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A joint conference was organized on September 28th by the Migration Research Institute and the Waclaw Felczak Institute of Polish Hungarian Cooperation at Mathias Corvinus Collegium to assess the migration trends of the last ten years.
Gáspár Keresztes of the Felczak Institute opened the conference by reading a letter from Director Maciej Szymanowski, which highlighted the relationship between migration discourse, the rule of law, national interests, and the future of Europe.
In the panel discussion titled "The cost of migration and its impact on European policies and societies." Nicolas Monti, co-founder of the Paris-based Observatoire de l'immigration et de la démographie, gave a summary of the debate in France on immigration and its implications for French and EU immigration policy, and how recent riots in France point to the roots of the issues of immigration and integration.
While Ralph Schoellhammer, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Webster University in Vienna, addressed the challenge of assimilation within Western European countries and the ability of the state to effectively assimilate and integrate immigrants, Tomasz Grzegorz Grosse, Professor of Political Science, European Studies and Political Science at the University of Warsaw, pointed out that the issue of migration goes beyond financial considerations, as differences in values between immigrants and "native Europeans" pose a significant challenge to their successful assimilation. He also mentioned that the majority of Poles reject the EU’s relocation scheme as they consider it merely transferring problems. Piotr Kowalczuk, a long-time Rome correspondent for Polish Radio and the newspaper Rzeczpospolita, shared his experience from Italy, where a significant proportion of asylum applications are rejected, yet many of those whose application was rejected remain in the country.
Examples of successful assimilation and integration of immigrants were also discussed at the conference. These include Iranians thriving in the UK or South Americans and Asians living in different European contexts. Also, Ukrainian refugees do well in Poland and Italians have settled well in France. The integration of Ukrainians in Poland has been highly successful, with some 2 million people smoothly becoming part of Polish society and labor market.
Regarding the pro-immigration narrative in Europe, participants noted that national interests are no longer the primary focus of the debates. However, social media users are now challenging this narrative and despite the fact that these views receive little media attention, a sizable portion of society is advocating for stricter migration policy. The experts criticized the liberal media for promoting an open-door policy and branding dissenters as fascists, racists, or xenophobes.
In the next panel discussion entitled "Current Challenges of the Migration Crisis, from Border Control to a Migration Asylum Pact", experts expressed their views on the pressing issues related to migration in Europe. Witold Repetowicz, Assistant Professor at the Warsaw University of War Studies, stressed the urgent need for a solution to the migration crisis, highlighting that official narratives and immigration policies have changed in many European countries. Viktor Marsai, Director of the Migration Research Institute, presented some statistics on border crossings, which showed an increase in the recent period, with more than 330,000 border crossings recorded in 2022. He named regional instability, climate change and the impact of social media as driving forces behind migration. Police Lieutenant Colonel Gyula Mikolicz, Deputy Head of the Directorate of Refugee Affaires at the
National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing, spoke about the complexity of asylum applications in Hungary. He drew attention to the difference between traditional asylum applications and the EU activated temporary protection, under which Hungary serves as a transit country. These insights also shed light on the multiple challenges that European nations face in managing the migration crisis.
Speaking about extremists at the border, Viktor Marsai also stressed that mass migration makes thorough checks difficult, which poses a security challenge as even violent extremists may enter the EU. The lack of terrorist attacks in Europe recently is due not to a lack of will on the part of potential perpetrators, but to the strict regulations on access to weapons in EU member states. While Gyula Mikolicz praised the joints efforts and positive cooperation between European national security bodies, Witold Repetowicz, highlighting the complex geopolitical dimensions of migration, noted that Tunisia is using migrants as a weapon. He also expressed his skepticism about the implementation of the latest migration pact, as it has unrealistic provisions.
Discussions at the conference highlighted the challenges of migration, the security concerns related to extremism and the difficulties of developing a coherent approach through a new migration pact. The experts agreed on the need for effective solutions and international cooperation to handle the migration crisis in Europe.