Immigration is still a heavily debated topic in many host countries. Some believe that immigration brings many advantages to a country, both for the economy and society as a whole. Others believe that high immigration numbers threaten national identity, increase dependence on welfare, and threaten national security. However, immigration can have positive and negative impacts on both the host country and the original country.
Impacts on the host countries
Host countries are faced with a variety of challenges due to immigration including population surges, stresses on existing support services, increased competition for employment, and potential national security risks. When immigrants move to a new country, they are faced with many unknowns, including finding employment and housing, as well as adjusting to new laws, cultural norms, and possibly a new language. It can be a challenge for a host country to assimilate (to absorb a group of people into a community) immigrants into society and provide the necessary support.
Host countries are usually in Western Europe, or the United States and Canada. For these countries, immigrants offer various benefits such as the following:
- It is generally believed that those immigrants who have had the courage to leave one country and move to another are often enterprising and entrepreneurial. In many countries, immigrants often set up small businesses;
- Immigration does cause an increase in the labor force;
- Immigrants will occupy law pay jobs, which people in the host country will not do. While that is controversial and sometimes exploitive, it still benefits the host country;
- Immigrants, when they feel welcome in the new country, can contribute to the diversity of the society, which can help strengthen tolerance and understanding.
But there are also numerous challenges:
- Immigration can become a social/political issue, where racism can be used to exploit feelings or as an excuse for current sorrows of local population;
- Tensions and hostilities can also rise, where there is a perception that immigrants and refugees appear to get more benefits than local poor people;
- Concerns about illegal immigration can spill over to ill feelings towards the majority of immigrants who are law-abiding and contributing to the economy. Thus, immigrants become easy targets when the general economic conditions in their host country worsen.
Impacts on the home countries
Emigration can also represent positive and negative impacts for the home countries.
- Developing countries benefit from payments sent home by migrants that now often outstrip foreign aid.
- Unemployment is reduced and young migrants enhance their life prospects.
- Returning migrants bring savings, skills and international contacts.
The home country also faces specific challenges in regards to immigration. One of the biggest disadvantages for the migrants’ home country is the loss of young workers and highly skilled people. Indeed, developing countries may suffer “brain drain” as the limited resources they spend in educating their students amount to very little impact remaining in-country. Also, in the long-term large amounts of immigration will weaken the home country by decreasing the population, the level of production, and economic spending.
People become immigrants for economic reason or because they have fled poor conditions or persecution in their home country. In that situation, it may be quite difficult for them to adapt and change practices and customs. Unfortunately in some countries, media coverage makes it easy to stir up hysterical stories about immigration, which helps direct popular conversation and government policies towards anti-immigrant sentiment. In such situations immigrants are clearly seen as different, and in worsening economic times can be seen as sapping away resources that could otherwise have been used for local populations.
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