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Published on November 26th, 2012 | by Katharina Obermeier
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] © www.TheEnvironmentalBlog.org, Euro[/caption]   Human history is indelibly shaped by migration – large groups of people leaving one part of the world for another. In the past, this has been due to war, famines, and nomadic practices, but today a significant percentage of migration is for purposes of employment. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that 105 million people around the world are working in a country other than their country of birth. Of course, large-scale migration has often provoked hostility and social discord among the native population, and this is an aspect that has endured to this day. So-called international labour migration – migration for purposes of employment – is largely a product of supply and demand in labour markets. As such, it is affected by changes in domestic and international economic situations. So how has the eurozone crisis affected migration to and from, as well as within, the EU? A policy paper published in early 2009 by the Migration Policy Institute suggested that immigration flows would only be affected if the crisis resulted in a serious protracted recession. In terms of migration within the EU, the authors of the paper focused on migration from Eastern European countries to Western European ones, speculating that as many Eastern European migrant workers did not see their stay in countries like the UK, Ireland and Sweden as permanent, and they might well choose to return to their home countries as the eurozone crisis hit Western Europe. Interestingly, the bigger story has turned out to revolve around Greek, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese workers, who are increasingly seeking employment abroad as they face record unemployment figures at home. In fact migration streams between southern European countries on the one hand and South American and Caribbean ones on the other hand are reversing, as more and more Europeans are leaving their crisis-struck homes to seek their fortunes in former colonies. There has also been increased migration to Germany, regarded by many as the recession-proof bulwark of the EU, especially for those coming from countries which have been hit hardest by the crisis. The number of Greek and Spanish migrants to Germany has increased by 78% and 53% respectively over the last year, clearly showing the impact of the crisis on these countries. Of course, from an economic point of view, these developments make perfect sense. Given the high unemployment levels in Greece and Spain and Germany’s severe shortages in the labour market, it is only logical for labour to move from one to the other. In fact, this lies at the heart of what the EU’s single market was created to do: to facilitate the free movement of goods, services, capital and people within Europe. However, simple economic facts do not always translate well to the “real world”, where differences in language and culture, as well as a lack of appropriate frameworks and policies to integrate new arrivals in the receiving country, can fuel resentment, misunderstanding and segregation between immigrants and the local population. Germany in particular has had problems with this in the past, and it is easy to see how higher levels of immigration could spark new conflicts in an already tense environment. In addition to this, immigrants are less likely to have access to government benefits, and are therefore more negatively affected by economic crises than domestic workers. The catch-22 for immigrants in countries like Germany right now is that as immigration increases due to the crisis, better integration programmes are required, but are not implemented as governments are trying to cut costs because of the crisis.

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Migration in the Crisis

© www.TheEnvironmentalBlog.org, Euro

 

Human history is indelibly shaped by migration – large groups of people leaving one part of the world for another. In the past, this has been due to war, famines, and nomadic practices, but today a significant percentage of migration is for purposes of employment. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that 105 million people around the world are working in a country other than their country of birth. Of course, large-scale migration has often provoked hostility and social discord among the native population, and this is an aspect that has endured to this day. So-called international labour migration – migration for purposes of employment – is largely a product of supply and demand in labour markets. As such, it is affected by changes in domestic and international economic situations. So how has the eurozone crisis affected migration to and from, as well as within, the EU?

A policy paper published in early 2009 by the Migration Policy Institute suggested that immigration flows would only be affected if the crisis resulted in a serious protracted recession. In terms of migration within the EU, the authors of the paper focused on migration from Eastern European countries to Western European ones, speculating that as many Eastern European migrant workers did not see their stay in countries like the UK, Ireland and Sweden as permanent, and they might well choose to return to their home countries as the eurozone crisis hit Western Europe.

Interestingly, the bigger story has turned out to revolve around Greek, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese workers, who are increasingly seeking employment abroad as they face record unemployment figures at home. In fact migration streams between southern European countries on the one hand and South American and Caribbean ones on the other hand are reversing, as more and more Europeans are leaving their crisis-struck homes to seek their fortunes in former colonies. There has also been increased migration to Germany, regarded by many as the recession-proof bulwark of the EU, especially for those coming from countries which have been hit hardest by the crisis. The number of Greek and Spanish migrants to Germany has increased by 78% and 53% respectively over the last year, clearly showing the impact of the crisis on these countries.

Of course, from an economic point of view, these developments make perfect sense. Given the high unemployment levels in Greece and Spain and Germany’s severe shortages in the labour market, it is only logical for labour to move from one to the other. In fact, this lies at the heart of what the EU’s single market was created to do: to facilitate the free movement of goods, services, capital and people within Europe. However, simple economic facts do not always translate well to the “real world”, where differences in language and culture, as well as a lack of appropriate frameworks and policies to integrate new arrivals in the receiving country, can fuel resentment, misunderstanding and segregation between immigrants and the local population. Germany in particular has had problems with this in the past, and it is easy to see how higher levels of immigration could spark new conflicts in an already tense environment. In addition to this, immigrants are less likely to have access to government benefits, and are therefore more negatively affected by economic crises than domestic workers. The catch-22 for immigrants in countries like Germany right now is that as immigration increases due to the crisis, better integration programmes are required, but are not implemented as governments are trying to cut costs because of the crisis.

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About the Author

Katharina Obermeier

Katharina considers herself a German-Canadian hybrid. She grew up in Germany and completed her BA in International Relations at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Politics, especially in relation to concepts of nationality, have always fascinated her, and she is particularly interested in international political economy. During her studies, she was an avid participant at Model United Nations conferences, and helped welcome international exchange students to her university. She is currently completing an internship at a Brussels-based trade association and hopes to work in European affairs in the future. In her political writing, Katharina marries social democratic principles with a keen interest in the European Union and its implications for European politics and identity. She writes to counteract simplistic ideas about politics and economics, continuously attempting to expose the nuances and complexities involved in these subjects.



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