The World’s 5 Worst Immigration Policies

A country’s immigration policies often have historical roots that once seemed logical but can leave today’s immigrant puzzled at best. According to the Global Post, the worst policies span the globe from Europe to Asia to the Middle East.

1. Japan: paying them to go home

Amid the 2009 economic downturn, Japan passed the “Nikkei” Law that entitled unemployed foreigners of Japanese descent and their families a healthy stipend. Each immigrant could claim $3,000 and each family member $2,000 as long as the money was used for one-way travel home with no return unless the Japanese economy improved. The open-ended condition sends people to an uncertain future in Brazil and other home countries and also depletes the Japanese workforce at a time when the aging population is retiring.

Though the law sets vague conditions for Nikkei return, it also leaves the door open for change. On July 9, Japan announced a mandatory residency ID card and hinted at a relaxation of some current immigration policies affecting foreign residents.

Immigration Policies

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2. Latvia: dodging policy

The British Council’s Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), which compares immigration policies among 31 nations, has ranked Latvia last due to its lack of a coherent immigration policy. Latvia at first sought to attract migrant workers, but budget cuts have curtailed government efforts at helping immigrants integrate into society. Newcomers have a waiting period before they can work, and EU anti-discrimination laws are minimally enforced.

On the upside, Latvia has opened education and training to all residents and allows immigrants to spend longer times outside of the country without penalty.

3. United Arab Emirates: the invisible workforce

The United Arab Emirates have built wealth with the help of 3.75 million immigrants from India and Southeast Asia. Traditional immigration laws have led to harsh conditions for many workers, who are denied the right to engage in group activity that could be construed as a labor union. Many workers log 80-hour weeks for little pay and sleep 12 men in a dirt room. Each year, scores of immigrants commit suicide. Human rights groups, the U.N. and immigrants themselves are pressing for change as the UAE ponders reform.

4. Thailand: identify and then…

In 2010, Thailand passed laws requiring its 1.5 million immigrants to register with the authorities and verify their identities with home nations or face deportation. According to the Wall Street Journal, Thailand relies heavily on immigrant labor from countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos and can’t afford much attrition. Many workers fear reprisal from their home governments as well as Thai authorities and are not stepping forward. Tensions have surfaced in the form of human rights violations, including murder, against suspected undocumented workers.

5. Australia and Italy: mandatory detention

MIPEX ranks Australia highly for its family-friendly immigration policies and path to permanent residency, but the country has been under scrutiny for laws requiring authorities to detain immigrants who can’t produce a valid visa. Under the law, over 2,000 children seeking asylum were detained between 1999 and 2003 amid reports of mistreatment. Australia has modified its policies but still keeps detention on the books.

Similarly, Italy sought to deal with a flood of North African and Mediterranean immigration by enacting 2009 laws imposing fines and detention on illegal immigrants. Undocumented immigrants could be fined 10,000 Euros (about $12,300) and detained for 6 months, and Italian citizens caught helping them could serve up to three years in prison. Faced with a high unemployment rate, Italy issues very few visas.

Immigration laws will continue to evolve – and sometimes shock – as countries struggle to balance social resources and the needs of immigrant populations central to the economy.

Image Credit: Daquella Manera

Derek is an active blogger. The follwing article is for Schulman Law.

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