The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Europe has taken a rightward turn on migrants.

Concerns over the influx of migrants in Europe have steadily grown over the past decade. Every year, thousands of people from Africa and the Middle East embark on dangerous journeys to reach Europe to escape wars, conflicts, climate change, and political turmoil.

The surge in asylum seekers has reached such alarming levels that European governments are now hesitant to safeguard migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The tragic shipwreck in the Mediterranean, which claimed the lives of 300 Pakistani migrants, sheds light on Europe’s stricter policies aimed at stemming the flow of migrants.

The rise of populists, nationalists, and ultra-conservatives in Europe has also contributed to a shift towards individualism over international cooperation. This has led to a growing emphasis on deglobalization and localization across the continent.

Western Europe, particularly France, Britain, and Germany, have shouldered a disproportionate share of the migrant burden over the last decade. The recent surge of migrants has caught Western European governments off guard, prompting some to consider more stringent measures to curb illegal immigration.

One notable example is the UK’s contentious Rwanda policy, which attempts to address the issue of asylum seekers entering the country at an average rate of 30,000 per year. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, his home secretary, who incidentally, benefited from parents who migrated to the UK, are working tirelessly to implement the Rwanda asylum plan, which involves deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, instead of providing them support in the UK.

Germany and France, while not following in Sunak’s footsteps, are also feeling the pressure from far-right parties to enforce alternative immigration procedures. As they grapple with labor constraints, both countries are contemplating deportation and other relocation plans to manage the flow of migrants.

Southern Europe has become a settling ground for illegal immigrants due to its perceived accessibility. However, the current Italian government, led by Giorgia Meloni, has taken a strict stance on immigration, fearing that the influx of migrants will take away job opportunities from Italians. Meloni intends to impede the arrival of migrant boats from Libya and Tunisia through various means, including naval blockades, banning rescue vessels, and penalizing charities and NGOs for aiding migrants in distress.

Similarly, Greece, already overwhelmed with Syrian refugees, is reluctant to accept additional migrants. The recent victory of political hardliners reflects the Greek population’s opposition to accepting more migrants, leading to pledges of cracking down on migrants through deportation and non-cooperation.

The Nordic countries, once known for their welcoming attitude toward foreigners, have experienced a dramatic shift in recent years. The rise of neo-Nazi, anti-Islamic, xenophobic, and white supremacist beliefs has resulted in right-wing governments pledging to restrict immigration.

Sweden, previously regarded as the most welcoming nation for immigrants, is now witnessing nationalist parties such as the Sweden Democrats advocating for strict anti-immigration measures. Their electoral success indicates public support for tougher immigration policies.

Finland also intends to impede the entry of immigrants and asylum seekers. The conservative-led government, under Petteri Orpo, has hinted at discontinuing naturalization for asylum seekers and reducing humanitarian aid funding. Denmark has even enacted legislation to relocate migrants far from its shores.

In Eastern Europe, the Balkan routes have become alternative pathways for migrants seeking to reach Western Europe. However, the upsurge in undocumented immigration has fueled populist politics in the region. Polish, Czech, and Hungarian nationalists, promoting “one nation,” “one culture,” and “one language” identities, are leveraging the influx of immigrants to cultivate homogenous cultures and gain public support. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has also implemented tough measures, such as “Stop Soros,” legislation to penalize those assisting migrants.

Europe’s policymakers face a precarious situation, compounded by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian refugees seeking refuge in European states have added to the burden. As a result, Europe is reluctant to accept additional illegal immigrants from Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Furthermore, the influence of far-right and anti-globalist groups has fostered hostility and animosity toward immigrants, dividing European societies along “Us vs. Them” lines. Populists have been inspired by the American far-right, particularly Trumpism, which has reinforced a xenophobic atmosphere in Europe.

The EU itself is adopting protectionist measures as European nations shift their stance on immigration. The institution has already ordered the exit of 422,000 immigrants from EU countries and implemented severe measures to reduce immigration, including rejecting political asylum applications, redirecting illegal immigrants to third countries, blocking migrants from entering the EU, and combating human trafficking and smuggling.

Consequently, it is foreseeable that Europe may become a less welcoming region for immigrants in the foreseeable future.

Ashiq Iqbal Jishad is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Dhaka. His research interests include defense, immigration, Transatlantic relations, Eurasia, the European Union, and NATO.