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The List: The World’s Best Places to Be an Immigrant

The List: The World’s Best Places to Be an Immigrant

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Ireland

Where they come from: Africa, South Asia, Eastern Europe

Immigrants as percentage of population: 14 percent

Why theyre welcome: Theres enough wealth to go around. Known primarily as a source of immigrants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the Celtic Tiger economic boom of the last decade and the resulting prosperity have now made the Emerald Isle an attractive destination. Ireland is also unique in the political rights it grants to noncitizens, which include voting, joining the police force, and running for local office. In the Dublin suburb of Portlaoise last summer, Nigerian-born Rotimi Adebari was elected as Irelands first black mayor. Although a few incidents of racial harassment have been reported, the backlash has been minimal, and Ireland doesnt have the far-right nationalist parties that are common throughout the rest of Europe.

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Spain

Where they come from: North Africa, Latin America

Immigrants as percentage of population: 11 percent

Why theyre welcome: Its all about the growth. Like Ireland, Spain spent decades as an economic basket case, but it is now one of Europes best-performing economies, thanks largely to its open-door immigration policy, instituted in the late 1990s. Spain has absorbed more than 3 million immigrants, and 11 percent of its population is now foreign-born. Many are attracted by Spains thriving construction sector, and minimum-wage agriculture and service jobs are increasingly filled by immigrants. Despite some fears provoked by the 2004 Madrid train bombings, carried out in part by Moroccan immigrants, Spain is keeping the door open and responded to its illegal-immigration problem with a large-scale amnesty in 2005. Its not all good news for immigrants, though. Human Rights Watch blasted the Spanish government last summer for mistreating African migrant children at its Canary Islands detention centers.

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Canada

Where they come from: East Asia, South Asia

Immigrants as percentage of population: 19 percent

Why theyre welcome: The country is running out of workers. Canadas finance minister recently said that population and labor shortages are Canadas most pressing economic challenges. One out of 7 Canadians is now a senior citizen, and the countrys fertility rate has been below replacement level since the early 1970s. In response, lawmakers in Ottawa are considering enhancing Canadas immigration laws, which are already among the worlds most liberal. Canada has accepted around 200,000 immigrants per year over the last 10 years. Canada is also known for having a remarkably open policy for asylum seekers and accepts nearly half of those who seek refugee status. (The United States accepts less than a third.) Security concerns since 9/11 have led Canada to beef up security along its southern border and increase police surveillance powers, but these measures have not led to a decrease in immigration.

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Israel

Where they come from: North America, the former Soviet Union

Immigrants as percentage of population: 40 percent

Why theyre welcome: Because Israel wants to remain a Jewish state. Yasir Arafat had a point when he remarked that the Palestinians greatest weapon is the womb. The Gaza Strip, for instance, has one of the worlds fastest-growing populations. Meanwhile, Israels Jewish birthrate has remained stagnant, and increasingly large numbers of young Israelis choose to emigrate as violence continues. In response, Jewish nonprofit organizations are working to entice Jews from around the world to the Holy Land, even offering grants of $3,000 to $10,000 as an incentive. Under Israeli law, Jews are automatically granted citizenship. These measures may be working. The year 2006 saw the first upswing in immigration from the United States in years. Most of Israels new arrivals, however, are from former Soviet bloc countries, and many have only tenuous connections to Judaism. The Knesset even debated amending the law of return policy last year when police broke up a neo-Nazi group in the city of Petah Tikva.

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New Zealand

Where they come from: East Asia and the Pacific Islands

Immigrants as percentage of population: 16 percent

Why theyre welcome: Because New Zealand wants the best. In how many countries can you imagine a politician saying, We are in a global race for talent and we must win our share, as New Zealands then immigration minister did in 2005? For New Zealand, immigration is all about skills. Applicants are awarded a score based on their level of occupational ability. Those scoring above a certain level are automatically granted entrance. With high levels of economic growth and a low population, New Zealands policies are geared toward shoring up key sectors of the countrys economy. On the whole, immigrants are thriving in New Zealands economic boom and receive public assistance at a lower level than the population at large. The good times may not last forever, though. Nationalist politicians routinely grumble about how the influx of Asian immigrants is changing the countrys demographic makeup, and the government is gradually raising language and skill requirements.