Yes, Migrants Benchmark Countries

«Oui, les migrants font du benchmarking» FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE, 1st June 2018. In declaring that asylum-seekers compare the various legislative regimes on offer before choosing a country to go to, the Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, has merely stated the obvious, explains Jean-Thomas Lesueur, delegate-general of the Thomas More Institute.


The declaration of the Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, made during his address to the Senate on 30th May, and according to which “migrants do a bit of benchmarking to identify those countries across Europe that have the weakest legislation”, has created a polemic on the Left and seems to be annoying some people in LaREM [President Macron’s majority in the National Assembly, La République en Marche!]. Once again, the partisans of unlimited immigration are fuming, trotting out the moral condemnations, and seeking to infuse the debate with hysteria. However, there is no contemporary issue that demands calm and serious treatment more than that of migration.

Three observations, amply supported by the facts and by international studies, attest to the justice of the minister’s observation, and even to its banality: which makes one wonder why he hasn’t already drawn the necessary conclusions and seriously reinforced the asylum and immigration bill that he is about to defend before the Senate.

The first and most delicate requirement consists in refusing to fall into the mental and emotional trap represented by the image of the migrant that has become standard in recent years. Systematically portrayed as having “fled war and misery”, the migrant has become the new face of the “damned of the earth”. As has been brilliantly demonstrated by the Québécois sociologist, Mathieu Bock-Côté, the immigrant has replaced the worker in the Pantheon of the Left and of gauchisme, over the past thirty years.

But the truth is very different. While there are genuine cases of persecution and mortal danger, which fully justify the right to asylum, experience shows that many applicants do not meet the criteria for refugee status, as defined by the Geneva Convention of 1951. If this were not so, how to explain the 61.9% of asylum-applications rejected in France in 2017, a figure significantly lower than for previous years? It is worth remembering that it was the German police themselves who estimated that only one third of the million refugees received in 2015 came from zones gripped by war: Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, etc. A West African immigrant who comes to Europe may well be fleeing a difficult situation in his own country, but is he fleeing persecution as defined by the Geneva Convention? The question answers itself.

“The immigrant has replaced the worker in the Pantheon of the Left over the past thirty years.”

The second point to remember is the role played by the diasporas in the circulation of migrants: a role highlighted by numerous international studies, including African Asylum Routes by Denise Efionayi-Mäder, in collaboration with Joëlle Moret and Marco Pecoraro of the Forum suisse pour l’étude des migrations et de la population, Lausanne, 2001; and Why asylum seekers seek refuge in particular destination countries: an exploration of key determinants, by Darren Middleton of the Commission mondiale sur les migrations internationales, Genève, 2005. I would mention particularly the excellent book, Exodus. How Migration Is Changing Our World, by the British economist Paul Collier (2013), which is awaiting its translation into French. Collier shows that immigration is not a static, but a dynamic phenomenon [sic], because immigration always leads to further immigration. The larger the immigrant community, the more its presence facilitates the arrival of newcomers.

Diasporas provide valuable information channels for prospective migrants before their departure. They help find accommodation and jobs for migrants once they have arrived. This is very human and natural behaviour, which demonstrates the importance of community, and shows that in many cases — whether of asylum or of economic migration — rational and organised preparatory work, possibly including a comparison of host countries, gives the migrant confidence to set out on the journey.

Third observation: this same rationality is to be found in the migrants’ analysis of host countries’ relative generosity. Here again, economic studies have formally confirmed: details of rights, and of access to social security, education and health-care systems are known to many aspiring migrants, and serve as criteria for choosing a final destination. See Understanding the decision-making of asylum seekers, by Vaughan Robinson and Jeremy Segrott, Home Office Research Study, London, 2002. Anyone who has been curious enough to find out what is being discussed by the diasporas in forums or on social media, will have noticed the intense exchange of information.

This reality, obvious enough and easy to comprehend, takes its proof from the observation that the more restrictive a country’s immigration policy, the less likely are migrants to choose it as a destination. (See, International Migration: A Panel Data Analysis of Economic and Non-Economic Determinants, by Anna-Maria Mayda, Research Institute on the Future of Work, Bonn, 2005; and Immigration policy and self-selecting migrants, by Milo Bianchi, PSE, Toulouse, Working Papers nos. 2007-41, 2008.)

What is demonstrated throughout these studies, is that except in cases of extreme urgency and danger, migrants are indeed rational agents who take considered and logical decisions; and that [commentators] who refuse all debate and contradiction, are merely trying to conceal their abuse and moral indignation behind a smokescreen of emotion. ⇒ Le Figaro