the resolution of humanitarian crises abroad. Improving human rights and economic opportunity abroad can curb migration, while integration at home also serves the interest of effective foreign policy.
1. A New Trust Fund to meet Official Development Assistance Targets
The United States and Europe are generally expected to take the lead when international crises arise, but do not always devote the necessary resources to solve these challenges. Foreign aid represents an important preventative option that is cost-effective over the long-term. Small, continuous investments in development projects that address some of the root causes of conflict, political violence, migration, and other challenges will be less painful than dealing with the fallout of major international crises after the fact. The European Union and the United States are the top two aid donors, but more can be done – both in terms of resources and in terms of effectiveness. The United Nations General Assembly set a goal of 0.7% of gross national income of foreign aid for OECD nations in 1970. Some nations like the UK transposed this commitment into national law, but in 2015, only six OECD nations met this goal.
The organization should hold countries accountable to this commitment without reducing the effectiveness of the development system. We can realize this goal by creating a Sustainable Development Trust Fund. A comprehensive review will determine the level of aid the development system can absorb with high efficiency. Such a fund, as do various foundations, would manage the money productively and in line with the end goal of promoting positive social change. Once transformative projects crystallize, the fund’s resources can be activated swiftly. The fund should also work closely with academics and researchers to fund work on migration and development issues in countries that both produce and host refugees.
2. Organizational Partnership for Refugee Asylum and Protection
The massive outflow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa over the past two years has tested the capacity and willingness of the United States and European Union member states’ to keep their doors open to refugees. A closed immigration policy will undermine the West’s moral authority on the international stage. In this regard, Germany has played a key role by providing refuge to hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers. It is imperative, however, that the responsibility of offering asylum to refugees is equally distributed across transatlantic actors. . Against the background of record refugee numbers, solidarity and burden sharing are essential.
We recommend extending commitments to the UN High Commissioner on refugees’ resettlement program. This can occur through a refugee resettlement partnership between the the United States and EU nations. The partnership would create a shared vetting process for asylum applicants. When nations insist on highly restrictive refugee asylum policies, the partnership would set humanitarian aid goals for countries shouldering the biggest burden of refugees, currently Syria’s neighbouring states. Organizing the asylum process in this way would encourage western states to become accountable for humanitarian crises that threaten to destabilize broad regions in the world.
3. Increasing Integration Efforts for Immigrants
The success of liberal immigration policies is determined by the long-term integration of refugees and immigrants into societal life. Many European states struggle to successfully integrate newcomers. Steady employment provides immigrants a sense of belonging and financial security that is key to integration. Unfortunately, Amnesty International finds that there is recurring employment discrimination against Muslims in multiple European countries. Beyond providing immigrants with the tools to integrate and find decent employment, agencies of the EU and EU member states need to promote and enforce equal opportunity policies. Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program provides an exemplary model for integration initiatives across the Atlantic. Studies show refugee sponsored by a religious group or collection of individuals usually earn higher incomes than those sponsored by the government. Such a program engages civil society to smoothen the transition for refugees in accordance with their values, while not ‘losing’ the part of the population skeptical of welcoming a large number of refugees and using public funds in that endeavor.
4. Countering Animosity Towards Muslim Refugees and Immigrants
More than employment, a significant threat to integration is the growing animosity directed towards immigrants in Europe and the United States. President Trump’s Executive Order 13769, which bans refugees and restricts travel from several muslim-majority countries, reinforces a threat narrative among muslims living in western states. Europe needs to provide unequivocal opposition to the Trump Administration’s travel ban as a demonstration of their commitment to full integration of all residents. The private sector and local governments have responded to Trump’s rhetoric and attempted policies with narratives and images that are supportive of immigrants. Germany and other European states should actively promote portrayals of a more inclusive society in solidarity with the resistance to policies in the United States.
Jessica Collins was a 2015-2016 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship recipient in Serbia and she is currently pursuing her M.A in International Relations from the Freie Universität Berlin.
Jason Cowles is a current M.A. candidate in International Relations at Freie Universität Berlin and is committed to revitalizing public diplomacy in the 21st century.
Tim Fingerhut is a graduate of Sciences Po Paris and interns with the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, with a focus on Eastern Europe and migration.
Michael David Harris is a Civil Affairs Specialist in the Army Reserve and teaches foreign policy to high school students in Chicago, IL.
Mpaza Kapembwa is a 2015 graduate of Williams College and is currently enrolled in Georgia’s Tech’s International Affairs M.A. Program.
Jonathan Old studies International Relations at Technische Universität, Dresden. He has worked on NGO Development projects in Germany and India.
Ingmar Sturm pursues a Master’s degree in international relations at Jacobs University and University of Bremen and works for the NGO “Island Ark Project” to help climate refugees.
Jiayi Zhou is a Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); she was a Atlantis Transatlantic Fellow in 2011-2013.