Michael Printzos is Program Director at the Hellenic Initiative & European Young Leader (EYL40)
When it comes to finding solutions to refugee crises we are often drawn a blank. Whatever the method — preventative, inclusive or regulated — there is one reality we must come to terms with: migration flows are here to stay. However, it is clear that the hotspot system, set up in entry point countries, doesn’t work, providing little hope to families who find themselves with nowhere else to go.
As Europe realises the burden of its ageing population, perhaps there is an opportunity for refugees and migrants to balance the scales. Migrants and refugees could be a part of the solution for powerhouse economies like Germany, which are finding it difficult to recruit the talent they need in the numbers they want.
According to UN data, there are over 250 million migrants worldwide and that number is expected to grow. 25% are below the age of 19 or above the age of 65. This means that 75% of the global migrant population is at the prime age to work and create jobs if provided with the right skills.
As Europe realises the burden of its ageing population, perhaps there is an opportunity for refugees and migrants to balance the scales
Anti-immigrant sentiment is rife across Europe; predominantly due to the belief that migrant and refugee cultures and values do not correspond well with those of a western or European nature. Far right and left wing populist movements are also gaining ground, pinning the refugee crisis as the cornerstone of their political agenda. This makes it difficult to engage in conversation on alternative ways to tackling Europe’s migration issue.
Nevertheless, we need to find mutually beneficial solutions to better place refugees and migrants in regions where their skills or future abilities can be put into practise; solutions that account for the livelihood of those crossing into Europe and to the advantage of the region they end up in.
One such solution, is to transform hotspots and the countries that accept migrants into massive re-skilling hubs that provide much needed human talent to powerhouses around the EU, guarantee greater assimilation and give hope and opportunities to migrants and refugees.
Re-skilling hubs would also prove more cost effective than the current approach to migration flows. Migrant populations are living on food stamps or aid coming from the EU and international agencies. This means that Europe loses out, not only on a potential work force, but on the opportunity to create thousands of jobs in a wide variety of professions. Trainers, technology experts, course certificate providers and others are among the many services migrants and refugees can work in.
Re-skilling hubs are a long-term, sustainable solution that every member state could fund and benefit from. This is not a band-aid solution, but is more importantly one that can heal the wound.
The way forward is simple; we don’t need to reinvent the playbook on successful migration. Migrants travelling to regions like North America and Australasia in the 17 and 18 centuries saw overall successful integration. These countries are what they are because of migration. It is noted that those crossing the Aegean and Mediterranean today do not share similar religions or beliefs as historical European migrants once did. However, we should go back to the roots of what transformed American and Australian societies: education.
The way forward is simple; we don’t need to reinvent the playbook on successful migration
With access to advanced technology we can train thousands of people in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost, especially when accounting for the capabilities and resources we have access to today. Educating migrants and refugees can benefit European society as a whole and the ‘re-skilling hubs’ experiment is a more modern and flexible strategy. We can teach many to become good software developers, digital media marketers and even blue-collar workers through education and appropriate training.
‘Guest workers’ — or as the Germans call them, ‘gastarbeiters’ — can provide fresh, young talent to an aging population and economy. They will find it much easier to make their way in life, acquire a job and more importantly, integrate within the societies they move to. We have pivoted away from the ‘bricks and mortars’ style economy, therefore educating migrants and refugees on 4IR should be the way forward.
When we attempt to tackle certain kinds of populist rhetoric, we should convince those who believe refugees and migrants are people ‘taking our jobs,’ to see them as those who can create employment opportunities. Let’s steer our focus away from the horror stories and instead try to build a better future, not just for us, but for everyone.
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