In 2015, civil wars in countries near the Mediterranean led refugees to flood Europe. Almost alone, Germany welcomed them, until over one million had arrived and all European countries tightened their borders. Germany has dominated Europe’s collective arrangements for governing migration for almost 70 years. Comte shows that it does so because it has always absorbed the most migrants, both from European countries, such as Italy, and from outside neighbors, such as Turkey. France and Italy, by contrast, have been more reticent, and the United Kingdom, protected by the English Channel, has vacillated. Since the 1970s, as Comte recounts, in response to slower growth and rising numbers of migrants, European governments have clamped down on illegal immigration by low-skilled laborers while allowing better-educated immigrants to enter lawfully and move about freely, mainly to promote economic exchange and foreign investment in Europe.
Ette aims to bring the story up to date. He argues that the EU has moved its member states toward liberal, open, and enlightened policies. Yet his data show something subtler and more cynical. European governments prefer to disguise the fact that their restrictions on immigration fudge international humanitarian norms. To that end, they pass ostensibly liberal laws on asylum and other, related topics, often with the help of the EU, and then quietly subvert their intent by implementing them incompletely and signing agreements with their neighbors to block migrants or return them when they are apprehended.