xi's moments
Home | Europe

Migrant influx set to grow as elections near

By JULIAN SHEA in London | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-01-20 07:25

A group of migrants wait to disembark from a wooden boat after being rescued by a Spanish Coast Guard vessel in the port of Arguineguin, on the island of Gran Canaria on Thursday. BORJA SUAREZ/REUTERS

The prospect of upcoming elections in Europe, the United States, and possibly the United Kingdom, and the potential fallout are likely to fuel migration to Europe during the next 12 months, an international think tank has predicted.

Michael Spindelegger, director-general of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, said fears about possible tighter rules being introduced after elections could push people who are thinking of migrating to act sooner rather than later.

He urged politicians to increase efforts where necessary and team up with private organizations to help minimize the risks by setting up safe and legal routes for migration.

"I call it the closed-shop effect," said Spindelegger, former vice-chancellor and foreign minister of Austria. "People will hear all these measures on migration announced in election campaigns and will think they have to be here (in the European Union) before they come into force."

The campaign opportunity presented to politicians willing to use the issue of migration as a vote-winner may only succeed in making the already hugely challenging situation even more difficult, he added.

"I think we will see more refugees coming to Europe, even bigger numbers than 2023," Spindelegger said. "Election campaigns will be about quick fixes, but we also know that there is not one solution and these quick fixes will not lead to a decrease of migration."

Demographic changes mean Europe is facing a shortfall in its working population, so migration is needed, but Spindelegger said it should be allowed in a managed way.

Achim Dercks, deputy chief executive of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, has already warned that a lack of trained workers could impact key industries in Germany in the years ahead, causing wider shock waves in a country whose usually vibrant economy is already struggling.

"The skilled labor situation is highly critical, not just for affected enterprises but for our economic landscape overall," he said, citing future-oriented sectors such as healthcare and digitalization as particular causes for concern.

In 2022, the German Economic Institute estimated the country was short of 600,000 workers. And across the whole of the EU, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said there is a deficit of around 1 million workers needed to keep pace with demographic change.

But Spindelegger said the figure is much higher, with Germany alone needing around 1 million people, and Austria half that number.

The Guardian reported that those two governments, working with Spindelegger's think tank, have funded programs in Nigeria to train electricians and plumbers, as just one of many examples of projects being set up outside the EU that could help to ease the bloc's employment crisis.

Headache for New York

Meanwhile, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed that $2.4 billion in her $233 billion state budget be used to help New York City manage an estimated 70,000 migrants, whose care has strained finances and overwhelmed homeless shelters.

The funds would be directed toward the city, as it has become the epicenter of the issue in the state, after it was swamped by migrants who have mainly come from the US southern border illegally.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott had bused in thousands of migrants to the city to share the burden on the southern border.

Belinda Robinson in New York contributed to this story.

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349