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Immigration WorldwidePolicies, Practices, and Trends$

Uma A. Segal, Doreen Elliott, and Nazneen S. Mayadas

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388138

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388138.001.0001

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European Union

European Union

Immigration and the European Union

(p.437) 29 European Union
Immigration Worldwide

Karen Lyons

Nathalie Huegler

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines migration within a “regional” context: the focus is on Europe, specifically immigration within the European Union (EU). After a consideration of the nature of immigration into and within the EU and some of the major policies promoted by the EU in relation to immigration, the chapter examines aspects of the immigrant experience within this (sub)region. While the EU provides a framework for analysis—and its policies inform and constrain individual nations—entry to, and the experience of immigrants in, different countries varies. This is partly due to the extent to which member states retain some autonomy, as well as the distinct histories and cultures of member states. Promotion of more positive attitudes to diversity and observance of antidiscriminatory legislation at EU and national levels need to be supported as do debates about the nature of citizenship and the rights of various types of immigrants.

Keywords:   immigrant experience, European Union, diversity, immigration policy, regional framework

In this chapter we examine some aspects of migration within a “regional” rather than a national context, and focus particularly on Europe. While “Europe” might be regarded as a geographical region encompassing a large number of countries, two groupings have been established since the end (in 1945) of World War II. Both the Council of Europe and the European Union were aimed, minimally, at promoting peaceful interchange between European countries and both have accrued additional roles and powers in the decades since the late 1940s. In fact, the European Union (EU), encompassing a smaller membership, has developed as a more significant actor in relation to national policies, not least in the field of migration, and it is with immigration and the EU that this chapter is concerned. In three major sections we shall be considering the characteristics of immigration into and within the EU; some of the major policies promoted by the EU in relation to immigration; and particular aspects of the immigrant experience within this (sub)region. However, first we shall say a bit more about the geography of Europe; the Council of Europe, and the membership of the EU itself.

Unlike a continent such as North America, the borders of Europe and its constituent countries are complex and contested: it is a region of great diversity, not least as demonstrated by the large number of languages spoken (over 50) with related variations between and within in national cultures. Geographically, it stretches from islands such as Greenland and Iceland in the northwest across the Nordic and Baltic countries to encompass part of the huge territories of Russia in the northeast. In the southwest it includes the Iberian Peninsula and off-shore islands related to Portugal and Spain, while in the southeast it extends to Turkey (or at least to the “European part” located West of the Bosphorus, the remainder having traditionally been viewed as part of Asia Minor). Fundamental to this conception of “Europe” is the notion of countries that historically were part of “Christendom,” whether they were part of Catholic (and later Protestant) or Orthodox (Greek or Russian) traditions. While the Mediterranean Sea has for centuries provided a natural border separating European countries from those of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Minor, it also provided an important trade route and more recently it has assumed significance as a sea route for entry to the European Union (notably via Italy and Spain), for instance, by undocumented migrants.

(p.438) Geographically, therefore, in 2007 Europe consisted of 48 countries, 47 of which (with a combined population of 800 million) are members of the Council of Europe (the exception being Belarus). This Council—which should not be confused with the European Union—was established in 1949 in Strasbourg, France (where it is still based), with the specific purpose of defending “human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.” Accordingly, one of its first actions was to draft the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) which should be ratified by all countries in membership. It also established the European Court of Human Rights, to which individuals can bring cases which apparently contravene the Convention by national governments. Rulings of the court are not binding on member states but they have symbolic value in identifying legislation and executive actions which are at variance with human rights: findings have thus sometimes played a part in subsequent policy change in individual countries. Current aims of the Council of Europe include the promotion of Europe’s cultural identity and diversity; and finding common solutions to current challenges (Council of Europe, 2008a). Although established earlier and having a much wider membership, the Council does not have the same range of powers or aspirations as the European Union, although there are clearly areas of overlap in their areas of concern, and some of the issues related to immigration to EU countries arise from conditions in other member states of the Council of Europe.

The European Union also grew out of an initiative taken in 1950 (the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community), aimed at ensuring peaceful trade and use of resources between six countries which had previously been on opposing sides in World War II (Belgium, France, [W] Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands). In 1957 the ECSC members agreed the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC, often referred to as the Common Market) and this body was joined by Denmark, Ireland, and the UK in 1973. Policy developments at the time were mainly concerned with economic and trading arrangements (for instance, establishing a common agricultural policy to address food shortages) although the EEC also became more involved in policy developments in the field of employment. 1979 marked a shift toward the democratization of the Community, giving all citizens of member states a chance to elect European Members of Parliament. The European Parliament joined the European Council of Ministers in approving laws drafted by staff employed by the European Commission (the executive arm of the EU) and complimenting the work of the European Court of Justice (which has responsibility for the interpretation of European law and any disputes concerning its application by member states).

