Sociología y Trabajo Social
INTEGRATION OF THE IMMIGRANTS IN EUROPE
In this project we aim to compare and contrast the different situations of immigration in the EU, and specifically in both, Spain and Ireland. These last two for being our mother country, and the country we actually live in.
Migration is a social phenomenon as old as mankind. In their search for better living conditions, humans have always been moving from some places to others thus causing more or less conflict with the native communities. These kinds of conflicts are caused by a clash of cultures and this is, most times, hard to overcome. Differences in the ways of living may very often result in a confrontation between the immigrants and the native inhabitants of a region. The immigrants' attempt to preserve their culture and customs is frequently seen as a threat by the native community who may very likely reject these newcomers. Ironically, History shows that the very same prosperous countries that feared immigration are now somewhat forgetful about the times when their economy wasn't doing so well and their citizens were forced to emigrate also, hoping for better living conditions.
Among many other reasons there are two major causes for today's foreign influxes, being these poverty and hard living conditions such as wars or political persecution some of the most common ones.
Situation in Europe
Since WWII, almost all EU countries, one after the other, have discovered the issue of immigration, while for decades or centuries they were only emigration countries. France is the only European country facing immigration for almost two centuries. UK, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, … all of them have been exporting their human resources all along the XVIIIth, XIXth and early XXth century. On the contrary, nobody or almost nobody was coming to settle in their homeland.
Only France during the XIXth century and first half of XXth century was facing the issue of immigration. Polish, Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, then Algerians, Moroccans, Turkish, Black Africans, Vietnamese, … all came along in the past 200 years. France therefore developed, decades after decades, a certain model of integration of these large groups of immigrant based on a complete cultural assimilation. Individuals could keep and cultivate their own identities but this task was not incumbent to France, neither should it create troubles with the general society. In a word, the children had to be French supposing that the family intended to stay in the country.
The other EU member-States discovered immigration only a few decades ago. In the past decades, almost all EU Member-States developed a different model where basically the immigrants were asked to work and create no troubles in their welcoming country, and in exchange, they could keep their cultural traditions, including languages, to transmit them to their children. Under this approach, one could have found that ultimately these immigrants were supposed to leave and go back home at some stage. Their children therefore should not loose their original identity. But the problem is …that this assumption was wrong. Most immigrants did not intend to go back home; and the growing European need for human resources make it even less probable right now.
Therefore, since a few years, and in the wake of the current interrogations following the September 11th crisis, more and more countries in the EU are starting to reconsider their approach to immigrants, especially in its very characteristics of integration or not. Europe's future (internally and externally) will depend largely on how it will deal with the immigration issue.
In the decades to come, immigration will increase (as Europeans don't make babies. Italy for instance will be faced by a 45% decline in young people proportion in its population in 2020 compared to now. Most EU countries will have a 30% decline) and the issues will raise in terms of culture, religion, languages. Each of our country by itself, and the EU as a whole have to decide if they want the immigrants children to be Europeans (and therefore French, German, Dutch, Italians, …depending where they settle), or they we want them to stay Foreigners and, in the end, "second-class" citizens.
By facing this fact it is not so difficult to build a common European policy on immigration. Of course this is not easy and requires significant changes in the way of thinking of many European countries when it comes to their identity. But it addresses the issue of whether our European cultural identities are made of common blood or common concepts and values.
As a result of migration flows in recent decades, substantial populations of different religious beliefs have come to live permanently in most of the member States of the Council of Europe. The importance of the cultural and religious aspects of the immigrants' integration process in European societies has been recognised on several occasions by the Council of Europe. It is of crucial importance to set up dialogue structures allowing broadening knowledge and strengthening awareness of religious communities and religious pluralism.
IMMIGRANTS IN EUROPE FACE JOB DISCRIMINATION
Nowadays, however, the migrant workers face 'significant and disturbing levels of discrimination in access to employment' in the developed countries, at least one in every three job applications posed by migrant/ethnic minority candidates met with discrimination.
A recent study by the International Labour Organisation on employment access of migrants to four European countries, found that, at least one-third of all advertised vacancies were effectively closed to applicants from migrant or ethnic minority groups as a result of discriminatory hiring practices.
