Newsletter of ISA (International sociological association) – Research Committee on sociology of migration, Autumn 2011. 

As in other parts of the world, the public debates on immigration and integration of new migrants in European are often fierce, emotional and irrational. In the current financial, economic and social crisis, the old strategy of scapegoating the immigrants functions quite well. Anti-immigrant parties don’t hesitate using it to try to mobilise electoral support. As a result, attitudes towards immigration and migrants tend to become more and more negative across Europe.

But one question is seldom raised in the European migration debates: what is the impact of the global crisis and of its local manifestations on European emigrations? Is Europe not becoming again a continent of emigration as a consequence of the lack of perceived opportunities in hard times? Let me just take a few examples to start answering that question. During a recent trip in Dublin, Ireland, my attention was drawn by a demonstration in front of the seat of the Irish Parliament: to my surprise, the slogans were: “Stop Emigration” and “Keep our kids home!”. As a matter of fact, the decline of the Celtic Tiger has led many young Irish people, often very well educated and qualified, to leave the country in search for better prospects in Canada or Australia. The same goes for Greece. It is indeed tempting for many young Greeks to leave a sinking state and society to enlarge the Greek diaspora in Australia or to start newer migration routes, for example to Lebanon. In Italy, the sad farce of Berlusconi has pushed away thousands of young Italians, sometimes towards other European countries but increasingly towards emergent countries such as Brazil, India and even China.  Young Portuguese rediscover Angola or Cape-Verde, not as new colonialists or 21st century “Herois do mar”, but simply to escape the Portuguese economic and social mess.

This situation is very interesting. While Europe has not yet learned to view itself as a continent of immigration, it is also becoming reluctantly again a continent of emigration! While Europe is trying to build a EU immigration and integration policy, the issue of emigration policy is not at all addressed either in public debates or in policy making. This shows that more than ever we need a global approach to human migration including immigration, emigration, transit, integration, etc. related to global imbalances (economic, environmental, etc.). Maybe our RC is an appropriate place to try and develop it!


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