Advantages of migration in the European Union

International migration into and within the EU is a key issue with far-reaching consequences for Member States and the EU as a whole. It affects the integration of resident immigrants, how institutions can adapt to preserve social cohesion, and the management of demand-and-supply-driven migration.

Halting or significantly reducing immigration to Europe is seen by IMISCOE-researchers as undesirable and unrealistic.

IMISCOE was a major European Network of Excellence and brought together over 500 researchers from 23 European institutes, to provide a robust research base for policies on migration. It was funded by the EC from 2004 until 2010. Since 1 April 2010 IMISCOE has become an independent research network financed through institutional fees. Its main themes were and are:

  • International migration: the spatial movement, voluntary or forced, of persons across political borders.
  • The process of settlement and integration of immigrants and their descendants in the society of destination, and the consequences for the receiving society.

Networks of Excellence were not designed and financed to conduct actual research, but to gather the critical mass of knowledge on selected topics, disseminate current knowledge to policy makers and catalyse new research projects. A wide range of policy briefs have been produced for this purpose on topics including:

  • Family migration, transnationalism and diaspora politics.
  • Diversity, equality and discrimination in working life.
  • Human smuggling.
  • The acquisition and loss of nationality in 15 EU states.
  • Innovative concepts for alternative migration policies.

Unemployment rates were found to be higher and work conditions worse for immigrants and ethnic minorities than for native populations. Education levels and migration background only partly explained this socially and economically undesirable exclusion from the labour market - discrimination was an important factor. Researchers noted a current trend towards new restrictions in accessing citizenship in countries with large and settled immigrant populations.

Recommendations for policy makers, NGOs and migrant organisations include:

Family migration in Europe

  • The system of legal status should avoid locking people into precarious positions.
  • Family migration policies should recognise gender inequalities, especially as regards resource requirements.

Transnationalism and diaspora politics

  • Migrants should be regarded as individuals responding to opportunities and challenges in both sending and receiving countries.
  • Transnational ties should be accommodated, rather than expecting migrants to maintain exclusive loyalties.
  • Policies on immigrant integration and sending country development should be combined within a single coherent framework.

Diversity, equality and discrimination in working life

  • Strong anti-discrimination laws are needed at both the EU and national levels.
  • Employers and trade unions should commit to combat discrimination and promote good practice.
  • Data and indicators are needed to diagnose the labour market situation and the economic and social consequences of discrimination.

Towards a better understanding of human smuggling

  • International cooperation is very effective.
  • Policies should be consistent with other factors that shape migration.
  • Improved border control can lead to increased and risky illegal migration and displacement of smuggling routes.
  • Policies must be comprehensive, consistent and anticipatory.

An IMISCOE workshop suggested alternative and innovative approaches to the management of migration. These included temporary employment migration with enhanced options for return migrants; confining the role of governments to supervision and acting as linchpins in decision making; the inclusion of stakeholders in migration policy making; new forms of mobility and circular migration (back and forth rights); new approaches to migrant remittances; free movement rights for the over 50s; open borders, coupled with an internal control system of close monitoring, and selling legal entry permits as part of a new incentive scheme.

These proposals represent new ‘policy-mixes’ of policy instruments and control tools, aimed at finding a better balance than the current systems provide. They signal a shift away from border controls and physical exclusion towards new forms of regulating, tracking and monitoring the activities of migrant populations.

For example, liberalising access to labour markets and expanding temporary work programmes would require closer control at the workplace; pricing entrance fees or selling visas would necessitate increased document security; providing return incentives involves tackling corruption and opening up borders implies stricter internal controls.

The Network of Excellence, funded by the 6th Framework Programme for Research of the European Commission from 1 April 2004 – 1 April 2010, is now continuing as an independent network funded by institutional membership.

IMISCOE – International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe (duration: 1/4/2004 – 1/4/2010) was a Network of Excellence funded under the 6th Framework Programme for Research of the European Union, Thematic Priority 7 – Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society.

See: http://www.imiscoe.org/

Contact: Prof. Rinus Penninx, m.j.a.penninx@uva.nl