Further states joined the EEC in the next two decades (Greece in 1981; Spain and Portugal in 1986; Austria, Finland, and Sweden in 1995), and 1993 saw the formal establishment of the European Union with the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. This marked the completion of the “Single Market” allowing for the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people within the area of the EU. It also set out rules for a single currency (since adopted by 12 countries); joint foreign and security policy; and increased cooperation over justice and domestic policies, including in relation to immigration. 2004 saw a significant expansion of the EU membership with the inclusion of “the accession states” mainly from the former East European bloc (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, as well as Cyprus and Malta) and these were joined by Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. Croatia, Macedonia, and Turkey are currently (2009) seeking membership. The number of countries within the EU has therefore nearly doubled since 2004 and now stands at 27, representing 495 million citizens (Europa, 2008).

As should be clear from the foregoing, the EU is not therefore a “region” in a geographical sense but it is a political entity whose members comprise a substantial part of the European continent. Its member states are for the most part wealthy—although there are significant variations between the GDPs of established members relative to those of some of the more recent members, as well as countries beyond its borders. Additionally, it should be noted that two of the wealthiest countries in Europe, Switzerland and Norway, are not members of the European (p.439) Union. Having identified the origins, countries, and main institutions of the EU, we shall say more about its policies as these relate to immigration, after we have looked at the scale and flows of immigration in this context. We shall finally discuss the experiences of immigrants in the EU context.

Migration to Europe

The history of Europe is inherently connected with migrations, involving not only people moving across borders, but also “borders [moving] over people” (Bade, 2003, p. x). While labor migration and itinerant trade played an important role in Europe at the time of transition from agrarian to industrialized societies, early examples of forced migration included French Protestant Huguenots seeking refuge in seventeenth-century Britain (Bade, 2003; Marfleet, 2006).

The large scale uprooting of people across Europe by the end of World War II brought about the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951, which, through a protocol in 1967, subsequently became universally applicable to refugees throughout the world. While the immediate postwar years were predominantly a time of emigration from Western Europe (particularly to the Americas), millions of people also moved into the region. This included ethnic German minorities from Eastern European territories, which had come under Soviet control, and “returnees” from former British, French and Dutch colonies to the “mother countries.” Despite the postwar devastation, economic growth and subsequent labor shortages from the mid-1950s onward led to migrant worker recruitment in most Western European countries. Some countries provided opportunities for long-term settlement of immigrants (e.g., Sweden, UK, France), while others, notably Germany and Switzerland, attempted to prevent settlement of temporary “guest workers” through systems of “rotating” recruitment. Typically young and male, migrant workers were recruited mainly from South European states, North Africa, and Turkey. At the same time, France and the UK attracted migrants from former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Indian subcontinent to fill labor shortages, often relying on “word-of-mouth” advertisement among potential immigrants rather than formal recruitment systems (Schierup et al., 2006). By 1970, around 11 million migrants were living in Western Europe, accounting for 5% of the total population (Castles, 2000). Policies changed drastically with the oil crisis and economic downturn in the early 1970s, and “guest workers” were expected to return. Instead, the ending of this phase of recruitment led many migrants (particularly those from non-EU states such as Turkey or Yugoslavia) to stay on. In the following years, many were joined by family members.

Since the 1980s and 1990s, migration to Europe has changed significantly—in parallel with fundamental political, socioeconomic and demographic transformations affecting the region (as part of global processes of change). Several trends have been observed to characterize migration in recent decades, including globalization, flexibilization, “illegalization” and politicization (Schierup et al., 2006; Statham and Gray, 2005). Different migration patterns (and associated public discourses) are distinguished between EU members in the “north” (or “west”) of the region (e.g., Germany, France, the UK, and Sweden), the “south” (e.g. Spain, Italy, or Greece), and “new” member states in Central and Eastern Europe (Statham and Gray, 2005). These differences concern the (changing) status of regions as predominantly “sending,” “receiving,” or “transit” areas, and, to some extent, the dominance of specific “categories” of migration—for example, asylum, undocumented/ irregular and (skilled) labor migration.