Discrimination is particularly high in service sectors, notably in branches where contact with clients is an essential element of the services provided, but this can be an extremely worrying fact since services are precisely the area where job growth is strongest nowadays.
As migrant and minority workers tend to be highly concentrated in traditional manufacturing sectors, they risk suffering from both reduced job prospects and limited mobility.
While such factors as insufficient language skills or training deficiencies might explain higher unemployment levels for the first-generation migrants, discrimination in access to employment is likely to be an important factor for subsequent generations.
In fact, upon their arrival in Western Europe, many migrants have been prepared to work for lower wages and under poorer conditions than native workers would normally accept. Most of them of course 'aspire to a better future for their children and grandchildren'.
However, migrants and migrant-descended populations suffer from long-term unemployment. But when they are employed, they tend to be disproportionately employed and concentrated in the type of poorly paid and insecure jobs that are rejected by the native population. What's more, migrants and their descendants suffer from disproportionately higher unemployment rates than nationals.
The exclusion or isolation and segregation resulting from this discrimination feed the very stereotypes and prejudices which originally generated it - to the detriment of not only the migrant and ethnic minority communities, but also to the
society as a whole. And this fact can be considered as be one of the most important intercultural issues to solve nowadays, because the total number of migrants around the world surpasses 120 million and continues to grow, and if we are not to do something about it, we'll find ourselves in a completely segregated world, full of racism. Overall if we talk in terms of the E.U, defined to be the region with the highest concentrations of non-nationals in the world, with 26-30 million of such residents, we should take immediate legal action against discrimination if we want to reach a complete and homogenous “ European Union.”
Situation in Ireland
If we centre our attention on the Irish immigrants situation, we have to point out that “Ireland is not an immigrant country”, (attending to the official line taken by the Department of Justice in regard to the reception of people from foreign parts), But in fact there are now quite a large number of immigrants into Ireland, of whom only a small proportion are asylum seekers. In the six years from 1992 through 1997 there were 220,000 immigrants.
In 1997 immigration reached a high point of 44,000, with a net inflow of 15,000. The figures that are available do not specify who these 44,000 people were or why they came. We know only that 20,000 came from the UK, 8,100 from other countries in the European Union, 6,600 from the USA, and 9,300 from the rest of the world. It can be presumed that many of them were Irish people returning from overseas after some time abroad.
In the past five years about 7000 refugees have arrived in Ireland, the majority of them seeking political asylum. They have come from Bosnia and other eastern European countries, Turkey and the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. About 1,500 of these refugees are from Romania, a substantial proportion of whom are Roma or Gypsies. But it was the arrival of about 250 Romanians, nearly all Gypsies, to the port of Rosslare, Wexford, in Southern Ireland in the last two weeks of July and the first week of August (1998) which really brought the immigration issue to a head.
Ireland has always had a very restrictive policy towards immigrants, except perhaps those coming from Britain. The main explanation for this is that Ireland was for many years quite poor in European terms, with massive emigration acting as a safety valve to keep high unemployment at bay. Another important reason is that Ireland does not have the historical 'baggage' of overseas colonies that has given rise to immigration into other European countries. Up to recently most of the refugees who came to Ireland were 'programme' refugees, that is, they came in groups as part of a government programme responding to war, persecution or mass expulsions in other countries. For instance about 800 Bosnians have come since 1992. Up to a few years ago, refugees that came to Ireland did not fare particularly well. Most of the 530 Hungarians who arrived in 1956 left within a few years, most of them going to Canada.
Immigration brings the richness of many cultures to Ireland, in the same way that Ireland has brought its culture to many countries. But there is clearly a lot of resistance to this way of looking at things. Throughout most of our recent history the emphasis has been on the value of our homogeneity and distinctiveness, and of a Gaelic, Catholic Ireland. The Irish are deeply conservative in relation to culture, and our comparative poverty and isolation has 'protected' us from having to make decisions about multi-ethnicity. It is impossible to point to any one country, and say for certain that it has been better or worse off for being multi-ethnic. Yet there is no doubt that some of the most vibrant countries of the modern world, the United States, Canada, Australia, have successfully integrated scores of different cultures. Where problems have occurred it is because the cultures have not integrated, or have been prevented from integrating, and have remained isolated 'globs', indifferent or even hostile to one another.
