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Ch 1. For a history of European migration.
1. Migrations and Modern Europe (XVI – XX c.)
- All the European countries have a double migratory history of arrival and departure. They all have experienced the migrants arrival into their own land and have been foreigners themselves in others’ lands. Many of them, considered as foreigners in their own country, had to escape for religious, political or racial reasons. The idea that there are ethnic and cultural “pure” countries or nations is one of the several myths used to support a particular view of the present, but it lacks any historical confirmations.
- During the ancient Greek and Roman times conquests and colonization marked the European geopolitical map. In the long Medieval time the coming of Christianity, the migrations and the arrival of new peoples changed the ethnic and the socio-cultural scenery. But it is with the modern era that the idea of Europe and the European conscience took shape, through a historical process marked by many differences but alike in some respects:
- the formation of the national states
- o the explorations and conquests across the Atlantic and the moving of entire populations from the African continent to the American one, for slavery purposes.
- o the intra and extra-European migrations due to the religious wars between 1500 and 1700.
The conflicts among the European States have changed the national borders for five centuries: since the religious wars to the Napoleonic ones, the 1870 Franco-Prussian conflict up to the two world wars of the last century, periodically entire populations are included or expelled and we have witnessed waves of deportation as well as political and racial exile. During the Second World War the number of people deported are reckoned at 25 million.
- To these intra-European movements we must add:
- the migratory wave towards the two Americas, which involved most of the continent’s lands at the end of 1800.
- a migratory phenomenons inside some European countries (namely Belgium and GB), starting from the 19th century and linked to the rural depopulation. In Belgium the need of workforce of the industry was fulfilled by internal movements of population: from the middle of the 19th century, we notice an important migration flux from the rural Flanders towards the industrialised Wallonia.
- a first wave of economic immigration, coming in particular from Italy and Poland, that characterized several countries (for instance Belgium and France) in the period between the two World Wars .
2. Migrations an The second Post War period (1945 – 1989)
- The first steps of the European Union took place in the central-western part of the continent, in a deeply changed scenery: with the “cold war”, the division between opposing blocks substituted the division among the European powers.
- Soon after the war, the peoples’ migration from the poor countries was huge, even if mostly in the western part of Europe. There was an increase of the intra-European migratory movements, raised by the irreversible crisis of the rural world, that is the drift from the land and the urban drift, both inside and outside every single nations. In Great Britain and in France, however, also the movements from the ex colonies remained conspicuous.
- With the rise of the industrial and urban society, the massive work migration from Italy lasted until the first half of the seventies. In those years in fact, on the one hand this country too started its industrialization, and on the other hand, due to the energetic crisis, the richer countries stopped welcoming the migrants from other nations and the migrants themselves went back to their homelands. (The Belgian report shows very clearly how the moody welcoming policies were mostly influenced by the national demographic regulation needs and by its job market).
- During the 60’s, with the progressive end of the traditional migratory movements between « poor » and « rich » European countries, the host countries began to regulate the integration of the second migrants generation, while a new movement between the non-European « poor » regions (for instance : Maghreb, Turkey, Africa, etc.) and the European countries in search of workforces. In the same years, slowly new European Institutions were formed and, while the basis for the monetary unification were laid, measures where adopted which make concrete the free circulation of people and, de facto, introduce a difference of status between the migrants from a country member of the E.U. and the ones from a non E.U. country.
- A fundamental difference was produced in a turn between 1970 et 1980 :
- before the oil crisis and the economic crisis that ensues, there is a call for not very qualified and cheap workforces coming from Africa and Asia. This immigration is regulated according to the needs of the labour market (bilateral agreements, work permits and work contracts, etc.). In so far as this emigration also plays a demographic role, measures are taken in order to foster definitive settlements.
- the economic crisis leads the European countries to stop this immigration or at least to take restrictive measures (the concept « immigration zero »). These limitations to legaly access the European labour market go with the increase of illegal immigration.
3. Globalization and European Unification (after 1989)
- By the end of the eighties the fall of the Berlin Wall puts an end to the previous separations. The Germany reunification, the breakup of the soviet empire and of the communist regimes in eastern Europe and in the Balkans causes the end of the constraints to the migration towards the West and brings forth a progressive liberalization of the European job market. In the same time, the new situation makes the reasons of the political migration fail
- In the meanwhile, the endemic poverty of several African and Asian countries produces growing migratory waves of peoples, escaping from political and religious persecution, wars and famine, heading towards Europe, especially towards the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Europe has therefore to face a situation in which masses of people, coming from the East and South of the world, are coming to seek their own future. We have to face a problem of responsibility, of respect of human rights, already present in all the So, the Amsterdam Treaty come into force on the 1st May 1999, anticipates the creation of a common immigration and asylum policy.
- Progressively the European states are going to give up the policy (remained theoretical) of « immigration zero » for a more global approach leading to a new « chosen » and controlled economic emigration . This new orientation has been realized by the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum adopted in October 2008 at the European Council, while the Union enlargement has gone with a progressive opening of the labour market to the citizen from new member countriesConstitutions of the European countries.
- All this happens while “the old continent” is coping with the contradictions caused by the development model: crisis of the traditional industry; economic globalization (which caused the recent international financial crash); fall of the consumer goods; unemployment. The globalization of the production process and the big migratory movements cause social dumping effects (that is less protection at work and less trade unions’ bargaining power), questioning the social European model built up in the postwar period.
4. The problems of today: similarities and differences
- The current pattern of changes, conflicts and contradictions has got similarities and differences which can clearly be traced in the national Reports and are summarized in a section of the transnational Report.
- In general, we can say that the Eastern countries (Romania, Slovakian Republic) are migrant countries moving towards the West, whereas the Western countries (Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy) are coping with the socio-economic-political problems connected with the reception and above all with the control and stop of the migrants’ arrivals, as well as the integration of the migrants’ “second and third generation”. In this scenery we notice xenophobic trends (link a document intitolato “Link Discrimination”), usually belonging to the right-oriented political parties, but often shared by some parts of the society, too.
- Such trends are appearing also in the eastern countries, which are becoming immigration countries. Within 15-20 years the effects of the end of the communist regime, the European Union entry and the massive migration towards west, the arrival of foreigners looking for a job are all piling up. All this caused social tensions (particularly concerning Roma people, who seem to represent a further and different problem to many) and sharpened insecurities which brought forth contradictory measures, such as those aiming at protecting the exits, on the one hand, and at encouraging the repatriation, on the other hand.
- It is within this frame that we have to assess the difficulties and the contradictions, the resistances and the conflicts, but also the huge potentials of the contemporary migratory phenomenon.
Routes - Copyright 2009 - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission