Some time ago, Hungary has made international news for closing its borders and building barbwire fences to stop the migrants from entering the country. Its leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, motivated his decision by saying that this is the best thing for his nation; in his view, immigrants can be a source of trouble and should remain in their own countries (5). This opinion is shared by a relatively high number of eastern European citizens (4). However, studies conducted in the United States of America (a country chosen for exemplification because of its greater experience in dealing with migrants) suggest quite the contrary: immigrants can be actually good for a nation. So, can eastern European countries truly benefit from immigration?
First of all, it seems that immigrants are good for the economy. According to an article written by the CAP Immigration Team, “immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes annually” (2). This includes, besides a portion of their salary, the money they pay for rent, for food, or for transportation, since everything is taxed. More than that, in many eastern European countries (as in the U.S.), immigrants cannot benefit from social services. This means that they pay a tax for services they will never receive (or will receive only if they become citizens), the government gaining more money this way.
Furthermore, immigrants can reduce unemployment. According to Malik and Wolgin, “immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to start and own businesses, and U.S. immigrants or their children have started 40 percent of Fortune 500 businesses” (3). This phenomenon brings even more money to the state budget through taxes payed by the respective businesses. It also creates jobs, thus reducing unemployment and increasing the number of tax-paying citizens.
Another aspect worth mentioning is the immigrants’ eagerness to integrate. They are willing to study the language and work almost any job for that. Most of them are very careful not to cause any trouble and not to give the authorities any reason to deport them. The reason for that might be because they don’t want to lose what they immigrated for: a better life for them and their children. In fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native citizens: “the incarceration rate for immigrant men ages 18 to 39 in 2000 was 0.7 percent, while the incarceration rate for native-born men of the same age group was 3.5 percent” (2).
One more beneficial feature that immigrants can bring to eastern European countries is cultural diversity. Most eastern European nations are largely homogeneous (same religion, same race, etc.). This might be one of the reasons why the respective citizens are suspicious of immigrants. They are not used to having other cultures/races in their own country (due to the isolation brought by the Iron Curtain). But, in the words of Lisa Betfield, “learning about other cultures helps us understand different perspectives within the world in which we live, and helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups” (1). Cultural diversity could help eastern European citizens become more tolerant. It could also help them economically, in the sense that by being exposed to various different cultures and languages, they can learn new ways to do business.
In conclusion, the fears expressed by many eastern Europeans appear to have no real foundation. They seem to originate largely from ignorance, which might be the effect of almost five decades of communist isolation, a time when access to information and travel to other countries were extremely limited. Immigrants can bring diversity, healthy competition and boost a country’s economy, which are all things that some of the eastern European ones greatly need in order to develop more. Yes, there will always be unscrupulous leaders who will exploit their citizens’ ignorance for their own political and monetary gain. However, as information is increasingly freely available through the internet, younger generations will, hopefully, make better choices.
- Belfield, Lisa D. “Cultural Diversity: Imagine All the People.” Kaplan University College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Kaplan University, Dec. 2010.
- CAP Immigration Team. “The Facts on Immigration Today.” Center for American Progress. Center for American Progress, 23 Oct. 2014.
- Malik, Sanam and Wolgin, Philip E. “The Top 10 Facts You Need to Know About Immigrants Today.” Center for American Progress. Center for American Progress, 10 June 2015.
- “Orban the archetype.” The Economist. The Economist, 19 Sept. 2015.
- Paton, Callum. “Migrant crisis: Hungarian PM Viktor Orban says refugees look like ‘army’ of young men.” International Business Times. International Business Times, 23 Oct. 2015.
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