More freedom should be Europe’s answer to immigration

By Magnús Örn Gunnarsson   Over 300.000 immigrants have traversed the […]

By Magnús Örn Gunnarsson


Over 300.000 immigrants have traversed the dangerous immigration routes to Greece and Italy this past year. These immigrants mainly enter the European region in two places. Italy, where 110.000 have managed to sail to Italian soil and Greece where 200.000 have reached the border. But why are they immigrating? The answer may lie in many factors but it can be summed up in one sentence: They are pursuing a better life. One only becomes a refugee to escape the horrible clutches of one’s own nation. In a short time one’s beloved country becomes a war-zone, a breeding ground for misery and terror. Life becomes so dismal that the only option is to escape to another world, another life. This individual truly believes that the time it takes to get there and, more importantly, the dangers he will face will be worth the effort in the end.

But then, if you’re lucky enough, you arrive to your supposed safe-haven. But you are not always welcomed with open arms, but with protest and shouts from people that portray you as a good-for-nothing foreigner that has come to leech on their goods. The notion that immigrants are going to take all the jobs away and starve the welfare system is a fallacy. Immigrants are an influx of labour force and new talent that society benefits from.

Too often we Europeans perceive ourselves as the faultless example all continents should strive to be. Wherever you are born, you always have love for your country and identify yourself with it. Of course people can change their love for one country to another but it is still their mother country. A person that is born in Syria doesn’t always dream of moving to England. If they had a choice they would most likely improve the situation at home, and stay there, but that choice is not theirs to make. To think that our continent is subjectively the best one is without a doubt egocentric and ignorant.

According to the United Nations more than 5000 people have drowned over the past two years in the Mediterranean Ocean. Keep in mind that these are only the confirmed deaths. This terrifying-enough number is rising. With a situation this desperate one would think that every society has a moral obligation to try and save as many lives as possible.

In my country, Iceland, many families have even made contact with the Minister of Social Affairs to alert them that they want to help personally by housing refugee families. On the other hand, the Icelandic government has only accepted 50 refugees for the next two years and has only responded to the Icelandic pleads with a reserved manner.

It is a well-known fact that the European Union does not follow a classical liberal immigration policy. The European Union has accepted to invite 32.256 immigrants over the course of the next two years. This number barely covers 10% of the immigrants that have arrived in Europe in the past two years. And we can expect that immigration from troubled areas is not declining. We are in dire need of a new immigration policy.

In my opinion the classical liberal solution for this crucial matter is first and foremost open borders. I think that Ludwig von Mises, who proclaimed “There cannot be the slightest doubt that migration barriers diminish the productivity of human labour” would have favoured the open border policy. Moreover, an open border policy would double the size of the global economy, according to a study by Michael Clemens, a respected senior fellow and research manager at the center for Global Development (CGD).

The open borders concept essentially means that people should be allowed to cross between countries and areas as they please, legally. Many people criticise it, claiming that immigrants just live on the welfare system, raise the crime rate, bash the culture and the language. “What of the children!?”

Studies show that this fear is far from the truth. Immigrants, usually not receiving full benefits of the welfare system, pay more in taxes than they get out of welfare. Some studies also portray that immigrants are usually less prone to commit crimes than the native population. All in all, immigrants create a better, more diverse culture. There is a reason for the flourishing cultures in highly immigrated cities. Take New York for example, one of the most culturally rich communities in the world, a melting pot. It may come to no surprise that it is also highly immigrated with countless ethnicities. Moreover, the money immigrants send back to their homes and families reached 436 billion $ in 2014 which is more than three times all the public foreign aid budgets put together in the world. Hence, migration and immigration is the most powerful weapon against poverty in the world.

Lastly, more open borders would increase the size of the economy. Since open borders would give people the freedom to move wherever they want it is logical to assume that they will be using their capital in the most effective way possible.

A open border policy is the most beneficial policy. It is the classical liberal, as well as the humanitarian, view on immigration issues. Borders are abstract concepts that should not hinder our movement of capital and in that way limit our search for happiness and the betterment of our lives. Again, here as many other cases, freedom is the answer. Freedom of moving over borders, freedom of choice, is the path to a better society, more prosperity and a stronger Europe.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. 


The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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