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EDITORIAL

Laying out the welcome mat

A GOOD migrant should behave like a guest: this is how a leading Slovak Christian Democrat politician envisions Slovakia’s new migration policy. Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic recently outlined the rules for what he called “legal and qualified migrants”, those who are supposedly welcome in Slovakia now that its politicians have finally realised that no country in today’s Europe is immune to migration, or can remain so if it cares about its future.

A GOOD migrant should behave like a guest: this is how a leading Slovak Christian Democrat politician envisions Slovakia’s new migration policy. Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic recently outlined the rules for what he called “legal and qualified migrants”, those who are supposedly welcome in Slovakia now that its politicians have finally realised that no country in today’s Europe is immune to migration, or can remain so if it cares about its future.

In Lipšic’s house the good guest, who by the way comes only from countries with culturally similar backgrounds and values, becomes fully integrated while fully respecting the traditions and culture of the host and learns the language as soon as they can. In this “house” it is unacceptable for the guests to create alternative communities since, Lipšic says, Slovakia has enough “segregated settlements” – an obvious reference to those inhabited by the Roma community.



A while back Lipšic shared his vision of who might be welcome in Slovakia, saying they would be from “countries that are culturally close to us. One of them could be, for instance, Ukraine. Today we already have doctors and experts in other areas from Ukraine in eastern Slovakia.”


Lipšic’s guest metaphor for migrants is seriously wanting, if for no other reason than that Slovakia would also need to learn how to be a good host if its desired “guests” do not end up
feeling like unwanted visitors who could at any moment be asked – or choose – to leave.

But what actually gets lost in all this guest discourse is that Slovakia is going to need qualified workers and thus has to open its doors to migrants. Some large investors have been warning about a lack of qualified labour, which if not addressed promptly might make some of them look further east. One way of course would be – or would have been – to reform the country’s education system so as to place more emphasis on vocational training, which over the past decade has been hugely under-valued, with some universities trying to artificially pump up their student numbers by admitting applicants who would have been far better off learning another profession that could have secured them a good living for the rest of their lives. But these thoughts belong to a different story.

Lipšic was commenting on a draft for Slovakia’s migration policy submitted by his own Interior Ministry to the cabinet, which approved the document on August 31. The draft policy partly suggests that the basic criterion for accepting economic migrants is their potential to develop Slovakia’s economy and society. It expresses a preference for qualified or highly-qualified migrants with an emphasis on those from countries that are ‘culturally close’.

Nevertheless, Lipšic and all those who keep parroting their belief that multiculturalism is dead does not seem to understand that migrants come here because they want to live here and that most of them want to feel at home. Declaring the concept of multiculturalism a failure will not change the fact that migrants are still humans who, for a variety of reasons – many of which might be difficult for those lucky enough to be born into comparatively wealthy and stable societies to comprehend – are seeking a new home.

Most of them, extremist fanatics aside, want to pray to their god and respect the traditions of their grandparents, things which cannot be forgotten simply because they have crossed a border or two. Yet, Slovakia, which also has demographic reasons to open up to migrants, has to learn to become a more welcoming and open country and not only spell out the duties of the “guests”.



Those who want to live here in the long term will eventually have to learn at least some of the local language, unless they are native English-speakers and live in Bratislava, where more and more people are able to speak at least one of the world languages. But Slovaks as well will have to work harder to make their “house” more welcoming, and in some of its “rooms” weed out expressions of racism and xenophobia.

Because just like every society, Slovakia also has its choices and can either look at migration as unwanted baggage, hoping that someone else in the region will carry it away – or look at migrants as people who can bring benefits to its society. It is always a two-way street, with the majority learning that the difference between integration and assimilation is that only the former is mutually beneficial to both the host and the guest as well.


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