Migration Flows Coming to the EU and the Financial Crisis

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Immigration is a traditionally sensitive issue in European politics, especially since mid-Eighties/early Nineties. Between late Sixties and early Seventies, southern European countries such as Italy and Spain (which had fuelled large intra- and extra-European flows in the previous years) started to become immigration countries, thus joining France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherland, UK and Switzerland, which had a far longer tradition in the field. In the following decades, new dimensions added to (and often replaced) the old intra-(Western) European flows: (1) a growing inflow coming from the Mediterranean southern shores; (2) new flows coming from south-eastern Europe, especially since 1989. According to official figures (Eurostat, OECD, Council of Europe), in the EU-27, immigrants were – at the beginning of 2006 – about 28 millions, i.e. 5.6% on a total population of about 500 million people. Their geographic distribution significantly varies, ranging from 0.1-0.3% on total population respectively in Rumania and Bulgaria to 3.9-9.8% in the core countries of EU-15. About two thirds of the immigrants are non-EU citizens: about one third of them (32%) are non-EU Europeans (including Russian, Turks, and citizens of the Balkan states), 22% of them come from Africa (two third from the northern states), 16% from Asia (half from China and the Far East, half from the Indian region), and 15% from America (mostly South America). According to the same figures, between 1.5 and 2.0 million immigrants per year reached the EU countries, while the European Commission assess some 350,000-500,000 of them as irregulars. The same source ranges between 3.0 and 8.0 million the total number of irregular immigrants living in the EU-25 in 2007. Such state of things has raised wide concern both at communitarian and country level, fostering a heated debate on the best way to cope with it. Through a long and sometimes harshly criticized path, in July 2008 the EU adopted the Immigration and Asylum Pact ‘to consolidate its efforts towards a common immigration policy’. In the following October endorsed the idea of an EU Blue Card (somehow mirroring the US Green Card) to “help fill posts that require highly-qualified personnel” and “make it easier for SMEs and other businesses to recruit specialist and highly-skilled staff”. Individual member states still play, nonetheless, the major role in coping with both legal and illegal immigration. Generally speaking, national legislations have grown increasingly restrictive since 1970s. Problems in absorbing the new workforce into a slowing labour market, anxieties about the impact of a great mass of low skilled/low cost workers on national wage and employment levels (the so-called “Polish plumber” effect), widespread fears for the impact of illegal immigration on law and order, and growing identitarian sensitiveness among different sectors of the public opinion, all have conjured in setting the trend. In most recent years, these elements have been further strengthened by the political consolidation of right wing (although not necessarily xenophobic) forces in many European countries. The present economic and financial crisis has had three main effects on this picture. (1) At macroeconomic level, it as triggered a broad-based GDP decline. According to EU forecasts, in 2009, EU GDP should fall by about 4.0%, compared with -1.5% in the world as a whole and -3.0% in the United States. This has put EU labour market under heavy stress, increasing competition and apparently reducing short-term incentives to immigration; at the same time it has not fully jeopardize EU relative well-off status, thus sustaining long term inflows coming from low-income areas. (2) At institutional level, the integration dynamic coupled with the pressing need to react to the crisis has fostered a new sense of urgency in the development of a common immigration policy. On the other hand, the sam
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospitePerspectives on Migration Flows in Asia and Europe
EditorAntonio Marquina
Numero di pagine28
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2011


  • Crisi economica (2007-)
  • European Union
  • Financial Crisis (2007-)
  • Flussi migratori
  • International Migrations
  • Migration Flows
  • Migration Policy
  • Migrazioni internazionali
  • Politica migratoria
  • Unione Europea


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