Immigrant population: 3.9 million
What the law does: Like
much of southern Europe, Italy faces the daunting challenge of trying
to regulate and manage massive migration inflows from North Africa and
the Mediterranean. In response, the Italian government has instituted
various measures aimed at curbing immigration. One of the harshest, passed by parliament in 2009, penalizes illegal immigrants with a fine of €5,000-10,000 and allows immigration officials to detain them for up to 6 months.
it to say that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's tough new legislation
has done little to allay the rising tension in Italy over immigration
and its role in Italian society. This tension came to a head this
January when race riots
erupted in Rosarno, a small town in the southern region of Calabria
that is home to some 20,000 migrant workers, many of whom are African.
The riots, which lasted for two days, left cars destroyed, shops
looted, more than 50 immigrants and police officers wounded, and many rioters handcuffed and detained.
THE "BLACK SHEEP" LAW
Immigrant population: 1.7 million
What the law does: Switzerland's
uneasy relationship with its Muslim immigrant population became very
public in recent years thanks to the rise of the far-right Swiss
People's Party (SVP) and the referendum that resulted in a ban
on mosque minarets in 2009. One subject that hasn't been getting as
much publicity, however, is a tough new immigration law proposed by the
SVP that is currently awaiting referendum. The law would allow the Swiss government to
immediately deport all convicted criminals from other countries and -- depending on which
specific provisions of the bill pass -- potentially their family
the SVP distributed a now-infamous poster in 2007 depicting three white
sheep kicking out one black sheep above the caption "For More
Security," the U.N. instructed
its special rapporteur on racism to request an official explanation
from the government regarding the poster (at the time, the SVP held a
plurality of seats in the Swiss coalition government). Swiss society
has become polarized over the immigration law debate. In 2007,
opponents of the bill formed the short-lived "Black Sheep Committee" to support immigrants rights -- but enthusiasm for the SVP and its policies continues to grow.
Immigrant Population: 5.5 million
What the law does: Despite its anything-goes image, Australia has a surprisingly draconian immigration policy. And none of the country's various immigration
laws is more controversial than the Migration Reform Act of 1992
and its subsequent amendments, which collectively require the
authorities to detain all non-citizens who are discovered in Australia
without a valid visa. Between 1999 and 2003, the law was used to detain
more than 2,000 child refugees from Southeast Asia and the Middle East who were seeking asylum in Australia.
Reactions: The law has seriously irked human rights NGOs. In 2001, Human Rights Watch sent Prime Minister John Howard a forceful letter
arguing that the legislation "seriously contravenes Australia's
obligations to non-citizens, refugees and asylum seekers under
international human rights and refugee law." Three years later, the
Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released a report
condemning the government for the abuses and human rights violations
child refugees suffered while being detained. Although Kevin Rudd's
government has softened certain provisions of the law, it is still being employed to intercept and detain illegal immigrants.
THE "NIKKEI" LAW
Immigrant Population: 1.7 million
What the law does: Japan
has long struggled with its demographics and immigration problems.
Although the country's aging population necessitates the importing of
cheap labor, recently the Japanese government has sought to curtail
immigration in an effort to shore up its unprecedentedly high
unemployment figures. The most infamous of Tokyo's new anti-immigration
policies is the "Nikkei" Law. Passed in spring 2009, the law allows the
Japanese government to pay $3,000 to each unemployed Latin American
immigrant of Japanese descent (known as Nikkei in
Japanese) and $2,000 to each of that unemployed worker's family members
to return to their country of origin. The catch? These workers and
their family members would be prohibited from ever returning to work in
Japan. An estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians lived in Japan at the time.
the law is voluntary, it's nevertheless stirred up a deal of
controversy within Japan. Some support the measure as being
economically prudent, while others, such as Angelo Ishi of Musashi
University in Tokyo, describe the law as "an insult" to Japan's immigrant communities. Much of the Western press has taken a relatively neutral stance on the issue, aside from Time, which ran a story with the headline "Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, But You Can Go Home Now."
Country: United Arab Emirates
Immigrant population: 3.75 million (83.5 percent of total population)
What the law does: An
abundant supply of cheap immigrant labor from Southeast Asia and India
has helped make the UAE a major destination for foreign direct
investment. Yet despite a surge of immigration into the Emirates over
the past decade, the government has yet to reform its many draconian
immigration policies and labor laws. One of the toughest provisions in
Emirati immigration law is the prohibition
of foreigners from engaging in any sort of labor union-like activity.
As a result, living conditions are often harsh, including 80-hour work
weeks, back-breaking manual labor, and below-minimum-wage pay. It's not atypical for immigrants to live in "tiny pre-fabricated huts, 12 men
to a room, forced to wash themselves in filthy brown water and cook in
kitchens next to overflowing toilets."
Whereas in the past criticism of UAE immigration and labor law seemed
to come only from human rights NGOs and international organizations
like the U.N.,
more recently the immigrants themselves have begun to denounce such
laws. Immigrant workers in Dubai have been particularly vocal. In 2006,
a group of blue-collar workers in Dubai held a union meeting and protested the unfair working and living conditions that their employers subject them to. More recently, in September 2009, construction workers went on strike and protested in the streets, demanding higher wages and overtime pay.