Asylum migration to North and West European countries increased from the mid-1970s onward. In the first decades after World War II, the “classical refugees of the Cold War” (Castles and Loughna, 2005, p. 40) had predominantly been dissidents from Eastern Bloc countries. These immigrants were relatively few in number and marginal in terms of “political” and economic costs to the countries providing protection. Meanwhile, conflicts in Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia had led to increasing refugee flows from the 1960s onward, with many of those fleeing able to reach EU countries as labur migrants. However, when recruitment schemes ceased, claiming asylum became the only available route to safety for many, including for migrants with “mixed motivations” of seeking escape from repressive regimes and following (p.440) existing patterns of settlement (e.g., Turkish / Kurdish asylum applicants in Germany) (Castles and Loughna, 2005).

The number of asylum applications rose in the early 1990s, reaching a “peak” of over 670,000 in EU countries in 1992 (438,190 in Germany alone), mainly from Eastern Europe (particularly Romania and former Yugoslavian states), as well as Africa (e.g., Somalia and DR Congo), Asia (e.g., Afghanistan, Iran, and Sri Lanka), and the Middle East (Eurostat, 2007; Castles and Loughna, 2005). This was accompanied by politically fueled “panic” about migration and the introduction of increasingly restrictive systems of border control and deterrence (Schierup et al., 2006). Although the number of applications had fallen significantly by the mid-1990s, asylum migration continued (and continues) to dominate the public and political discourse on migration in North and West European countries.

Economic and demographic changes in Southern Europe from the 1980s onward meant that states such as Spain, Greece, and Italy were transformed into countries of immigration, and, through the process of European integration, gained significance as “border guards” of EU territory. Many migrants reaching Western Europe have since that time had to resort to increasingly sophisticated “illegal” means of crossing borders, frequently using the “services” of people smugglers. Such “undocumented” migration takes many different forms—including irregular entry with subsequent “regularization,” and irregular stay following the expiry of “regular” statuses. For instance, estimates suggest that around 1 million undocumented migrants (mainly from Latin America, Eastern Europe, and North Africa) were living in Spain in 2003, at least 500,000 in Italy (2006), and similar numbers in Portugal (2004) and Greece (2006) (IOM, 2008). In addition to land routes from Eastern Europe and Asia, the Mediterranean functions as a main “border” crossed by migrants from North Africa (although the Canary Islands, part of Spain, have also recently become a significant “entry point” from West Africa). Various regularization initiatives have been launched to “legalize” the presence of undocumented migrants, particularly in Italy and Spain.

Although irregular migration is often debated from a perspective emphasizing migrants’ desired economic gains and the exact figures are unknown, at least several hundred thousand people are estimated to be victims of a subform of irregular migration, namely trafficking for (labor, sexual, and other forms of) exploitation (Council of Europe, 2008b). The links between irregular and forced migration are both longstanding and complex: not only have refugees often been faced with irregularity as the only route of escape, but states themselves have been identified as complicit beneficiaries of a cheap and “disposable,” and arguably “unfree” workforce (Marfleet, 2006, p. 184).

The role of Central and Eastern European countries in relation to migration has shifted significantly in the past 20 years—moving from pre-1989 regimes (which allowed very little international mobility); through being countries of emigration and transit or “buffer zones” for irregular migration to western EU states; to gaining significance as destination countries particularly for asylum-seekers from the Russian Federation (Statham and Gray, 2005). In this process, there has been considerable pressure from “established” EU countries on new and potential Central and East European members to introduce measures of border enforcement and deterrence.

In 2005, the total number of international migrants in Europe (as a whole region) was estimated at over 64 million—8.8% of the overall population (UN, 2006), around 40 million of whom lived in the 27 states now constituting the EU (own calculations). From 2001 to 2006, the number of asylum applications to the European Union1 decreased by over 50%, with a slight increase in 2007 (229,000), mainly attributed to a growing number of refugees fleeing the Iraq war (UNHCR, 2008). Notably, this increase has affected mainly Southern European countries, Sweden, and some “new” EU member states—whereas “traditional” destination countries (e.g., Germany, France, and Austria) recorded fewer applications. Main countries of origin in 2007 were Iraq (18.4% of all applications), the Russian Federation (8%), Pakistan (6.3%), Serbia (6.1%), Somalia (4.5%), and Afghanistan (3.7%) (UNHCR, 2008). Within this overall view, however, diverse patterns exist for individual countries, which no longer necessarily follow historical links.2

