Getting Tough on Immigration


With Germany serving as European Union president until July, expect illegal immigration to be high on the agenda.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble revealed the importance German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s six-month EU presidency will place on dealing with the issue. He warned fellow EU interior ministers in early January that their nations should be prepared to toughen their approach. As the EU expands, he said, “the German presidency will put a lot of emphasis on fighting illegal immigration across the Mediterranean but also from the east” (EU Business, January 12).

The problem is not small. About half a million illegal immigrants enter the EU each year.

Later in January, Schäuble hosted an informal meeting of EU interior and justice ministers in Dresden, in which illegal immigration was high on the agenda. He reinforced the need for solidarity and support against illegal immigration among member nations.

The EU’s migration and security commissioner, Franco Frattini, also addressed the gathering, warning member nations that unless urgent action is taken, border patrols will be unable to cope with the surge of tens of thousands of migrants expected this summer. Frattini warned member states that they must provide the agency with hardware no later than April if it was to be prepared. The Italian minister said, “I’m talking about vessels. I’m talking about helicopters” (Guardian Unlimited, January 15).

At the meeting, EU officials also discussed other ways—such as boosting funding, resources and cooperation for the Europol police network—to enhance cooperation and improve efficiency in handling the growing number of migrants illegally seeking sanctuary in Europe. Strengthening cross-border cooperation among member nations was one of the primary themes of the meeting.

The issue of illegal immigration in Europe must be seen in the context of the demographic catastrophe inflicting the Continent. The populations of European nations are declining; the fertility rates of all EU countries are below replacement level. Meanwhile, decades of liberal immigration laws have allowed immigrant populations (particularly Muslims) to form large segments of European society.

Though Europe needs more people, leaders believe an influx of foreigners from Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe—many of whom practice different religions, possess different customs and subscribe to different laws—is not the solution. While it may fill a temporary need for workers, immigration, especially illegal immigration, is costing European governments money and time. More importantly, however, Europe’s leaders are growing increasingly aware that the constant inflow of foreigners—with their foreign customs, religions and cultures—threatens to marginalize and choke those customs, laws, cultures and religion that have traditionally defined Europe.

The hand-wringing over the issue of immigration policy highlights growing cultural tensions and portends a far more significant clash between traditional European culture and non-European cultures.