Interview with Renaud Girard first published in FigaroVox
FIGAROVOX.- Today, the African continent is experiencing a population explosion and Europe is aging. Why not just accept immigration?
Renaud GIRARD: It is obvious that European countries no longer have the economic, social and political means to welcome all the misery of the world.
Take the case of France. If we look at the question of employment, we see that, in all categories, the number of enrolled at Pôle Emploi amounts to 6,255,800 people. An underemployed economy is not able to absorb millions of migrants. Let’s not forget that the waves of immigration of the 50s and 60s arrived in a France in full economic boom and where unemployment did not exist. This is no longer the case today.
But above all, mass immigration poses a problem of identity and culture. Man is not just a disembodied homo economicus, without history or roots; he is above all a being of culture. European culture – a heritage of antiquity, Judeo-Christianity and the Enlightenment – risks being submerged by populations whose way of life is incompatible with the European way of life and whose massive presence on our soil can only build tensions. Mass immigration undermines the coherence, unity and solidarity of Western societies. Instead of a united society, immigration fragments the social body into a multitude of indifferent, even hostile, communities. Some members of minorities (not all of them!) refuse to integrate and turn to delinquency. Their hatred of our country can go as far as terrorism.
Can this migration crisis have serious political consequences?
This identity crisis is likely to turn into a political crisis.
On the one hand, there is everywhere in Europe the worrying progress of extremist movements – in Germany, France, Italy, Greece …. This political phenomenon is a direct consequence of immigration. In the 1970s, the National Front was an obscure little group nostalgic of French Algeria. Its electoral breakthrough from the early 1980s can be explained by massive immigration and the fears it arouses. There is something paradoxical about good, good-natured souls who both condemn extremist parties and support immigration. This is inconsistent. Indeed, it is immigration that feeds extremist parties and may one day bring them to power.
On the other hand, the migration crisis risks destroying the European Union. 73 per cent of Europeans consider that the EU does not protect them. Everywhere, immigration favours the rise of populism. In the United Kingdom, the vote in favor of Brexit is largely due to the rejection of immigration. The Central European countries refuse any diktat of Berlin enjoining them to accept migrants on its soil.
Italy, which has seen more than 70,000 illegal migrants land on its shores since 2013, can do no more. Its generosity has limits. The new Minister of the Interior warned that institutional Europe risks its very existence on the migration issue. Coming from a founding member of the Common Market, it is a message that must be taken seriously.
But then, how do you go about it concretely – to solve the migration problem?
We must massively reduce immigration.
To achieve this goal, we must renew our fight, suspend family reunion, fight drastically against illegal immigration, restore double punishment. Any foreign person who commits an act of violence or begins to criminalize must be immediately expelled.
For illegal immigration, we must dismantle their networks, carrying out military action against these networks and inflicting drastic penalties when we capture them.
Let us show the migrant traffickers that their approach is futile by systematically refusing any residence permits and any social assistance. This will allow us to stop the European call for air. And let all this be known in their countries to discourage attempts.
To this must be added, in the purest Gaullist tradition, a humanist, solidarity based and active policy of co-development with poor countries to enable them to develop economically, respect the environment, create jobs and reduce inequalities, so to reduce the temptation to leave.
We must also stop our neo-colonial adventures in the countries of the Middle East. Without the catastrophic War in Iraq in 2003, there would have been no Daesh or hordes of Syrian and Iraqi migrants in the summer of 2015. In Libya, Gaddafi may not have been very friendly, but he was doing us a favour serving as a lock against immigration.
More specifically, what are the priorities to deal with the influx of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean from the Libyan coast?
The new priorities are crystal clear: rebuilding a state in Libya and helping its armed forces combat human traffickers and secure its southern borders in Fezzan; deploy, alongside the Libyan Navy, and in its territorial waters, European surveillance vessels capable of bringing the shipwrecked or over-burdened human beings to their original shore. The Libyan coastline was once equipped with surveillance radars that the European Union had financed. They were destroyed by Franco-British strikes during the 2011 war against the Gaddafi regime. Military, police and humanitarian co-operation with other states in North Africa must of course continue.
In Black Africa, the economic aid of the European Union must also be increased. First of all, we must be sure that this aid benefits the people and is not diverted by corrupt administrations or governments. Then, we must make this aid conditional on the establishment of effective family planning. Sixty years of European technical co-operation with Africa have failed to incorporate the basic concept of family planning.
“If we do not reduce the size of our families, our country will continue to suffer from poverty because available resources will not be able to meet our needs,” said Jonathan Goodluck, former president (2010-2015) of Nigeria. It is from this country of fabulous wealth, but poorly managed and poorly shared since independence in 1960, that today come the largest number of young illegal immigrants who try by all means to reach the shores of the northern Mediterranean. Nigeria had 34 million inhabitants in 1960. Today it has almost 200 million.
Finally, this assistance must be directed towards the development of concrete agricultural and energy projects capable of feeding and keeping African families at home. The purpose of this aid is not to industrialize Africa (which would only increase the imbalances and thus increase immigration) but to develop local projects, respectful of traditional societies (microcredit, short circuits, agriculture food, biological and equitable …).
You say that mass immigration is a “loser-loser scenario”. Can you explain this concept?
It’s a game where everyone loses. Trafficking in human beings, on which today’s African immigration is based, is deeply deleterious for both African states and European states.
As I said, Europe loses economically, culturally, securely and identically.
Africa loses because it is emptied of its sap. Emigration deprives Africa of an intelligent, enterprising and resourceful youth. The 3,000 euros that must be paid for the trip represent a considerable sum. In the countries of the Black Continent, it is nice seed capital to create a business, to dig a well in a village, or to build a photovoltaic installation. In many cases, migrants are not the poorest but members of the small middle class.
