(February 8, 2016) Canada has been coming perilously close to repeating Europe’s errors.
In a recent reversal, Sweden now says it will deport half of its 160,000 migrants, Finland plans to deport two-thirds of its 32,000 migrants and Germany intends to deport all migrants who arrived under false pretenses — a number that could total many hundreds of thousands — as well as all migrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, which Germany now deems “safe” countries because they are not at war.
Most countries in Europe, in fact, are now cracking down on migrants from Muslim countries, raising the possibility of a modern-day expulsion that rivals that of the 16th and 17th centuries, when Spain, to its shame, not only ethnically cleansed its territories of all Muslims but also of their descendants who had converted to Christianity.
The sea change in attitude among Europe’s political leadership — mere weeks ago, many of them insisted that they must open their doors even wider on humanitarian grounds — followed mass sexual assaults in European cities on New Year’s Eve. Although government officials and the mainstream press initially tried to cover up the extent of the wrong-doing — an estimated 1,000 Muslims in Cologne alone participated in “Taharrush,” a practice of encircling, groping and sometimes raping women — the extent of the assaults led to a fire-storm of outrage on social media that forced both the mainstream media and the politicians to acknowledge the problems and reverse course.
The reversals were a long time coming, given what Europeans have endured in recent years from the uncontrolled influx of more than a million migrants, most of them Muslim men with little appreciation of Western values. Sexual assaults aside — rapes in many European countries are disproportionately attributed by law enforcement and NGOs to Muslims — crime by migrants is rampant. Hamburg police reports 20,000 purse-snatches a year, 90 per cent of them by males in their 20s from North Africa or the Balkans. In 2014, even before the migrant stampede accelerated, 38,000 asylum seekers had been accused of committing crimes.
We have been coming perilously close to repeating Europe’s errors.
With Europeans increasingly stating that they don’t recognize their own countries anymore, and don’t feel safe in it, politicians now face a furious backlash. Citizens are protesting in the streets and through social media. Anti-immigrant political parties are on the rise and often lead in the polls. Forty per cent of Germans now demand the resignation of once-popular German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Opposition to the governments’ open-immigration policies doesn’t manifest itself only through peaceful outlets. Mob justice is also increasing with hooded nativists intimidating and attacking migrants. With disrespect for the rule of law increasing across the board, societal breakdown has become thinkable, all a consequence of a soft-headed if soft-hearted desire to help desperate refugees.
It’s easy to see things getting much worse before they get much better. For one thing, it won’t be easy to identify which migrants are genuine, and are entitled to refugee status, and which have taken advantage of the chaos at the borders merely to partake of Europe’s welfare benefits. German media, for example, reports that the whereabouts of half of those seeking asylum are unknown while hundreds of thousands of others, according to the German government, entered the country surreptitiously, circumventing any background checks.
Even when found, deporting migrants will be difficult, since those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco and other countries that do not qualify for refugee status routinely destroy their passports and other identifying documents, to prevent their deportation from Europe, while others purchase counterfeit Syrian documents to feign their bona fides. The process of finding, then justifying the deportation of illegals will be laborious and time-consuming, requiring many years during which resentments can’t help but fester.
Many migrants won’t take kindly to being deported, not least because home-grown activists will rise to their defense and because, as intelligence agencies report, the ranks of the migrants have been seeded by jihadists. Defiance by migrants, including rioting, is already common. As their defiance increases, so too will the backlash by the public, leading to both vigilantism and demands for curbs on immigration, changing the character of Western democracies. The free movement of peoples has begun to be restricted — for the first time since 1952, for example, Scandinavians require identification when crossing from Denmark to Sweden, the upshot of regulations introduced last month to stem illegal migrants.
The restrictions on movement can only deepen. Following the terror attacks in Paris, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave notice to European nations that visas may be required to enter the U.S. in future if better controls aren’t put in place, and last week the U.S. Senate in homeland security hearings raised questions about Canada’s plan to absorb 25,000 refugees. Because attacks on Western soil by jihadists posing as migrants are all but inevitable, more restrictions compounding today’s baggage checks and privacy intrusions are also all-but inevitable.
Canada has until recently entirely avoided the immigration turmoil, let alone civilizational threats, afflicting much of the West. Because we haven’t yet recklessly accepted untoward levels of migrants, we are not under pressure to recklessly deport untoward levels of migrants, as is occurring in the liberal democracies of Europe. Yet we have been coming perilously close to repeating Europe’s errors. During the last federal election campaign, a mass hysteria over the plight of migrants, and the perception that Canada was failing to be as welcoming to them as European nations, contributed to the election of Justin Trudeau, who came to office on a vow to rewrite immigration procedures in order to rush in 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas. When the Christmas target wasn’t met, an embarrassed government decided to double down by raising the number of Syrian migrants to 50,000 by the end of this year, an impetuous decision that seems driven by the same mix of political and humanitarian impulses that blindly led so many European countries to grief.
Canada’s historic approach to immigration since Confederation — welcoming the multitudes who would fit in, but also requiring them to fit it — has served this country well, allowing us to maintain our liberties and grow our economy. Europe’s cautionary tale, coming to us now as it does, when we are at risk of falling prey to reckless, politically correct thinking on immigration, could not have been a more timely reminder of the ways in which our historic immigration policies have been wise.
Lawrence Solomon is a columnist with the Financial Post and the executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute and Energy Probe.