A quiz for Salvini and his anti-immigrant coalition

Frankly Speaking

Picture of Giles Merritt
Giles Merritt

Founder of Friends of Europe

Giles Merritt offers a bottle of vintage champagne to the first anti-immigration candidate in the EP elections who can answer all the questions in this quiz.

Like it or not, immigration is set to dominate the European elections. Not to the exclusion of all other issues, but enough to affect the balance of power between populist MEPs and those from mainstream parties.

So how much do European politicians who urge a clampdown on refugees and economic migrants know about immigration? Have they carried out in-depth studies of the problems highlighted by the 2015-16 ‘migrant crisis’ when over a million mainly Syrian refugees surged across Europe’s internal frontiers?

Or are they, as their critics maintain, unscrupulous opportunists who care little for facts and figures and are capitalising on people’s fears and prejudices?

Here’s a challenge, then. A bottle of vintage champagne to the first registered member of Matteo Salvini’s newly-formed coalition of anti-immigration parties who can answer the following quiz questions correctly. Answers on a postcard, please, with a copy of a membership card of Germany’s AfD, La Lega in Italy, the True Finns, the Danish People’s Party and not forgetting UKIP, Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party and any others contesting the European elections on an anti-immigration platform.

Integrating migrant newcomers culturally and economically hasn’t proved easy and will always be tough

Question 1, easily checked online, is how many refugees and economic migrants are there worldwide – 25 million, 250 million or half a billion? Question 2, trickier, what is the total number of migrants or refugees currently arriving every year in the EU – 2 million, 1.4 million or 700,000?

That raises the question of whether European countries can absorb the newcomers. Which of the following countries, if any, have seen a shrinkage of their immigrant population – Italy, Spain, Poland?

Next, what proportion of EU citizens, according to pollsters, fear that migrants pose a terrorism threat – 25%, 40% or 60%? And what percentage of migrants and refugees have been found by the relevant authorities to be linked to terrorism – 0.01%, 1% or 10%?

On the economic front, there’s the frequently disputed question of whether immigrants are a burden on their host country’s taxpayers or instead contribute economically. Figures for this vary from country to country, but are generally positive. But looked at globally, do refugees and economic migrants averagely raise GDPs in their new country by 9.4%, 5.4% or 1.4%?

Resentment of migrants, whether over housing, schools, jobs or religion, has become a fact of life in much of Europe. So what proportion of Europeans admit to holding anti-migrant views – 52%, 22% or 12%?

Last question: Now that ageing has started to shrink active workforces in much of the EU, which of these notoriously anti-immigrant countries suffers from a serious labour shortage – Hungary, Poland or the Czech Republic?

The betting is that many, if not most, readers of ‘Frankly Speaking’ will have known the right answers. The point of the quiz is in any case not just to get migration into perspective but to call out populist scaremongers who stir hatred and racism.

Erecting higher walls and recruiting more border guards will not resolve matters

Integrating migrant newcomers culturally and economically hasn’t proved easy and will always be tough. It demands a new mindset and policies that must be radically different to those that Europeans are used to. But unless the digital revolution creates far greater prosperity than to date, more immigrants are needed to help pay for the pension and healthcare costs of ageing.

Europe will clearly need to better regulate the flow of younger job-seekers from Africa and the Arab world, and to improve their skills and education. Erecting higher walls and recruiting more border guards will not resolve matters.

Key to tackling these momentous demographic shifts would be a re-launch of the EU’s ill-fated 1999 Tampere Agreement on a common immigration policy. Once the new European Parliament sits in July, and the new EU leadership is chosen, reopening this sadly abandoned project should top the agenda.

The correct answers to the quiz, meanwhile, are: 250 million; 700,000; 40%; 0.01%; all; 9.4%; 52% and, once again, all. An additional quiz question that’s worth pondering is ‘What proportion of Europeans have told pollsters they favour an EU immigration policy?’ The answer is 66%.

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Giles Merritt’s forthcoming book “More Migrants, Please!” is to be published later this year.

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