By Simon Mwebaze

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.

Between 2012 and 2021, there have been over 41 million people immigrating to Europe consisting mostly of people from African and Arab countries. Of the 41 million, 3.8 million account for illegal immigrants.

In 2022, the EU had just under 1 million asylum seekers of 3.5 million refugees. Due to the large-scale immigration into Europe, member states of the European Union are seeking solutions to mitigate the influx of immigrants.

One of the countries that has been in the spotlight recently for its efforts to curb the influx of immigrants is Italy. In November 2023, the Prime Minister of Italy Georgia Meloni proposed an initiative with the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama. The proposal’s goal was to share the immigration burden by rerouting immigrants to Albania as Italy processes asylum seekers.

The initiative was passed by the Albanian parliament on 22 February 2024 amidst opposition from several immigrants and international interest groups. The European Commission was one of the most vocal opposers of the initiative condemning it as “refoulement” which is banned under European and international law. Refoulement is when a country sends anyone to a country where they may be at risk of human rights violation.

Under the 5 year deal, Italy will spend 600 million euros to set up two centers in Albania. The funding will be spent on building, staffing, and remote screening processes. The centers will host up to 36000 immigrants per year with only 3000 at a go. 

The EU has had a more friendly immigrant policy in the past few years but has recently been looking to change that. There are different motivations behind recent changes like the current one by Italy. Here are some of the potential impacts of immigration that are pushing the EU toward changing its attitude toward immigrants, especially from African and Arab states.

Crime has risen significantly in many European countries. One of the primary victims is Sweden. It has experienced a significant increase in violent crime since 2018 including 500 bombings and increased gang shootings. More so, in 2020, the country experienced 124 homicides and had riots that led to the injury of over 100 police officers. 

Homicides have also been on the rise. Europe has seen an eight percent increase between 2019 and 2020 with Germany and Hungary seeing outstanding increases of 25 percent within the same period. More so, in Sweden, from 2002 to 2017,  58 percent of criminal suspects of crimes such as manslaughter and murder were immigrants.

The immigrant issue has also taken center stage in European politics. The widespread concern over the growing challenges posed by large-scale immigration has led to growing popularity and victories for conservative parties. This trend has hit countries including the Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden.

Albania is currently a candidate for addition to the European Union. In its bid to join the bloc, it is assisting with the migrant situation in a show of good faith. Italy is returning the favor by showing support for the bid by Albania. Participating in the EU’s bid to accommodate immigrants, makes its bid stronger among other member states struggling with the influx.

Such policies are also being encouraged not only by European countries like Albania but by other countries as well. Some countries assisting Europe in its bid to curb the influx include Tunisia and Libya with Egypt joining soon. This policy change has fostered relationships with African countries leading to increased financial aid flowing to African countries.

One example of an African country benefitting from such aid is Tunisia. It has received financial aid of €1 billion toward stopping the continual flow of immigrants through the Mediterranean Sea. Despite considerable funding, their efforts have not been fruitful.

The willingness of African countries and other European states such as Turkey have encouraged such policies. Since it seems that other countries worldwide are willing to take on the burden that was predominantly being borne by Europe, there is momentum toward providing finance in exchange for help with immigration.

The recent deal between Italy and Albania sheds light on the growing immigration crisis worldwide. It is not just Europe facing such a crisis since other countries such as the US and Canada are also taking in several immigrants. The deal shows a growing acceptance of the difficulty and consequences of taking on the burden of immigration that may later come back to bite countries that favor it.

While it may make the favoring countries popular internationally and regionally, the cost of immigration may not be worth it anymore to Italy. It seems to be losing popularity especially among the citizens if European countries since they bear the brunt of the ineffectiveness of governments in integrating immigrants.

Their disgruntlement is shown through the recent polls. More will probably be evident during the European parliamentary elections in June.