Cambridge backs at dawn. Credit Alex Brown.
At the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education in London, the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, called for foreign students to be removed from UK migration targets.
This is a very good call in favour of foreign students. But it also sends a very mixed message about long term migration, which is quite illustrative of the confusion of political debates about migration policies.
Not investing in migrant integration doesn’t bode well for the future. The sustainable management of diversity requires strong political leadership (diversity must be made part of the founding features of our societies, on a number of indicators: age groups, social classes, generations, religions, sexual orientations, family models, lifestyles, social media communities, epistemic communities, to name only a few), fact-based and efficient policies (anti-racism, hate speech prosecution, anti-discrimination, reasonable accommodation in the labour market, development of school curriculum…) and active, informed and well-trained institutions (courts, administrative tribunals, national human rights institutions, ombudspersons, complaint mechanisms, lawyers, social workers, labour inspectors…). Without such strong and coherent public discourse, policies and institutions, fractious nationalist populist politicians will wreak havoc, advocating for simplistic “solutions” based on myths, fantasies, stereotypes and threats that will go unchallenged. For their lack of leadership on the mobility and diversity issue, mainstream political parties are presently failing the populations they represent, as well as endangering the democratic institutions that these populations have been so painstakingly built over the past decades.
Haitians waited at the Police and Interior Ministry in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to register to avoid deportation. Orlando Barria/European Pressphoto Agency
Arbitrariness is what migrants are facing every day, all around the world. Not being a citizen means almost everywhere, North and South, not being able to defend your rights, to call a union representative, to hire a lawyer, to access the justice system, to contest decisions made by anyone wielding some power, be it an employer, a landlord, a lawyer, a judge, a police officer, a border guard, a private security guard, or even an ordinary citizen in the street. This is why migrants most often lay low, won’t stick their neck out, and will simply move on when attacked, abused or defrauded. Fighting back isn’t really an option when one risks detection, detention and deportation.
I’ll be presenting Monday my report to the Human Rights Council: it bears on the protection of the rights of migrants at the external borders of the EU and is a follow-up of my report of 2013.
Maintaining the status quo is unsustainable as the human and resource costs associated with it are huge. Migrants lose their lives or if they survive they experience inexplicable suffering, exploitation and the violation of a series of rights. Furthermore, significant resources are lost through member states investing into an ineffective system that overwhelmingly focuses on securitisation and not maximising the opportunities offered by migration at a time of significant demographic, economic and social challenges in the EU.
This decision is an indictment of a government-designed legal framework that creates a status of precariousness for migrants and fosters impunity for abusive employers. This decision also underscores the importance of access to justice for migrants, as they have no access to the political stage and are under constant threat of being detected, detained and deported. It is great to see the unions getting into gear in favour of migrant workers. Let’s hope that policy makers will do the hard thinking requested after such a decision, and will not simply try to further block access by migrants to such independent review mechanisms.