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By Philippe Legrain 2 COMMENTS

As the great and the good gather in New York for the United Nations’ jamboree on international migration, Spain’s decision to expel 1,000 illegal migrants back to Senegal reminds us that our current immigration system is creaking at the seams.

Spain has had one of the most liberal attitudes to immigration in
Europe, perhaps because Spaniards remember that until recently poverty
forced them to seek work abroad too. Last year, it chose to recognise reality by
granting an amnesty to illegal immigrants, giving them
temporary-work permits instead of pretending they didn’t exist, and thus bringing them into the formal
economy where legal rights are respected. But the move was widely
criticised by Spain’s European partners, who prefer a more hardline
approach of expelling the illegal immigrants they actually manage to
catch. Now it seems that Spain is falling into line with the European

That is a pity. Spain’s dynamic economy has outpaced the
rest of Europe’s for many years now. The influx of immigrants has
helped to prolong this long boom, which has coincided with a fall in
unemployment for native Spaniards. Africans want to work and Spain has
work to be done: it ought to be a perfect match.

Trying to prevent the
global labour market matching workers to jobs is not only bad for
Spain’s economy. It is also unlikely to succeed: the rewards from
crossing borders to work are such that the migrants will keep coming. Worse, the
harder Spain cracks down on illegal migration, the more it will drive people underground, fostering criminality and undermining the rule of law.

There is surely a better way, as I discuss in greater detail in my new

In the mean time, spare a thought for the poor Africans who are
to be deported solely for the crime of aspiring to work hard and better
themselves. It is what some would call the American Dream, and which
ought to be Europe’s apiration too.

If we are so proud of our European way
of life, why are we so desperate to prevent others sharing it?

Posted 14 Sep 2006 in Blog
  1. Ashok Mathew says:

    Eagerly awaiting your book previews, while lapping up your posts.
    Meanwhile a couple of interesting pondering on the US’ and UK’s fumbling attempts at dealing with the movement of people
    Hope you’d comment, perhaps.

  2. Philippe Legrain says:

    Thanks. I’ve finally posted a brief synopsis of my book on here. Unfortunately, my publisher won’t allow to publish excerpts until the book is actually in the stores.
    I totally agree with the WSJ piece you refer to.

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