No Rest for the Migrant: Despite Contributions to Global Economy, Immigrants Still Treated Poorly

Immigrant populations around the world continue to grow. Statistics show that over 180,000 Africans immigrate to the UK annually, about eight percent of Italy’s population is foreign-born (with the figure set to rise in the next 50 years), and more than 50,000 asylum-seeking Africans have entered Israel in the past seven years. Washington State, too, has its own large immigrant population.

Despite growing numbers, immigrants are being brutally rebuffed as they seek refuge and better lives. Currently in Israel, more than 10,000 immigrants are protesting new legislation that would allow Israel to “further limit the rights of asylum seekers” by letting authorities detain indefinitely those without valid visas, spurring internal debate about political refuges versus economic migrants. Violence meets many hoping to make a new life in the European Union (EU), as recent reports show that a number of Africans are being murdered or killed on their way to Europe. It’s estimated that between 17,000 and 20,000 migrants have died at sea trying to reach Europe over the past 20 years.

But why are countries rejecting immigration when it has been proven to stimulate economic growth while, at the same time, keep debts down?

A 2013 study by economists at University College London showed that recent European immigrants pay £8.8 billion more in tax than they consume in public services. It’s also been shown that UK public finances are healthier because of immigration, according to the think tank Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD also points out that while immigration, both legal and illegal, is a contentious topic, industries like hotels, restaurants, and agriculture rely heavily on migrant labor.

The often negative response to immigration is due in large part to the challenge many immigrants face in smoothly integrating into their new communities. While immigrants are often left to fend for themselves in a brand new environment, studies show it’s difficult for them to fully assimilate without moral support from fellow citizens in their new country.  We can only hope that, in time, more people will understand both the cultural and economic value of immigrants, become aware of the issues they face as they migrate, and look at immigration in a more positive light.