(p.441) Despite ongoing public and political concerns about asylum migration in many European states, numbers are relatively small in the context of overall immigration, including movement within the EU itself. Eurostat (2008a), the EU statistics organization, suggests that around 3 million international migrants settled in the EU-27 area in 2006, around 1.8 million of whom were non-EU nationals.3 However, in terms of nationality, the largest group came from Poland (290,000), followed by Romanians (230,000), and—only in third place—Moroccans (140,000). British and German nationals were also active in migration, and their numbers, at 100,000 and 90,000 migrants respectively, were over 3.5 times the total number of asylum applications made to the same countries in 2007. While Spain, Germany, and the UK reported the highest numbers of international immigrants (around 800,000; 560,000; and 450,000 respectively), only Spain had higher per capita immigration.

Given the comparative youth of new migrants, particularly from non-EU countries,4 there have been both demographic and economic arguments in favor of continued net immigration into the EU, a region with falling birth rates and a projected 7-year increase in median age to 47.9 by 2060, with the population aged over 80 years expected to triple (Eurostat, 2008b). Several European countries have continued to experience labor shortages in certain industries in recent years, and have therefore been running (usually temporary) recruitment programs for both unskilled and highly skilled migrants from within the EU and beyond its borders. Immigrants form a significant part of the work force in sectors such as agriculture and construction, or in the fields of IT and health care (Martin, 2007; Schierup et al. 2006). The extent to which such new “guest worker” schemes will continue following the 2008 global economic downturn, and whether such employment will lead to new long-term settlement, will need further exploration. On the other hand, there are also indications that at least some of the contemporary patterns of migration to and mobility within the EU are transnational—involving networks and communities that exist across national boundaries and that follow circular patterns of “flux” and “flow” rather than linear paths of emigration, immigration, and settlement (Favell, 2008; Marfleet, 2006).

EU Frameworks and Policies

As identified above, the EU is a political entity with the ability to promote policies and legislation that should be agreed to by all member states and that should therefore inform national policy debates and actions of its members. Of course, the EU and member states should also observe international (United Nations) declarations (e.g., on Human Rights, 1948) and regional conventions (e.g., the European Convention on Human Rights, 1950), particularly those relating to refugees (e.g., the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, 1951). Similarly, migrant labor should be protected by the provisions of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the ILO’s aim to promote the idea of “decent work.” However, in reality, the experience of different categories of immigrants can vary significantly between EU member states, according to a range of factors including public attitudes and political initiatives as well as the economic resources either to “police borders” or to address the needs of immigrants on arrival or at the settlement stage.

As can be seen from the foregoing section, some EU countries, while often benefiting from their labor, have also felt under heavy pressure from immigrants from poorer neighboring states over the past decade or so. While wars and poverty in African countries have for several decades led to immigration mainly to former colonial countries, two particular events on the European continent itself led to greater movement from the former Eastern Bloc countries, namely, the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the break up of Yugoslavia in the early nineties. Thus, by the 1990s the European Union was taking a more active role in the regulation of immigration, and individual countries have since also enacted more restrictive and even repressive legislation.

One of the issues facing the EU and member states concerns the conflation of debates and policy formation in relation to immigration with those related to a specific group of immigrants, that is, asylum-seekers. In addition, the attacks on the World Trade Center in the United States in 2001 and subsequent attacks in Spain (2004) and the UK (2005) have led to a (p.442) conflation of immigration control policies with measures designed to support “the war on terror.” In effect, immigrants have increasingly been seen as a threat to (national) security or, at very least, as people who are the perpetrators or victims of international criminal activities, such as drug smuggling or people trafficking. In this section we therefore consider ways in which the EU has sought to regulate immigration and to address some of the issues that have been identified as related to immigration.

Despite a recent “firming up” of EU policies and instruments in the area of immigration, this is not a new focus of concern for some of its member states—nor is the association with terrorism and criminality. In 1976 the Trevi group was established within the then EEC to counteract “terrorism, radicalism, extremism and violence” (Lyons, 1999, p. 120). Further moves were made toward harmonizing national immigration laws over the next decades, including the establishment of the Schengen Agreement on intergovernmental processes in relation to population movement in 1990. This agreement abolished border controls between signatory countries (initially, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, and Portugal); introduced common visa and “carrier liability” policies; detailed checks on non-EU nationals; a list of “undesirable aliens”; and a stipulation that asylum-seekers must apply in their first country of entry and, if refused, are not eligible to seek asylum elsewhere in the EU. With the enactment of the “free mobility of labor” provision under the Maastricht (Single Market) Treaty in 1993, most of these provisions (including the last) have since been adopted by all EU member states whether or not they were formerly part of the Schengen group. The role played by some EU countries in promoting restrictive immigration policies had earned it the title, “Fortress Europe” (Moraes, 2003).

