It should probably not come as a shock that statistics can be, and often are, presented and manipulated by elites. In Belgium -- and in all of Western Europe except Austria -- they form an informal multiculturalist lobby, which dominates universities, NGOs, public institutions and the media, in order to promote a pro-migration agenda.
In a relatively short time, Belgium has changed dramatically. Without any public debate, it has become a massive migration state. In just 15 years, Belgium has seen an increase of one million in its population -- from 10.2 million in 2000 to 11.3 million in 2015. These numbers represent a 10% rise over a very short period.
From 2000 to 2010, net immigration was nine times greater than in the Netherlands; four times greater than in France or Germany and even greater than in the United States, a country historically open to immigration.
Yet, this statistical reality has been hidden from the Belgian population. The elites and the media decide what people can talk about and what should be hidden. To force people to accept immigration as a given, data has to be hidden to avoid worrying the citizenry.
This is no grand conspiracy, no "Big Brother" masterpiece, but -- at best -- an honest enthusiasm for the multiculturalist ideology, or -- at worst -- the strong defensive mechanisms of Freudian psychology such as sublimation, denial or repression.
Information on flow but not on stock
Migration statistics are presented as annual flow. If this number goes down compared to the preceding year, it will be greatly emphasized; otherwise, it will be downplayed. A 10- or 20-year statistic would never be used. In looking at the scale of a country, annual flows are rarely subject to concern; but over a 10-year period, they could be alarming. We usually, for instance, talk about 40,000 naturalizations a year but none of these would remind us that there were also 200,000 naturalizations in three years and 608,322 in 12 years.
Those numbers represent 6% of Belgium's population. Additionally, no one writes that in just a few years, a million migrants arrived in a country of ten million, from 10.2 million in 2000 to 11.3 million in 2015.
Europeans move back to their country of origin, the others stay
In Belgium, a small country, open to its neighbors and host to the "capital of Europe," always has a procession of lobbyists and bureaucrats who have migrated from within Europe. This number is always larger, in terms of flow, than those arriving from other continents. The French and Dutch have the largest number of yearly migrants to Belgium, but after a few years they move back to their countries of origin. Turks, Moroccans and newcomers from other continents, do not.
So, the false impression is created that immigrants to Belgium are mostly Europeans, but in reality they are not. This incorrect statement is always reassuring and heavily emphasized, but there is never an analysis conducted over a period of 10 or 20 years. Also, a large number of European expatriates, according to emigration records, move back to their home countries. Moroccans, Algerians, Turks, and citizens of many other countries, apart from Americans, usually stay in Belgium... forever.
Demographic forecasts are not linked to migration
With the help of official forecasts, the media regularly note that the Belgian population is growing, and that this increase will continue. However, no one seems to be linking this rise in population to migration, even if, since 2000, that has been the driving factor.
During the coming decades, the Belgian State – already one of the most densely populated countries in Europe -- will again acquire one or two million more inhabitants, and will be confronted with numerous issues linked to this density, such as housing, education, healthcare, transportation, the environment, and so on.
This projected increase in population is never emphasized or presented in relation to the number of Muslims in Belgium, which is expected to double (to 1,250,000, meaning 11.1% of the population) or even triple (to 2,580,000, meaning 18.2% of the population) before 2050, according to the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life. An honest report for this demographic forecasting should be, "We shall soon be a million more, most of whom will be Muslims". But this kind of title in the press would invariably create a public debate on demographics, population density and Muslim integration -- and that would be out of the question for European elites: that would make people super-anxious and worried.
Choice of words, and concealment of problems
The population increase continues in Brussels at an average of 1% per year. It is always characterized, though, as a demographic boom and never as a migration boom. Yet, migration and the higher birth rates of women coming from abroad are equivalent to this increase and might well account for it. Social issues are prominent. For instance, 90% of the people claiming social welfare benefits in Brussels have a migrant background. There have been tensions in public services, such as the administration of migrants by the civil service, hospitals and public transport, with a doubling of travelers in 15 years. More space is needed at schools: more than 40,000 additional pupils have been added to classrooms over 10 years. Moreover, the related costs are never debated or addressed. Those topics are just swept away as if they were totally disconnected to migration.
Disdain for the concerns of citizens
One of the surest means to dismiss the legitimate worries of a population is to ridicule people as if the major part of the population were ignorant. One can, for example, make use of a popular opinion poll asking, say, the number of Muslims in the country and then laugh at a popular exaggeration in the numbers. If Belgians (or Europeans) were just better informed or less stupid, the commentary on the poll results would say, people would stop worrying about migration, and everything would be shiny in the Brave New World again. These kind of tricky surveys, however, are only used for migration numbers; never for unemployment rates, literacy rates or GDP growth. No one is even trying to take into account this popular anxiety, even as it reveals intensifying societal unease.
Spillover effect of family reunification
In Belgium, around 50% of immigration is linked to family reunification. That number represents a higher level than those of our European neighbors and more than for most of Europe, even though all of western Europe has been hit by mass migration. A problem is that the type of mass migration Europe has seen is, by definition, exponential and without any end. There are marriages in name only, polygamy, marrying only within one's community for many Turkish and Moroccan weddings, and apparently often fraud.
The consequences on demographics of family reunification (chain migration) are never explained or taken into account.
Even Eurostat, the official statistics agency of the European Union, mixes data and ideology: that "immigration" is "good for Europe". In the very first lines of the latest report on migration (March 2017), Eurostat writes:
"In destination countries, international migration may be used as a tool to solve specific labour market shortages. However, migration alone will almost certainly not reverse the ongoing trend of population ageing experienced in many parts of the EU".
So, let us have more immigration!
Unless there is rapid awareness about the exponential consequences of chain migration and arrivals from across the Mediterranean, mass migration will continue. Concealing this fact is pursued everywhere in Europe. If we want to control and slow down immigration, according to the will of the majority of Europeans, the European people need at least to be aware of the gravity of the situation. Asking for an honest description of the migration crisis is vital if we wish to preserve the freedom of speech in democratic countries.
Turkey's then Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu (left) clasps hands with European Council President Donald Tusk (center) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (right) during a "migration deal" summit, in Brussels, Belgium, on March 18, 2016. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Alain Destexhe is a Senator in Belgium, Former Secretary General of Médecins Sans Frontières and Former President of the International Crisis Group.