Capacity building for immigration

The tensions in Europe because of the refugee situation can be mitigated in the future. To achieve this we should take a page from the development book: Europe needs to build capacity to deal with (similar) immigrant flows structurally. We need to do this because without it the present conflicting interests among Europeans and its states will keep returning.

Good will, no capacity

On the one hand, many Europeans and European countries want to help the refugees. This is showcased by the efforts of many volunteers, civil servants, public and private organizations, and countless donations. However, we also notice that many Europeans don’t want refugees in their backyard. Often, refugee centers are placed in or near rather small (rural) communities. When that happens suddenly, that can easily become too much to bear. And many European and national institutions seem incapable of handling the sudden surge of refugees. New locations for refugees have to be found under great stress, and prudent screening of refugees seems to be under pressure. So while many people welcome refugees, practical constraints get in the way, resulting in conflicting interests.

More immigrants wanted

To prevent this situation from recurring, paradoxically to some, we need more immigrants when there are few conflicts, and consequently few refugees. Europe needs a system to let significant numbers of people migrate to Europe, each year again. This could be something like the Green Card Lottery the US has and can incorporate certain preferences (countries, educational background, etc.). Such a system makes it feasible to build legal, commercial and societal structures around these persistent immigrant flows. In practice this means that there will be communities across Europe that have the strength (in terms of culture, institutions and real estate etc.) to absorb immigrants, whether they are “lottery winners” or war refugees.

Investing for immigration

When global conflicts arise, these structures can hence act as resources to build upon and divert from the lottery to help war refugees. In the meantime this perspective can already help the present refugees. When society (and business) knows what the future brings, it can invest now, benefiting refugees now.

This is an extended version of an earlier post.