Immigrant = The New Mainstream

March 25th, 2014

By Emilia WanatIMG_20140131_230948_100x100

Would Switzerland qualify for the World Cup if they got rid of immigrants? This photo, that went viral on Twitter, shows that native Swiss are less than half of the first squad of their football national team. Their biggest stars are Gökhan Inler, of Turkish origin, and Xherdan Shaqiri, born in Yugoslavia to Albanian parents. But if the World Cup in Brazil goes wrong for the Swiss, these two stars will probably take the whole blame as it happened when the French team was knocked out in the group stage in South Africa in 2010. Public opinion then questioned if players like Nicolas Anelka, Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema or Hatem Ben Arfa are French enough. Surprisingly, no one questioned the “Frenchness” of Zinedina Zidane, Youri Djorkaeff or Lilian Thuram when the team won the World Cup in 1998.  Human memory can be short and selective.

But the number of foreign-born players on the Swiss national team will probably drop thanks to the newly introduced laws that would limit the influx of immigrants from the European Union by introducing strict quotas. EU officials are upset as Switzerland is bound by trade and labour agreements with them. The referendum that brought in the law is a great success for the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), infamous for initiatives to ban burqas and the construction of minarets.

Economies benefit from immigration.

Immigration is not a problem for the U.S. elite. The country experienced rapid economic growth when American technical might and mass production went hand in hand with slavery and illegal immigration. The industrial development at the turn of the 19th and 20th century that made it the most powerful economy in the world was the result of unlimited immigration, mainly from Ireland and southern and eastern Europe.

It is beneficial for the entire European Union when immigrants are illegal, because then they are easier to control and are cheaper. This conclusion comes from the book A Suddi Lampedusa (South of Lampedusa) by Italian journalist Stefano Liberti. A large part of the Italian economy, such as agriculture, is based on illegal immigrants and the phenomenon of slavery exists even in such “civilized” places like London.

We cannot stop immigration. Building a fortress around the Mediterranean Sea will not scare people away, but only increase the danger. Immigrants and refugees are often educated, but the European system forces them to exist on the margins of society even as the ageing continent needs young blood.

In a contemporary age, where revolutions are inspired by social media and the Arab Spring leads to the Occupy Wall Street movement, people will travel and communicate with each other. This is the reality of the world in which we live and nostalgia for the uncomplicated world of yore will not change anything. In the meantime, the issue of immigration becomes increasingly a matter of political wrangling and not the subject of potential laws. And the problem is still there. We are just  not looking at it.

Emilia Wanat is an independent columnist and American Studies postgraduate. She experienced emigration during a year spent abroad in London.

This article was first published by Cafebabel on February 18, 2014, and has been edited and reproduced here by permission.

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