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‘Things Could Get Very Ugly’ Following Europe’s Refugee Crisis – The Atlantic

One of the problems with this debate is that people are too quick to vilify everyone and place them in the same category. There is some complexity to the views of xenophobes—people on the left say that all of these people are vile racists, but I think that is a political cop-out, because it doesn’t go anywhere to resolving the problem. If you’re a politician, you need to address that. My argument is that you don’t have to cave in morally to the nastiest policy preferences of some of these voters in order to address their issues.

Timsit: Today, parts of Europe are ruled by leaders who are more open to immigration, and the United States is ruled by an anti-immigration president. Looking a few years ahead, what does this mean for immigration policy?

Polakow-Suransky: I predicted that things would play out in the opposite way, geographically. When I started writing the book, I genuinely feared that [far-right politician Geert] Wilders’s party would get the most votes in Holland, that Le Pen had a real chance of winning in France, and I didn’t take Trump seriously enough until the very end.

But on this, I would say that it doesn’t really matter if a far-right party wins power, because their ideas have gone mainstream and influenced the terms of the debate. Centrist parties, both center-right and center-left, have caved to certain demands from the far-right in pretty much every European country. And in Eastern Europe, in places like Poland and Hungary, the trend towards outright illiberal democracy is even stronger.

What I worry about is that, if there’s another [refugee] crisis, if the kinds of numbers we saw in 2015 happen again, if there’s a massive refugee flow into Europe, then I think some very dangerous and scary policies are going to be on the table—[including] an attempt to outsource the problem, either by paying North African countries to warehouse people in camps so they don’t come to Europe, or by trying to stop the flow earlier on by giving military aid to African and Middle Eastern governments. When or if that happens, things could get really ugly.

‘Things Could Get Very Ugly’ Following Europe’s Refugee Crisis – The Atlantic

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