However, it was not until 1999 that a general EU Asylum and Migration Policy was formulated at a meeting of Council Ministers in Tampere. The comprehensive nature of this spanned “the areas of Justice and Home Affairs, Development and Humanitarian Assistance and Common Foreign and Security policy … (and) has consolidated existing restrictive national asylum practices in an effort to curb unregulated migration into the Union” (Lindstrom, 2006, p. 29). In the ensuing period six directives or regulations were passed as follows:

  • Temporary Protection Directive (2001/55/EC) setting minimum standards for temporary provision for displaced persons;

  • Reception Directive (2003/9/EC) laying down the minimum standards for the reception of asylum-seekers;

  • Dublin 2 Regulation (EC No. 343/2003) identifying member state responsibility and procedures for examining an asylum application lodged by a third country national;

  • Family Reunification Directive (2003/86/EC) on the right to family reunification;

  • Qualification Directive (8043/04 Asile 23 (2004)) setting minimum standards for the qualification and status of refugees and others needing international protection and the content of the protection granted;

  • The Procedures Directive (14203/04, Asile 64 (2004)) setting minimum standards for granting and withdrawing refugee status (adapted from Lindstrom, 2006, p. 40).

In addition to developing this shared policy framework in relation to asylum-seekers and refugees, discussions are underway to explore the feasibility of establishing a Common European Asylum system (potentially to be adopted by the end of 2010) aimed at the joint processing of asylum applications within the EU. This is building on the work of the Hague Program, which, since 2005, has launched pilot refugee protection programs, including assistance to countries for improving local infrastructure; local integration of refugees; and cooperation on legal migration. In addition, attention has also been paid to the sustainable return of immigrants and “prevention” of future migration through EU programs aimed at addressing issues such as governance, citizenship rights, and human trafficking as well as the economic problems that are often contributory aspects of the “push factors” operating in the migration process. These include the AENEAS program (from 20045) and the Migration, Asylum Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI) with its focus on the Western Balkan region (Lindstrom, 2006).

(p.443) A comprehensive approach, partly in relation to refugees but now also in relation to “illegal immigration,” is very much the goal of the European Union, but coordinated actions are not without their tensions and setbacks (Moraes, 2003).

This links with the role of individual states in controlling immigration flows and also debates about the citizenship rights of immigrants, particularly in relation to welfare provisions. In relation to the first, there are indications that patterns of immigration in the EU are changing, assisted by national government policies. For instance, it seems that the British Government took advantage of the enlargement of the EU in 2005 and subsequent immigration from the accession states (notably Poland and the Baltic States) to restrict immigration from outside the EU. One example was the amendment of the list of “shortage occupations” (for which staff recruited from overseas could be given work permits) to exclude workers in the social care field. However, there is also anecdotal evidence that, as the economy of the UK has gone into recession, workers from other EU countries previously employed, for instance in the construction industry, have returned to their home countries (BBC, 2008).

In relation to the second point, Geddes (2003) has pointed out that there is no simple or consistent pattern of relationships between immigrants and welfare systems across the EU countries, but rather that account must be taken of the type of “welfare state” prevalent in individual member states and the identification of particular types of immigrants, as being “wanted” or “unwanted.” These categories denote the contribution which particular types of immigrants are expected to make to national economies relative to the strain that others are perceived as placing on welfare systems. A significant aspect of recent public debates and political initiatives in most member states has been an ever tighter demarcation of “the community of legitimate receivers of welfare state benefits (relative to those) deemed bogus or abusive” (Geddes, 2003, p. 150). This reflects—or is reflected in—contradictory pressures to expand migration relative to policies aimed at closure and protection of national resources.

