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17 Jan, 2024 15:31

EU faces 2024 immigration surge – think tank

War, elections, and the prospect of Donald Trump in the White House could all drive more migrants to the continent, the report claimed
EU faces 2024 immigration surge – think tank

Immigration to the EU in 2024 will increase beyond record levels set in 2016, an Austrian-based think-tank has warned. With opposition parties across the continent threatening a crackdown on illegal arrivals, the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) has predicted a rush to get in before the doors close.

More than a million people claimed asylum in the EU last year, the think tank stated in a press release on Wednesday, citing preliminary bloc data. When all people who legally entered are added, the total suggests that 3.5 million people migrated to the EU in 2023.

Ahead of a full report on the issue due for release next week, the ICMPD predicted that war and conflict would cause “record displacement levels” around the world this year. At the same time, more economic migrants will journey to Europe seeking employment before European countries potentially introduce restrictions following elections this year.

“I call it the closed-shop effect. People will hear all these measures on migration announced in election campaigns and will think they have to be here before they come into force,” Michael Spindelegger, the director general of the ICMPD, told The Guardian.

Legislative elections will be held this year in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Lithuania, Portugal, and Romania, while regional elections are scheduled in Germany and Ireland. Elections for the European Parliament will take place in June, with all 720 seats of the EU’s legislature up for grabs.

With the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party doubling its support in the last three years to become the country’s second-largest political faction, and with anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders in talks to lead the government of the Netherlands, the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned last month that popular discontent over immigration could lead to a right-wing wave in June’s EU elections.

In France, meanwhile, the ruling Renaissance Party recently joined forces with the right-wing National Rally (RN) to pass a bill significantly cutting welfare benefits to immigrants. This move was primarily seen as an attempt by the Renaissance Party to stave off growing support for the RN.

Almost a third of EU voters consider immigration the most critical issue facing the bloc, a Eurobarometer survey in December found.

Spindelegger also highlighted the potential return of former US President Donald Trump to the White House as a driver of migration to Europe. Should Trump take office and make good on his promise to “seal up” the country’s border with Mexico, Venezuelans and Colombians could use visa-free visitor routes to Spain as a means of entering the EU, he told the Guardian.

Despite growing public backlash, the EU has committed to increasing the flow of immigrants. Speaking in Athens earlier this month, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson stated that “legal migration should grow by more or less 1 million per year” to replace Europe’s aging workers. Spindelegger suggested that even more people should be invited, telling the Guardian that Germany alone needs a million more migrants while Austria needs 500,000.