Politicians talk big, but they tolerate undocumented migrants, says the sociologist


The approaching elections to the European Parliament and the fight for the presidential seat in the United States are once again bringing the topic of migration to the fore. How should we think about it better in order to be able to manage it in the future? We also talk about this in the 5:59 podcast with Dutch expert Hein de Haas.

What will you also hear in today’s 5:59 episode?

  • Whether migration is an important topic for someone other than politicians who are trying to win elections by fighting it.
  • How is it possible that closing the borders leads to an even stronger wave of migration and forces people in the new country to stay.
  • What myths about migration persist in society, even when hard data refutes them. And who knowingly spreads them.

The topic of migration has come to the fore again in recent months. In the Czech Republic, it was discussed in connection with the European migration pact, which the member countries approved at the beginning of February and which the government of Petr Fiala (ODS) ultimately decided not to support. They say he wasn’t “ambitious” enough. In the United States, refugees are being talked about in connection with the approaching presidential election and the clash of opinions between the two candidates – the Republican favorite Donald Trump and the current Democratic president Joe Biden.

According to a migration expert, sociologist and geographer from the University of Amsterdam Hein de Haas but these debates do not arise from real political needs. “It’s definitely overkill. What can be seen a lot in that debate is the polarization of society,” he describes in the 5:59 podcast.

According to him, politicians are betting on people’s deep-rooted fear of foreigners, who in recent years have also been the “most concrete manifestation” of the otherwise abstract phenomenon of globalization. At the same time, migrants embody the fear of the changes that the world is going through.

Politicians then try to amplify these fears in people. “Firstly, it is because they can present themselves as strong leaders who are fighting an external enemy. (…) And the second reason is the classic search for a scapegoat. When politicians fail to provide people with quality education, health care, housing or adequate income, it is easiest to divert attention elsewhere and say that migrants are to blame,” he explains.

“Most come legally”

In their statements, politicians most often deal with illegal migration from the global south and point out that it is getting stronger. In addition, their claims are also supported by data from the International Organization for Migration. They state that 287,000 people entered Europe illegally last year, and so far this year, by the end of March, another 35,000 of these migrants have been recorded.

According to Hein de Haas, it is not that simple either. According to him, the long-term estimate is more fundamental, which says that roughly 100,000 people come to Europe illegally every year. While that’s a big number, de Haas says, it’s only a small percentage compared to total migration. Most migrants reach Europe legally – around 2.5 million people every year.

Photo: Wikipedia, LepusFilius

Dutch sociologist and geographer Hein de Haas.

“To give one specific example: Nine out of ten Africans who come to Europe get here legally. This probably doesn’t quite match our ideas, because we are mainly confronted with images of overcrowded boats with people from Africa trying to cross the border illegally by sea. But in reality, such attempts make up only a small part of the total migration,” explains the expert.

Even for people who come to Europe without documents, it is more complicated. States tolerate them to a certain extent, because they are mostly young men and women who can easily find their way into the labor market. They want to settle in the countries, despite the tough rules for admission. Paradoxically, according to the expert, it forces them to stay rather than leave. “This is because they spent a lot of money on visas, on work permits, or even on the smuggler who got them into the country,” adds Hein de Haas.

“The Definition of Insanity”

According to the Dutch professor for politics, it would be more effective to start thinking about migration as a “management problem” that has a solution. But for now, according to him, they resort to “strongman talk” and do not offer solutions to problems.

Podcast 5:59 and the Czech debate on the European migration pact

In the 5:59 podcast, at the end of February, we also covered the extraordinary meeting of the House of Representatives on the migration pact, which was called by the ANO movement. The guest was an analyst Viktor Danekwho works as deputy director of the Europeum Institute.

Rather the opposite. Hein de Haas mentions in the podcast that legislators keep trying to apply solutions, but repeatedly fail. This is, for example, the closing of external borders, which, according to the new European migration pact, the EU countries will continue to strive for in the future.

“It’s actually a good definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect to get different results. I state once again that the current migration policy is one big failure and I think it’s time for politicians to start behaving realistically and stop throwing everything bad at migrants,” he describes.

In the 5:59 podcast, you will also learn how much the events of 2015 and 2016 and the crisis of that time contributed to the fact that migration is a hot topic, or what, according to an expert, should be done to improve the situation. Listen in the player at the beginning of the article.

Editor and Co-Editor: Barbora Sochorová, Dominika Kubištová

Sound design: David Kaiser

Podcast 5:59

The news podcast of Lenka Kabrhelova’s team. One essential topic every weekday in minute six. The most important events in the Czech Republic, in the world, politics, economy, sport and culture through the lens of Seznam Zpráv.

You can find an archive of all parts on our website. Write us your observations, comments or tips via social networks or by e-mail: [email protected].

The article is in Czech

Tags: Politicians talk big tolerate undocumented migrants sociologist


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