Migration to Europe

Population and migration
978-3-14-100890-6 | Page 69 | Ill. 4
 | Migration to Europe | Population and migration | Karte 69/4


Whether wars, epidemics, natural upheavals or simply economic reasons; migration has played a crucial role in European history at almost all times. Especially in modern times and since the 19th and 20th centuries, statistical figures are also available that can be used to draw precise conclusions.

Statistical overview of the current situation

On average, around seven percent of people in the EU states live as foreigners (2015), i.e. they do not have the nationality of the country in which they live. Around 11.4 million foreigners live in Germany, which is approximately 14% of the population (2020). Many other people, on the other hand, have German citizenship, but also have a migratory background because they or their ancestors immigrated from another country for various reasons. In Germany, this is 11,8 million or 14% of the population (2020; excluding foreigners). Overall, every fourth inhabitant of Germany has a migratory background (21.2 million); in France the proportions are similar.

Today, the numerically largest groups of people born abroad live in the countries of Western and Central Europe as well as in Southern Europe. The absolute numbers and proportions are lowest in large parts of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. However, there are exceptions here, such as Estonia and Latvia, where around 15 per cent Russians live - a consequence of belonging to the Soviet Union until 1991. In recent decades, the proportion of foreigners or people with a migratory background has increased in most EU countries. Germany and many European countries are now immigration countries.


Migration in Europe today

Current migratory movements in and to Europe are fed by several sources. Within the member states, EU citizens are free to choose their place of residence and work; this results in migratory movements between the EU states. Not all of these migrations are permanent (e.g. when taking up studies). Especially from Poland, Romania, Ukraine and Moldova, many young people commute to work in Western, Central and Southern Europe. The opening of Europe's internal borders was initiated in 1985 with the Schengen Agreement, in which the first signatory states - Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg - agreed to waive border controls on the movement of persons. Most European states joined the Schengen Agreement in the following years. Another milestone on the way to opening European borders was EU citizenship, introduced in 1992 with the Maastricht Treaties.

In the course of globalisation, highly qualified workers in particular, e.g. scientists, engineers, doctors, software experts and managers, choose their workplace and place of residence worldwide. Factors such as jobs on offer, career opportunities, potential earnings and living environment influence individual decisions, but global players also ensure that their employees work at different locations in the worldwide network of companies, often (initially) for a limited period of time. In the EU, a Blue Card regulation was enacted for the immigration of highly qualified workers from third countries (along the lines of the Green Card in the USA). However, its effect is controversial, as relatively few applications are made.

Another large group is asylum seekers. The asylum seekers come mainly from civil war and conflict regions in Africa and Asia. Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq form the largest groups, around one fifth of all refugees. The number of asylum seekers has risen sharply in recent years. The refugee crisis was at its peak around 2015/16, when many refugees arrived in Italy or Greece via the Mediterranean Sea (asylum applications 2016: 1,221,200 in total; in Germany around 700,000 in total; for comparison, 2008: 226,000). Now, the numbers are declining again (2020: 485,000; in Germany: 122,000)

The EU states have created a uniform set of rules according to which people who flee their home countries for political or religious reasons, for example, are accepted in the EU. Within the framework of an asylum procedure, it is examined, among other things, whether there are recognised reasons for fleeing.


Explaining migration decisions: Lee's migration model

Migration models attempt to describe and explain the regularities of migration. The push-pull paradigm basically states that every population migration is determined by predominantly negative factors (push factors) within the region of origin and predominantly positive factors (pull factors) within the destination region.

The population scientist Everet S. Lee tried to explain migration motives no longer solely in macroeconomic terms, but as a function of individual decisions. He basically attributed the decision between migration and non-migration to a comparison between the factors at the place of origin and the place of destination. He expanded the classic push-pull factors to include a variety of structural characteristics, for example the quality of the social infrastructure. In addition, he identified two further factors that have a decisive influence on migration: -Obstacles, understood as general barriers (e.g. strict immigration laws, border fortifications), -individual factors such as gender, age, educational level of migrants.

Currently, in the course of globalisation, it can be seen that migration behaviour has fundamentally changed and become more diverse. The "classic" form of migration is increasingly being supplemented by other forms such as transmigration. The latter is characterised by migrants remaining closely linked to their home regions. They may promote the development of their home countries by regularly remitting money to their families, forming migrant networks, and initiating private-sector activities. In some cases, migrants return home and transfer their acquired know-how.


Historical phases of immigration

Great Britain, France and the Netherlands in particular are destinations for immigrants from former colonial areas. Around 1.2 million people with Pakistani roots and 1.5 million people with Indian roots live in Great Britain. They form the two largest immigrant groups. In France, emigrants from North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) still form the largest group of immigrants (around 4 million), in addition to many immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa (around 1 million).

The guest workers (Gastarbeiter) of the 1960s and 1970s are already a historical phenomenon. These migrations were triggered by the economic upswing in the industrialised countries of the post-war period, the resulting demand for labour and the development gap with the peripheral regions of Europe. In countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, this wave of immigration is most noticeable today (high proportions among people from European states and Turkey). France is home to large populations with Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian roots from this phase. Another wave of immigration occurred between 1988 and 1998, when the number of immigrants living in Europe increased by 36 per cent to almost 19 million people. During this phase, the proportion of foreigners in the population increased especially in those countries which - such as Finland, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, and Italy - previously had only a relatively small proportion of foreigners. Large populations with roots in the former Yugoslavia live in European countries. They came as guest workers, but especially in the 1990s as civil war refugees.


The EU is sealing itself off

In order to limit the influx of refugees from Africa and West Asia to Europe, the EU acts at various levels. Land, sea, and air surveillance is carried out along the borders (joint border security). Agreements have been reached with neighbouring countries of the EU within the framework of the neighbourhood policy. In this way, the EU pursues the goal of stopping the flow of refugees on their territory. In some places, the EU states have erected border fortifications, partly also within the Schengen area (Hungary, Slovenia, Greece). Since 2016, there have been central EU initial reception centres for refugees at the external borders.

The experiences of the last decades show that refugee flows often only decrease for a short time after the implementation of new measures. A shift to other escape routes can be observed. In 2014, for example, there were an increasing number of "ghost ships" drifting towards European coasts without crew but with several hundred refugees on board. After agreements between the EU and Turkey on taking back refugees and the de facto interruption of the Balkan route at the beginning of 2016, the numbers of boat people arriving in the Mediterranean via Libya rose sharply again. Often criminal smugglers and traffickers operate in the background, making a business out of the refugees' misery.

Wanting to reduce reasons for flight in the countries of origin is, above all, a political goal of the EU to be pursued in the long term, from which no short- or medium-term changes can be expected. Rather, factors such as the worsening of the water situation in dry areas or the consequences of climate change and the resulting conflicts will increasingly be reasons for flight.