Ireland can benefit enormously from its immigrant population if it has the courage to promote the maximum degree of integration which is compatible with preserving the dignity and self-identity of immigrants and native Irish alike. It has to be recognised that the cultural needs of immigrant peoples change over time. It is unacceptable, for example, that the Department of Education refuses to provide any special resources in schools for the teaching of English to the children of asylum seekers, even though their formal education may have been completed while their parents were waiting for a decision. The policy of putting asylum seekers into a limbo of several years duration, where they are prohibited from working, and they and their families discouraged from learning English, is souring the whole induction process for immigrants
Most of the concern expressed about immigration into Ireland has been directed at asylum-seekers and refugees. Concern has been expressed in different ways. There has rarely been any direct attack on refugee seekers by the newspapers, but the manner of reporting of some newspapers suggests an anti-refugee slant. There is no doubt that the number of asylum seekers coming to Ireland has increased in the last couple of years because there are more refugees in the world than ever before. Today at least fifty million people world-wide suffer forced displacement. Also the Irish economy is doing well and there are perceived opportunities for work.
. The situation in Spain
At the moment Spain is enjoying an economic boom that is attracting immigration from places as varied as the African continent, South America, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The situation these newcomers may find in Spain varies mainly in accordance to their ethnic group, native tongue, culture and professional qualification. Obvious as it may seem, conditions of living are much easier for the highly qualified and trades people and, on the contrary, much more difficult for those who are unskilled workers.
Because unemployment and foreign influxes are major economical and political issues in Western Europe, many locals see new settlers as competitors when applying for jobs. Many other people disagree with this statement since it is a well-known fact that most immigrants end up taking underpaid jobs that the natives wouldn't normally take.
Before World War II, citizens from any country could immigrate to other countries with no problem at all. At that time immigration laws were relatively permissive and there was much less bureaucracy in order to get green cards and work permits. However, this period of recent history was well known for the raising of nationalistic movements. We cannot forget about the evolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for instance, and the more recent incidents in Serbia and former Bosnia. Nationalistic wars ended in overthrows and the establishments of autonomic powers, which inevitably led to tighten the border gates. The UK and France soon passed laws on immigration that became good examples of cultural prejudice. In those times, the Spanish Government wasn't even taking this kind of laws into consideration, they were rather concerned about other countries passing these laws, countries like Germany, where a lot of Spaniards emigrated to, Spain suffering shortages of all kinds under Franco's regime.
Decades have gone by and Spain has experienced amazing economic and social advances since then. Immigration has become a major problem for Spanish State also. The social debate has ended in the passing of a new Immigration Law supported by socialists, communists and nationalists alike.
We, Spaniards, know that, being our islands only a few kilometres off the coast of Africa, the immigration rate is very high. Africans come to the archipelago hoping for better living and working conditions. False expectations encouraged by unscrupulous people attract many human groups who, in exchange for important sums of money, are willing to be smuggled into Spain. Their dreams frequently end in people dying in the sea as a result of the poor conditions of the boats on which they try to reach Canarian land. Pregnant women, children, parents who leave their families behind …, all kinds of people are taking the risk of crossing the waters in order to reach these islands. Even those who success in doing so have to face trouble with law and are very likely to become homeless and very poor or, in most cases, they are sent back to their countries in less than 72 hours. It seems such a big sacrifice yet some of them will try one more time.
We have been doing some research on immigration problems in the Canary Islands. We have also known that illegal immigration rate is very high in the Canaries and that this is a cause of great conflict in our society.
The following are, in our opinion, three of the most important aspects of Spanish new Immigration Law:
Even illegal immigrants have the same rights as Spanish citizens as far as health care and education are concerned.
Those who have been working in Spain for at least 5 years and are financially independent have the right to apply for the residence permit.
All immigrants, legal and illegal, currently living in Spain have the right to apply for a work permit.
