Europe Cracks Down on Illegal Aliens
For the last twenty years, European Union members regularly snarled at the United States' policies against illegal aliens as a selfish violation of human rights. But with thousands of screaming demonstrators protesting against depressed wages and carrying fake coffins emblazoned with the names of politicians, EU Labor ministers in Brussels were forced on December 17th to approve tight controls on hiring cheap, temporary workers and "illegal immigrants."
The EU made immigration and asylum core legal rights under the 1993 Maastricht Treaty that trumpeted "free movement" of people, goods, services, and capital within a common market in which barriers to trade would be removed across the continent. EU elites have tried to institutionalize a continental sense of belonging that would offer prosperity and the promise of peace. But high standards of living have made the EU a magnet for Middle Eastern, African, and Eastern European immigrants. According to the European Council of Refugees and Exiles, around 1.5 million of the world's 16 million recognized refugees currently live legally in Europe and millions more were referred to as "undocumented."
The EU rules allow "posted workers" to temporarily emigrate from one EU country to another for up to two years to carry out a specific contract job. Employers who "import" posted workers are legally required to respect the labor rules of the host country, but these workers are not charged the average 24% social security costs in their host state. Consequently, posted workers are much cheaper for companies to employ than local workers. They also work for lower wages, since almost all posted workers are not unionized. The official estimate of the number of posted workers is around one million, but the real number is much higher and growing fast.
Posted workers are typically recruited from the poor in Eastern Europe, refugees granted legal asylum, or illegal immigrants with falsified residence documents. EU elites justified passing temporary worker legislation as providing the kind of cleaning, agricultural, security, waste disposal and personal care jobs few European would accept. But contractors in an environment of rising unemployment and depressed wages have hired posted workers to further undercut local citizens for higher-paying construction and computer programming jobs. What was once termed by leftist elites as the EU gift of the human right of movement to the "unprivileged," is now referred to as "distortion of the internal market" and "social dumping" by a majority of EU voters.
EU members have been especially critical of Greece and Bulgaria for their corruption and inadequate border controls that allows illegal immigrants to enter the country from Turkey and the western Balkans. Facing onerous visa restrictions on its citizens travelling across Europe, Turkey signed an agreement on December 16th to take back immigrants who illegally enter the EU from Turkish territory.
Immigration issues have spurred the growth of the right-wing National Front in France and their nationalist allies in the UK and across the continent as defenders of legal workers. The economic crisis has opened doors for nationalist parties who seek to defend their individual nation's "national identity" against what they believe are the external threats of immigration and EU integration. Nationalists are highly motivated to end what they believe is undemocratic domination by liberal elites.
France will hold municipal elections in March, and EU members will hold elections for the EU Parliament in late April. French President Francois Hollande promised each of the last two years that his socialist policies of high taxes and greater social spending would reduce the unemployment rate, but those policies appear to have resulted in more job losses and a huge increase in the national debt.
This failure has catapulted the National Front into the lead as the most popular party in France. Recently the French unions have begun to join anti-immigration rallies to protest the posted workers system, which they blame for causing layoffs. Polls show the National Front as the most popular party in France and the slate of right-wing candidates the National Front organized across the EU may actually win the election in May and take power.
Fear of the National Front's rise has motivated the socialist French government to condemn the fraudulent arrangements they originally advocated for regarding posted workers. The French government recently admitted that the declared number of legally posted workers in France (mainly from Poland, Portugal, and Romania) rose 23% this year to more than 200,000 and now dominates the construction sector. In a recent government report, contractors and outsourcers are blamed for using multiple subcontractors to disguise hiring workers illegally, failing to comply with high minimum wage rule and ignoring France's 35-hour work week. French pressure forced EU Labor Ministers this week to require companies hiring posted workers must keep accurate records and be "joint and several liable" for the actions of subcontractors they hire.
EU immigration, asylum, and free movement "rights" have been a magnet for African, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European immigrants seeking to improve their standards of living and benefit from luxurious welfare payments. Facing grim political blowback from lax immigration policies, EU leftist politicians are willing to limit worker movement between nations and crack down on illegal aliens. But these policies may be too little and too late as right-wing nationalist movements across Europe are on the verge of seizing control of the European Parliament and potentially naming its president. Such a stunning regime change affecting over half a billion people in the EU would be the type of unprecedented repudiation of the Left not seen since the collapse of communism.