In transitional countries like Niger, the traffic attracts young people in a hurry to make their fortune, keeping them awaaw from farming, agriculture and handicrafts. It is unhealthy for African villages to live in expectation of the monies sent by migrants once they arrive in Europe rather than seeking to develop on their own economies. It is vital that the financial aid from the European Union for the Sahel and Central Africa goes into actions that combat the human trafficking economy, but also in agricultural or energy projects capable of fixing the populations on their ancestral lands.
Finally, the migrants themselves are losers. They pay money to see their dreams disappointed. They were waiting for paradise and find themselves lost in countries where their situation is very difficult. The only winners are the smugglers.
The smugglers are among the central actors of this illegal immigration…
The smugglers are unscrupulous mafia-like gangs, who promise wonders to migrants before engaging in the worst abuses on them (swindling, racketeering, violence, rape, abandonment at sea …).
Today, it is the same mafia networks that are involved in the trafficking of weapons (intended for jihadists), the transport of drugs to Europe, trafficking in human beings.
The smugglers – these new barbarians – have a proven method. They pile up candidates for trips in makeshift rubber boats; they push them as far as the international waters at 12 nautical miles from the Libyan shore; then they issue an SOS or call an Italian rescue center to indicate that a shipwreck is imminent. Then they return to their lairs, abandoning their unfortunate passengers to their fate, often without fresh water or food. The rest of the trip costs nothing to the smugglers, since it is supported by naval vessels or European NGOs.
Why do not they simply bring the castaways back to the nearest ports on the Libyan coast? Because they consider that it would be contrary to international humanitarian law. The new barbarians know it well. They are masters in the art of exploiting the old sentiment of Christian charity of this Europe so rich, so well organized, so social.
What are your views on NGOs?
Unintentionally, some NGOs participate, free of charge, in an immense traffic, which has long since surpassed the traffic of narcotic drugs.
NGOs corrupt the right of asylum. The best way to settle in Europe for an illegal immigrant is to pretend to be a political refugee and to invoke the right of asylum. It was forged by the French of 1789 to welcome foreigners persecuted in their countries for defending the ideals of the French Revolution. The right to asylum can only concern individuals, not groups. It can only apply to people who are politically engaged and personally targeted because of their commitment. It cannot be for people fleeing misery or even war.
However, there is now a massive corruption of the concept of the right of asylum, because the overwhelming majority of refugees are economic refugees. Once he has set foot on European soil, the migrant knows that he will be able to stay at his leisure, as forced returns to Africa are statistically rare.
To understand the problem of NGOs, we must return to the distinction of the German sociologist Max Weber between ethics of conviction and ethics of responsibility. Those who act according to an ethics of conviction are certain of themselves and act doctrinally. They follow principles without looking at the consequences of their actions. On the contrary, the ethic of responsibility is based on realism, pragmatism and the acceptance of responding to the consequences of one’s actions.
Today, NGOs that come to the rescue of migrants are in the ethics of conviction. They lay the migrants on the Italian shores and offer themselves a narcissistic thrill playing the rescuer. But they provide no continuation of the service; they do not ask what becomes the migrant in question nor what are the political and cultural consequences of these migrations on Europe. To get out of the facility, NGO members should house the migrants themselves, educate them, find them work. Perhaps they would have another attitude.
Of course, compassion and kindness are cardinal values. It is not possible to let people drown at sea when a ship meets them. We must save them. But then they must be redeposited on the Libyan coast, their point of departure. Since, in any case, their presence in Europe is illegal.
Why are European migration policies in your opinion a “denial of democracy”?
The uncontrolled and mass arrival of migrants unaware of European culture deeply destabilises the EU states, as we saw with the British referendum vote and the Italian legislative vote.
In the fifties and sixties, the European peoples expressed themselves through the ballot box to accept the independence of the former colonies. On the other hand, they have never been democratically consulted on immigration, which is the most important social phenomenon they have known since the Second World War.
In France, the most important state decision of the last half-century also concerns the migration issue. It’s family reunification. It changed the face of French society. It is fascinating that such a crucial decision has been made without the slightest democratic debate. This is a simple decree of April 1976, signed by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and countersigned by Paul Dijoud. It was therefore neither a subject of debate, nor the subject of a referendum, nor a law discussed by elected representatives, nor even a decree discussed in the Council of Ministers, but a simple decree like the Prime Minister takes every day on innocuous subjects. This measure immediately provoked a very large influx of young people from our former colonies in North Africa.
Consulted by referendum by General de Gaulle – who did not want a “Colombey-les-deux-Mosques” – the French agreed, in 1962, to separate from their departments of Algeria, where an Arab uprising brandishing the flag of Islam had emerged eight years earlier. Fifty-six years later, they see the worried titles of their newspapers: “450 Islamists will be released from prison!” They realize then that they have had imposed upon them in France a multicultural society without them having really chosen. The French were never questioned about mass immigration, multiculturalism and family reunification.
Similarly, Angela Merkel (who had acknowledged the failure of German multiculturalism in 2010) did not see fit to consult her people when she declared unilaterally that Germany would welcome 800,000 migrants. Yet these are fundamental things that concern both the everyday life of citizens and the deep identity of the country.
Does not democracy mean asking people about the most important things? Does not democracy help people to freely decide their destinies? It can well be argued that cultural mixing enriches modern societies. But in a functioning democracy, the minimum is for the population to be consulted about the extent of multiculturalism that they will have to manage in the long term.