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Refugees, migrants, and the politics of fear

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16th-Apr-2017       Readers ( 58 )   0 Comments
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Omer Karasapan :
The fear of migrants and refugees, stoked by politicians, is setting a defining narrative for elections in the West. The Brexit vote directly played on these fears
as did the U.S. elections with its narrative of Mexican "criminals and rapists,"
both setting a tone for electoral victories that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. The Dutch elections, where the nativist trend grew but was held at bay, also saw much negative rhetoric around Islam. With elections in France and Germany coming up, the trend seems unlikely to abate.  It is worth remembering, however, that while the recent refugee crisis presents an easy target, the social tensions and challenges reflected in these elections are a decades-old phenomenon .
The advent of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan certainly didn't create these tensions. Nor did the accompanying economic migrants, who sought refuge in a Europe where identity politics had been part of the political landscape for decades. In the meantime, the reality of their links to crime and terrorism have been lost in harsh campaign politics.
During the U.S. campaign, with loud assertions linking migrants and refugees to crime waves, the Sentencing Project noted, "Foreign-born residents of the United States commit crime less often than native-born citizens." This is echoed by the libertarian Cato Institute, which reported, "All immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than natives relative to their shares of the population".
The first comprehensive study in Germany to look at its 1 million refugees, noted, "The refugee influx to Germany in 2014 and 2015 wasn't followed by a "crime epidemic."
Instead, "there were 'muted increases' in some criminal activity in the immediate aftermath of the record influx of refugees, which saw an uptick in drug crimes and fare-dodging in areas with bigger reception centers…also associated with increased minor crime for German citizens-partly explained by increased police presence."
Research points to an "immigrant paradox," which isn't fully understood according to Boston University's Salas-Wright: "One theory is that people who pick up their lives and move to a foreign country and set up a new life tend… to be interested in making this new life work." This likely holds true for refugees fleeing war, especially if they are with their family or are anchors for them.

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