However, immigrants can be seen as the victims rather than the cause of policies aimed at curtailing expenditure on welfare states, which have been a common feature of EU countries over the past decade—or in Geddes’ terms “international migration … possesses the capacity neither to save nor to destroy these welfare states” (2003, p. 151). Geddes (2003) goes on to summarize the welfare state model proposed by Esping-Andersen (1990) with the addition of a Southern rim type; and uses the examples of the UK (liberal type); Germany (conservative-corporatist type); Denmark (social democratic type), and Italy and Portugal (Southern rim) to illustrate the different positions that immigrants occupy relative to welfare states. These include the weakened position and isolation of asylum-seekers in relation to the British welfare system; labor market protection in Germany; increased marginalization of “unwanted immigrants” in Denmark; and the relatively greater “space” for immigrants in the informal economies of Southern Europe (where, in general, welfare states have been less developed).

However, while national policies might indicate increased marginalization and exclusion of (some types of) immigrants (accompanied by, or as a result of, the rise in popularity of center- or far right political parties (Saggar, 2003)), the EU, mindful of the human rights of all its “citizens”—or perhaps fearful of the social unrest that can result from social exclusion,6 has advanced various policies aimed more broadly at promoting social inclusion (since the 1990s). More recently, policies have included reference to the notion of “valuing diversity” or, more specifically, a logo including the tag line, “For Diversity—Against Discrimination” used in a campaign launched in 2008. This shift might be seen as both an increased acknowledgment of the complex nature of diversity in all EU societies but also a loss of faith in the effectiveness of multicultural policies, as propounded for example, in the UK since the 1980s. The 2008 campaign “aims to inform people about their rights and obligations under EU wide anti-discrimination legislation”: its remit clearly extends wider than simply to immigrants but, given the high degree of ethnic diversity in many EU member states, immigrants could be the beneficiaries of improved public attitudes and governmental policies aimed at addressing discrimination on the grounds of “racial or ethnic origin” and/or “religion and (p.444) belief” (For Diversity, Against Discrimination, 2008). While this is primarily an information campaign aimed at influencing public opinion, the existence of EU-wide legislation in this field is also aimed at promoting policies in particular member states which are more consistent with human rights values and with legislation already implemented in many other European countries. This suggestion—that conditions are not the same for immigrants in all EU states, together with the earlier comments about immigrants and “the welfare state,” leads us on to a discussion about ways in which experiences of immigrants might differ.

“The Immigrant Experience” in a European Perspective

The experiences of any migrant are likely to be shaped by a variety of factors and circumstances. These include the extent to which receiving countries provide or deny “newcomers” opportunities for inclusion and participation, public “discourses” about migration and the responses of “settled” (indigenous and existing ethnic minority) communities, as well as the ways in which migrants themselves deal with processes of displacement, exile and resettlement.

Migrants arriving in European countries in the postwar decades faced different conditions as far as states’ attitudes toward the nature and duration of their stay was concerned. Subsequently, “guest workers” in Germany experienced what Schierup et al. (2006, p. 40–45) describe as “differential exclusion,” meaning that they were given (partial) access to the labor market and some aspects of welfare provision—while being excluded from political participation and citizenship. De facto, a variety of circumstances (including employers wanting to retain trained workers) had led to long-term settlement, particularly of Turkish ethnic minorities. Nevertheless, the political and public denial of the multiethnic reality perpetuated the ongoing conceptualization of third- and fourth-generation immigrants7 as “foreigners.” This continued into the new millennium, when access to citizenship was gradually (and reluctantly) improved (Schierup et al., 2006). In other instances, models of “assimilation” or (varying forms of) multiculturalism dominated in countries’ responses to immigration. The former involves a belief that immigrants, if granted full citizenship rights and encouraged to adopt social and cultural practices of the receiving country, will over time become indistinguishable from the indigenous population—a model which has impacted on the experiences of North African migrants to France, but which has been criticized for ignoring structural inequalities and racism (Schierup et al., 2006). Multiculturalism, on the other hand, has been applied in various ways in countries such as Sweden, the UK, and the Netherlands—with the general expectation that different ethnic groups will form distinct communities but have equal rights. Such approaches have been criticized by some for promoting separatism, and more recently, accused of encouraging fundamentalism. In many European countries, recent debate and rhetoric has focused on the need for immigrants to adhere to certain “core values” and on “social cohesion” (Zetter et al., 2006).

