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Rising Populism in Europe & its Impacts on Immigrants

The phenomenon of populism causes in the context of political and social developments in the wider world in general and Europe in particular, and its implications for European societies and immigrant populations living in Europe.


As already mentioned, immigrants have been a part of European societies for decades, if not longer. But the changing nature of the “allochtonen”, from guest workers of the 60s to a generation born and bred in European societies, straddling between social values of their parents and those of the only society they were raised in, while trying to lay claim to their parent’s host society as their own, created a new dynamic. A culture far removed from the ethos of traditional Europe wanting to own Europe just as much as theirs as that of the traditional Europeans. This underlying tension combined with amongst many others, the recession of 2008 can be cited as a trigger of populism. As usually is with nationalist fervor, there was an attempt to single out the “foreigner” as the one responsible for all the woes of the society. This populist trend was provided a further boost by the recent wave of immigration from conflict-ridden areas like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. To the extent that even traditionally center-left parties had a visible shift to the right, to compete with the right parties for a share of the populist narrative. Leading to a much more expected outcome of a push towards discouraging immigration by tightening scrutiny of asylum seekers, or limiting length of stay of refugees , to the more dramatic measures of stripping ISIS recruits of their nationalities, most of whom are second-generation migrants-in some cases abandoning their European national children stranded in conflict zones in Iraq and Syria.


While establishing this however, some responsibility also rests on the immigrant population which includes both the second-generation immigrants for whom Europe is the only home they have known, to skilled and unskilled migrants making their way to Europe for better economic opportunities, to refugees being offered security by a culture which seems otherwise very distant in its value system. Skilled migrants whose usefulness to society protects them from populist diatribe, can use their position of privilege in bridging this apparent gap between the two cultures, allowing the two worldviews to find common ground to jointly contribute positively to this shared society. Interaction at an individual level, humanizes the other and more such opportunities should be sought out by the immigrants , whether that means shared neighborhoods instead of closed-off segregated communities within cities, or sharing greetings on each others’ festivities, use of dutch language in mosques, or even participation in mainstream politics instead of forming community based fringe political parties whose foundation is based on communalism (although sometimes that is indeed the only way out!).


While being fully aware of the risk of oversimplification of the complicated and multi-faceted challenges that populism poses, to migrants in particular, but also to the very societies whose interests it claims to uphold, it would be worthwhile for migrant communities to also introspect, identify and address the resistance from within their communities to integrate-and maybe by doing so challenge in the most effective manner the onslaught of populism.

Summary of the Event by Asma Qadir

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