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image European Research News Centre > Research and Society > Getting to the core of migration
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image image image Date published : 24/02/03
  image Getting to the core of migration
RTD info 36
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  Seventeen teams of Commission-backed researchers have been investigating the issues surrounding immigration and integration. They have been exploring questions regarding the reality of daily life for immigrants, the integration of second-generation immigrants, inter-cultural dialogue and cross-border variations in integration policy. Their findings are both finely shaded and instructive.
   
     
   

There are many types of migrants who flee diverse situations and face differing receptions depending on their country of destination. They include political and economic refugees, the victims of traffickers who hand over all they have to be smuggled across a border, people with tourist visas who hope to get by somehow when it expires, plus the many arranged and never-to-be-consummated marriages and attempts at family reunification. Yet their lives often have one thing in common – the kind of jobs they are 'offered': dirty, difficult and dangerous.

To find out more about the lives of migrants and to compare their situation in different countries, 17 European research projects focused on three major themes: the characteristics of the migratory phenomenon (routes, reasons, method, etc.); the living conditions of migrants; and the opportunities for, and obstacles to, integration, especially for young second generation immigrants.

Except for genuine political refugees, migration is the promise of a better life, or quite simply a 'life' and all that it implies in terms of work, income and a home. Over time, these migratory flows have shown changing trends. While family reunification is declining, an increasing number of single women are crossing borders to take up jobs as domestic help or in the tourism sector. There are also young people (see box: ‘The dream and the reality’) who may not have a particularly hard life in their home country, but are drawn by the lure of the ‘land of opportunity’. Rather than landing in a dream world, many end up in a precarious economic wilderness on the fringes of society.

Supply and demand

Speculation is rife over whether illegal immigration spawns a parallel economy. Researchers working on the Migrant Insertion in the Informal Economy project reject this widely held belief. They conclude that 'far from being an effect of illegal immigration, the underground economy is one of its causes'. Therefore, it is this parallel economy that must be curbed, if the flow of illegal migrants is to be stemmed. In Spain, for example, the strict and effective checks on undeclared work introduced in the mid-1990s led to a fall in the influx of illegal immigrants.

But whether legal or illegal, are immigrants competing with 'nationals' for scarce jobs? This is another widely held view which is not altogether borne out by the facts. In southern Europe, such competition applies only to certain types of unskilled and manual work. In countries with high unemployment, such as Italy or Spain, but other countries too, immigrants tend to take dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs which nationals refuse to do. So immigrants are not taking anybody's job, simply filling a vacuum.

Among the ranks of the unemployed, however, foreigners are very much in evidence. In Berlin, Germany, for example, 34% of immigrants were jobless at the end of the 1990s, double the figure for German citizens. In the country as a whole, 38% of unemployed Germans were without qualifications, compared with 78% for foreigners. The Fare (Family Reunification Evaluation) project stresses that the inability to speak the language is a major handicap for access to employment but that 'migrants, and particularly women, often fail to learn German because the language courses are too expensive or they do not have the time.' Although most young second generation immigrants speak the language of their host country well, they do not write it well. Language, therefore, remains an obstacle to employment.

Second generation, second class?

The situation of second-generation immigrants was the focus of the Chip (Child Immigration Project) partners who studied and compared the 'quality of life' for second generation immigrants in six countries (Belgium, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). The objective was to gauge the impact of education policies on integration. It also looked at the relationship between the attitudes of certain players (teachers, social workers, police, etc.) and the degree of integration achieved.
Chip believes that the problems experienced by second-generation immigrants can vary significantly depending on whether, as children, they started school in their country of origin, were born in their host country or arrived there at a very young age. Other important factors were whether their families had lived in the host country for a long time or had only arrived recently.

However, regardless of his or her degree and ease of integration, young immigrants come up against the prevalent stereotypes of their 'group'. It is not unusual to find that ill-considered communication policies, sometimes emanating from well-intentioned public authorities, ultimately have a negative effect on the desire of children of foreign origin to invest in the society in which they live. It is, in a way, a question of recognising differences – and the best place to do that is at school (See box entitled ‘The multicultural challenge’).


