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Europe and Immigration

Americans frustrated with their own immigration problems might find little comfort in knowing that it could be much worse, but it could be. The issue is highlighted by two recent reports by Reuters; one on the arrival of nearly 1,000 illegal immigrants to the Spanish Canary Islands in a single day, and another on a call by Libyan dictator Mu'amar Qadafi for European countries to pay African countries to help with the repatriation of illegal immigrants. France, Spain and Italy especially have been complaining for years, and with increased urgency lately, of African countries doing nothing to stem the tide. Qadafi's response, then, was simple - let's talk about a price.

There are two aspects to the problem. One, in the U.S., illegal immigration brings benefits as well as costs. There are the problems of greater social fragmentation and crime, but many illegals hold productive jobs and even pay taxes. In Europe, by contrast, it is almost entirely negative, for there are no jobs to be filled and unemployment is high among both native-born citizens and legal immigrants. Whereas most immigrants come to America from a different branch of Western civilization, and so are more easily assimilated, most immigrants to continental Europe are from Africa, and they will populate communities in France, Spain and elsewhere in which there is no work, no future and no avenue for advancement.

African nurses may make Britain's national health service run, but they are the exception.

Two, whereas in the United States there are concerns about individual Muslim immigrants working with terrorist groups, in several European countries - especially France and the Low Countries - there are entire communities which have become bases for radical Islam, and in which there are calls for the establishment of Islamic law. There are many "no-go" communities (for the police) in which women are threatened into wearing the veil and shops which are "unislamic" are threatened with violence, like in a town controlled by Hamas or the Taliban. Sweden recently was scandalized when the female leader of a political party - an integrated immigrant of Kurdish origin - said she had to move out of a suburb of Stockholm because of the crime and Islamist radicals. This problem will grow.

(For a primer on radical Islamism in Europe, see Claire Berlinski's Menace in Europe or Lorenzo Vidino's Al-Qaeda in Europe.)

In an op-ed this week to the French newspaper Le Figaro, Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the European Commission, discussed some of these issues, including the recent influx into the Canaries. He argued for more severe punishments for employers who hire illegals, more opening for legal immigrants, and the need to promote economic growth in Africa. This is all good, but absent any real progress toward opening European economies, there will not be opening for immigrants when even natives can't find jobs. And since illegals come without papers and refuse to admit to their country of origin, officials don't know where to send them back to. Something more imaginative will be required.