Oscar Crawford – Richie – Primary Article Contributor, Researcher
Key words: Migrant, immigrants, border security, safety, multiculturalism
As a result of the threat posed by the terrorist organization ISIL in Iraq, Syria and surrounding areas, many people impacted by ISIL have fled the region to safer territories. These migrants have predominately chosen Europe as their preferred destination, but this massive inflow of refugees has resulted in what many have dubbed as Europe’s migrant crisis. Although France received fewer refugees than the average EU nation, over 20,000 asylum claims as of early 2016 were approved. The massive inflow of people coming into France and the rest of Europe poses some risk. As the EU has a fluid border system with limited security between member nations, admitting a large-scale number of immigrants to one nation has the potential to allow them to move to another. This presents the risk of refugees accepted by one EU member nation entering France and using domestic resources.
The migrant crisis affects many areas of the French economy, but one significant impact is on tourism. The issue is that the increase in migrants could contribute to a sense of unease felt by prospective tourists when considering whether to travel to France. This sense of unease may be influenced and amplified by ‘islamophobia’, a prejudice of Muslims. Although vast portions of the migrants are not Muslim, the general sense of unease is apparent across western culture, potentially hindering tourism rates. Further to the point, these migrants are vetted and therefore unlikely to pose a security risk to tourists. Nevertheless, misinformed tourists may be deterred from travelling to France due to perceived risks arising from the migrant crisis. The perception of security risks arising from the migrant crisis may be worsened by the recent increase in police and military presence in metropolitan areas in regions where significant numbers of refugees are located.
Beyond perceived security risks arising from the migrant crisis, the influx of new residents to France has put a strain on the transportation system. The decrease in transportation capabilities have the potential to cause significant delays in movement into, outside, and within, the country. This may result in a diminished travel experience for tourists, thereby reducing the popularity of France for travellers.
The above risks can be mitigated using various means by both the French government and private businesses; however, the best strategy is for France to welcome its newest residents and ensure that they integrate into the country and culture. Such an initiative can be started by the tourism industry, which can lobby to local and national governments to establish and provide private cheap financing for housing and educational programs for migrants. Beyond the more evident benefits of providing newcomers with housing and education, these solutions can contribute to the integration of migrants into French society. The French government has already started to set up camps to get the refugees off the street, but further funding could hasten and improve process. Furthermore, programs that educate and train migrants could help the migrants become productive members of French society, further eroding any concerns that people have about whether migrants will fit into French society. Again, helping migrants integrate into French society is not solely for the benefit of the migrants. In the long run, it can transform refugees into consumers of and workers in the domestic tourism industry. France may also generate goodwill amongst the international community for its work in integrating refugees, would could encourage foreigners to visit France.Overall, the migration crisis poses some risk to the tourism industry. However, most risks caused by the influx in migrants can be mitigated and the French tourism industry can be strengthened.