Nobel Prize-winning EU only goes halfway on migrants’ rights

Today, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Notwithstanding this great honour, the EU has far to go to promote the human rights of migrants in Europe in key areas of integration, according to the 2010 Migrant Integration Policy Index.

The Nobel Prize Committee has recognised the EU’s six decades of work advancing “peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe.” The Committee believes that the EU has strengthened democracy and settled many ethnically-based national conflicts. This great honour is also an opportunity to reflect on where the EU and its Member States are going to advance human rights in Europe today. In 2010, the EU and its Member States re-committed themselves to the equal treatment of non-EU immigrants: ‘The objective of granting comparable rights, responsibilities and opportunities for all is at the core of European cooperation on integration.’

However, EU Member States on average only go halfway to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for legal immigrants, according to the Migrant Integration Policy Index. Scoring around 50% in 2010, overall integration policies created as many obstacles as opportunities for immigrants to become equal members of society. Immigrants only enjoyed ‘favourable’ policies on equal rights in one Member State, Sweden, even though two-thirds of citizens in all 27 EU Member States believe that their governments should grant equal rights to immigrants.

As a whole, the EU is lagging behind traditional countries of immigration around the globe in key areas of integration. The graph below compares the ‘average’ policy in the EU27 to policies in Australia, Canada, and the United States:

Compared to the ‘average’ EU Member State, these traditional countries of immigration tend to grant:

  • equal access and rights on the labour market
  • broader definitions of the family for family reunion
  • more education policies targeting intercultural education and migrant pupils’ specific needs
  • greater eligibility for naturalisation and birthright citizenship
  • wider grounds for protection against discrimination (e.g. nationality and multiple discrimination)
  • stronger equality bodies and pro-active state equality policies

Currently, the EU’s minimum standards guarantee basic security and rights for reunited families, long-term residents, and, most recently, migrant workers. The MIPEX indicators show that EU legislation has had some impact; Member States have more similar and favourable policies for integration in areas where they have agreed common EU standards, especially on anti-discrimination. Before this landmark legislation was passed in 2000, only 6 EU countries had dedicated anti-racism laws. Since then, all Member States have had to make significant progress, especially new countries of immigration and Central Europe.