While different “legacies” continue to influence the experiences of settled immigrant and ethnic minority populations in “old” EU countries, many more recently arrived migrants are subjected to new, more pronounced forms of exclusion. For instance, asylum-seekers in particular have, in many countries, progressively been barred from accessing mainstream welfare provisions, denied access to the (regular) labor market, detained (during and after the determination of their claims) and compulsorily dispersed, preventing settlement in areas with existing community links (Schuster, 2006). For many undocumented migrant workers, particularly in South European countries, the (sometimes strategic) exploitation of their labor has contrasted with exclusion from social rights—while even periodic regularization programs, suggesting that some barriers to immigration are only “notional” (Marfleet, 2006, p. 170), have merely led to new temporary and precarious positions (Schierup et al., 2006). Zorn (2007) provides an example of the manifestations of “new” exclusions in Slovenia: in addition to barriers faced by refugees, asylum-seekers, and undocumented migrants, over 18,000 people who had entered Slovenia in the 1970s from fellow Yugoslavian republics became “erased” from the register of permanent residents in 1992, losing the social and political rights they (p.445) had previously shared in preconflict Yugoslavia (an example of “borders moving over people,” as mentioned earlier in this chapter).

Exclusionary policies toward migrants seem to be both influenced by and precipitating negative public attitudes. The sustained “othering” of Turkish and other migrant groups in Germany led to a series of racist attacks in the early 1990s, at the heart of national reunification (Marfleet, 2006). Those very incidents were, however, used as arguments for further restrictions of migrants’ rights, purporting that “too lenient” migration control systems had fueled these violent acts. While there have been examples throughout history of migrants being vilified in the press of receiving societies, more recent media coverage in European countries draws explicit links between migration and threats to the security and very integrity (in cultural, social, and economic terns) of receiving societies (Marfleet, 2006; Solé, 2004). The Independent Asylum Commission (2008) in the UK found that a large proportion of the British public had negative associations with the term “asylum” and that most drew on national media in forming their views (with minimal direct contact with asylum-seekers themselves). Looking at Southern European states, Solé (2004) finds a paradoxical dynamic: although migrants fill vacancies rejected by indigenous workers, public perception is that “newcomers” are profiting more than the settled population—while on the other hand, the progressive socioeconomic marginalization of migrants contributes to sustained negative public attitudes toward them. In this context, recent debate has polarized “new” and “established” migration, portraying the former as a “threat” to social cohesion and community relations (Zetter et al., 2006). A pessimistic view in the current phase of economic downturn is that the negative rhetoric directed at “new” migrants will increase further.

In the face of dominant and powerful negative discourses on migration, there has rightfully been an increased emphasis, particularly in the field of forced migration studies, on perspectives that stem from “real-life” individual and group experiences of migrants. In respect of Europe’s longer-standing immigrant and ethnic minority communities, the gap between expectations and lived experiences has often been a dominant feature. hile many immigrants from former colonies to the UK or France had been motivated by the notion of moving to the “mother country,” upon arrival, this often contrasted with experiences of racism, discrimination in employment, and deplorable housing conditions (Castles, 2000). On the other hand, many “guest workers” in Germany or Switzerland held on to the idea of eventual return, even after their grandchildren had been born and grown up in the “host” country. The resulting ambivalence continues to influence concepts of identity, particularly among Germany’s large Turkish ethnic minority population.

For refugees, expectations of life in countries of asylum are likely to be variable—given that a significant proportion of those crossing borders with smugglers have limited knowledge about their exact final destination (e.g., Marfleet, 2006). Experiences before and during migration (such as war, violence, and the loss of freedom, rights, and familiar sociocultural environments), as well as upon arrival (including access to psychosocial and material support) have been found to have a significant influence on refugees’ experiences of acculturation (e.g., Dona and Berry, 1999). The external and internal barriers of “Fortress Europe” lead refugees to undertake complex, risky journeys with considerable time spent “in orbit” (Marfleet, 2006, p. 221), while they continue to face adverse conditions in destination countries. This can include experiences of further violence and victimization—such as the (in one case, fatal) hostilities suffered by a group of asylum-seekers dispersed by the British government to a deprived council estate in Glasgow (Hickman et al., 2008). On the other hand, the many examples of refugees’ extreme marginalization have been juxtaposed by movements, throughout Europe, of solidarity and even civil resistance from the settled population in support of “new arrivals” (Marfleet, 2006).

Some of the experiences of recent labor migrants reflect trends such as the flexibilization of work or the commodification of services in European societies. McGregor (2007), for example, provides accounts of Zimbabwean care workers in the UK, some of whom, coming from well-educated backgrounds, felt unable to admit to families “back home” that they had joined the ranks of the “BBC” (or “British (p.446) Bottom Cleaners”)—many expressing their shock at Western approaches to care for elderly people. At the same time, a growing body of research highlights how changed patterns of migration, particularly circular and transnational migration within the enlarged EU, transform the very structures and practices of families—such as the “transnational” care, provided mainly by migrant women, for “left-behind” children or older people (e.g., Ryan et al., 2009).