Teaching-Integration

A project entitled Effectiveness of National Integration Strategies Towards Second Generation Youth studied the impact of teaching on integration in France, Germany and the United Kingdom. France seems to provide an education system that is relatively successful at integrating young immigrants – the differences in university results between students of foreign origin and nationals being less there than in other countries. Yet youth unemployment in general remains high and is far above Germany’s, for example.
The reason behind this seems to be that the more academic French system is less suited to the reality of working life than German education, which focuses more on professional integration. However, it is in the United Kingdom that second-generation immigrants find the path to employment the hardest to negotiate: three-quarters of British youth have a job while the majority of British-born Indians and Pakistanis do not.

Policies and practices

Apart from the school system, the opportunities and obstacles to integration vary from one country to another, but not always as one would imagine. The Case project shows that, although, in principle, Sweden favours integration, it finds it difficult to put into practice. This is mainly because hiring procedures require a command of the language that is beyond the level of most immigrants. In Italy, the integration of foreigners is facilitated by the parallel economy and there is greater tolerance than in other countries (such as Spain) where there are fewer immigrants. Nevertheless, most European governments are looking at the question of 'quotas' and believe that migratory flows must be limited before foreigners already present can be integrated.

This is why many countries apply the rule that nationality is acquired by birth on the territory of the state concerned (jus soli), thereby incorporating naturalisation into the process of integration. For researchers on the Effnatis project, who studied the integration and socio-cultural recognition of foreigners, this is just one factor – albeit an important one – in integration, and not an end in itself.


Boxes
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The dream and the reality

The Migrant Insertion in the Informal Economy project studied a certain 'elite' of young immigrants from the Maghreb and other parts of Africa, who tend to arrive in Europe on its southern shores (1 500 000 of them over the past 15 years). But it is also southern Europe that has the most jobs in the informal sector, such as domestic work, seasonal farm work, jobs on building sites, in small workshops or with service companies. These young migrants are ready to accept low-paid work that does not match their qualifications because they do not have the necessary papers to work in the formal sector. This causes a split between their personal and social identity. Many led decent lives with a favourable standing in their communities back home, whereas their fringe status in their host country brings with it poverty and stigma. Their dreams of a bright European future prove deceptive.

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The multicultural challenge

Working with multi-ethnic classrooms requires a special approach and sensitivity. This is why some schools employ the services of 'language mediators' who help foreign students or give core subjects in the immigrant child’s mother tongue. In some countries, such as Belgium and Italy, teachers can take special courses on multiculturalism outside the mainstream school network.

More specifically, several European higher education institutions are training future teachers in this multicultural approach. Their work was studied by the Immigration as a Challenge for Settlement Policies and Education project in six countries (Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel and the United Kingdom). The aim of the project was to promote the exchange of ideas that would optimise a type of multicultural education designed to help immigrants or refugees, as well as the children of ethnic minorities, to acquire the necessary skills to take their place in the economic and social world around them.

The researchers found that this 'open' method of teaching gives priority to human rights, equal opportunities and the values of diversity. It also involves questioning the traditional approaches prevalent in certain courses, in particular history and geography. A sub-project, Open Europe, should make it possible to develop multimedia teaching aids which incorporate the multicultural dimension.

Researchers also noted that the concept of a plural society has gained ground in the United Kingdom since 1997. Some schools embrace multi-ethnic cohabitation by developing a particularly open education system. Pupils at these schools are encouraged to be aware of their differences and the wealth of their respective cultural backgrounds. This initiative, which is quite difficult to apply on a general level because of the ethno-centred nature of school curricula, requires the full commitment of teachers if it is to work.

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To find out more
http://cordis.europa.eu/tser/
home.html


Contact
Fadila Boughanemi –
Research DG
Email

 

Too many foreigners? Most European governments are considering restricting migratory flows. This is seen as a necessary first step before immigrants already settled in the country can integrate.

Too many foreigners? Most European governments are considering restricting migratory flows. This is seen as a necessary first step before immigrants already settled in the country can integrate.


Immigrant jobs. Dirty, difficult and dangerous just about sums them up.

Immigrant jobs. Dirty, difficult and dangerous just about sums them up.


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