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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.