The latter point links to the influence of factors such as gender, age, or disability on the migration experience. Children, for example, are, for various reasons, considered particularly vulnerable. Their involvement in migration to EU countries includes being trafficked, on the street, or being “unaccompanied” and “accompanied” asylum-seeking children. Perspectives on the experiences of children highlight, in a particular way, that migration policies and professional interventions (e.g., by social workers providing care and protection for children) need to be set in a context of human rights. On the other hand, such perspectives also remind us of the complex nexus between “vulnerability” and “agency” within which the experiences of many migrants are constructed.


In this chapter we have focused on the nature and scale of immigration into and within the European Union; with the particular policies and strategies that the EU has devised to address issues of migration and associated diversity; and with the differential experiences of immigrants within the EU. We have taken the EU as providing a framework for analysis and source of statistical data, while also indicating at various points the way in which individual member states demonstrate their own “autonomy” or illustrate (on the basis of their distinct national histories and cultures) different opportunities and constraints for immigrants.

Lindstrom (2006) has suggested that the EU faces three challenges “to manage population movements in a way that upholds basic human rights and the institution of asylum … to safeguard the legitimate interests of the states and communities affected by (immigration) … to invest the necessary political resources in preventing and reversing the causes of involuntary migration” (p. 43). He was referring specifically to concerns about whether EU policies respect international legal standards, particularly in relation to refugees; whether sufficient recognition will be given to the needs of some countries and the EU as a whole for a reliable labor supply (given national and EU demographics); and whether policies and programs can be implemented that effectively improve conditions in “sending countries” (rather than simply aiming to prevent immigration or to return immigrants to their home countries).

One of the points made in this chapter concerns the association often made between immigration and crime, whether in the form of people trafficking or other forms of (international) criminal activity (including drug smuggling). Clearly, there are real issues in this area that need to be addressed through intergovernmental policies and cross-border cooperation between a range of agencies and professionals: some of this work can be carried out in the context of the EU and some must be on the basis of arrangements between European institutions and countries and their counterparts in other regions of the world. These are indeed significant challenges for the European Union in a context in which public opinion in many member states is suspicious if not downright hostile toward many immigrants, particularly those differentiated on the grounds of race or religion (actual or assumed).

However, in this climate, efforts to promote more positive attitudes to diversity and observance of antidiscriminatory legislation at EU and national levels also need to be supported as do debates about the nature of citizenship and the rights of various types of immigrants. A contribution to the latter has been made by Kymlicka (2003, p. 195) who identifies alternative views as follows: “in a world of migration … the whole notion of national citizenship is increasingly obsolete”—new ways of assigning rights and responsibilities need to be devised.

Alternatively, (he suggests) others believe that increasing levels of ethnic and religious diversity require greater effort (by governments) to “construct and sustain a sense of common national citizenship,” that is, “a revaluation of citizenship.” Either of these approaches might provide increased opportunities—or at least less negative (p.447) conditions—for the development of more just immigration policies and more positive experiences of immigrants in the EU.


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(1) . In 2001 around 400,000 applications were recorded—this figure decreased to just under 200,000 in 2006 (Eurostat, 2007).

(2) . For example, over 18,000 applications from Iraqi nationals were made in Sweden in 2007, but only 144 in France. Greece, on the other hand, which, overall, had more applications than Germany, received applications from over 9,000 Pakistani nationals—contrasting with only 61 such applications in Sweden (and, given historical links, a still comparatively low number of 1,765 in the UK) (UNHCR, 2008).

(3) . This includes migration of non-EU nationals from one EU country to another.

(4) . The median age among immigrants from non-EU countries was 27.7 in 2006, compared with a median age of the current EU population of 40.4 (Eurostat, 2008a and 2008b).

(5) . The ANEAS program has since been replaced by the Thematic Cooperation Programme with Third Countries in the Development Aspects of Migration and Asylum, set out between 2007 and 2013 (European Commission, 2008).

(6) . For instance, the rioting that took place in some of the poorer districts of Paris and other French towns densely inhabited by immigrant communities in 2007 and 2005 (CNN, 2007).

(7) . This was particularly the case for immigrants from non-EU countries, who were non-Christian, or were “non-White.”