We have read a lot of newspaper articles for this class and the following are some of the ones that we considered most significant:
First boatchild born in Cadiz
A 19-year old pregnant woman from Nigeria successfully reached Spain shore after twelve hours of sailing dangerously on a raft. She finally gave birth to a baby girl on Cadiz while Spanish authorities were debating on whether or not the newly born should be given the Spanish nationality. In the end, the baby girl has been refused the Spanish citizenship and consequently, she will have to take the Nigerian one.
We all agreed that the baby should be given the Spanish nationality and her mother should be allowed to stay in Spain with her.
33 immigrants, 4 children among them, reached Fuerteventura by boat.
First raft reached Tarifa land at about 3 a.m. with 17 immigrant people on board, 4 of them were minors. The second boat arrived at around 6 a.m. and the police found 16 illegal immigrants on it. State delegates for immigration affairs said that those of them with no papers would be sent back to their countries of origin in no longer than 72 hours.
We think it is unfair to repatriate these children who risked their lives in order to have something to eat. We all agreed they should have the right to be helped and our Government should supply them with food and education, as they deserve it as much as we do.
These are some samples of what people think of immigration
A shop assistant
What is your opinion on immigration?
I think it is a lot of people's life expectancy. Many people live under terrible conditions in their countries and try to look for a better life by migrating to another country.
2. What, in your opinion, are the reasons for them to leave their countries?
Unemployment and hard conditions of life. But mainly unemployment.
3. What kind of problems do you think they encounter when they arrive here?
Society rejects them.
4. Do you think they could steal the job from you?
No, I don't think so.
5. Do you know any immigrant?
I do, one of my neighbours is from another country. He really had a bad time when he first came to live here. The rest of the neighbours gave him a hard time and accused him of stealing their jobs. They also rejected him because he is black. But he is currently doing OK and is well integrated in society; he has got a job and is a very good neighbour.
6. What do you think of their work qualifications? Do you think they would be able to get any white-collar job?
Some do, others don't. A lot of them have degrees in engineering, medicine … others lack in degrees and their working skills are very basic. The neighbour I mentioned before is Cuban and he is a doctor but he is not working as such but as a nurse for a charity organisation, and has managed to get by.
7. Do you think they come to settle down here or do they always tend to go back to the places they belong to?
Most of them come with the idea of getting a job so that they can send some money and help the families they have left behind. On the contrary, most of those who succeed on achieving some social status tend to stay as they feel fully integrated.
Her general opinion on the matter
This lady has a positive opinion on immigration. She sympathises with them and thinks they are needy people who try hard for living with dignity. She does not see anything bad in immigration and stands up for her neighbour. We think she is very realistic about the matter.
1-What is your opinion on immigration?
People from other countries who try to improve their living conditions.
2-What, in your opinion, are the reasons for them to leave their countries?
Poverty, wars …
3-What kind of problems do you think they encounter when they arrive here?
Underpaid jobs, exploitation, racial discrimination, prostitution, a sense of being very far away from their families, … They don't feel so good in here.
4- Do you think they could steal our jobs?
Yes, if it wasn't because they take some jobs we could apply for them and get them.
5-Do you think they are qualified enough to be able to get any good job?
I don't think so, how could they become skilful workers if they don't even have money to feed themselves?
6- Do you believe they should have the same rights as Spanish citizens concerning housing, employment …?
Yes, I do.
7-Do you know where they usually come from?
8-Do you have any idea about how they feel when they first come to live here?
Completely out of place.
9-Do you think they come to settle down here or do they always tend to go back to the places they belong to?
Most of them settle here unless the political situations in their countries change.
His general opinion on the matter:
I believe they should not be let in our country. They should buy "round-trip boat tickets" because I think the ones who succeed in reaching Spain end up making their living by stealing jobs from us and there is already enough unemployment in Spain. That is why I am against immigration.
If you are against:
11-What would you do if you were one of them?
I would do the same. I am against immigration, but if I were them I would probably do the same.
12- What kind of help should we supply these countries with so that their citizens didn't have the need to immigrate to other countries?
They should teach them how to read and how to cultivate the land, and they ought to help them pay their debts.
An owner of a photo studio who married an Indian immigrant
1-What is your opinion on immigration?
We are experiencing it every day, people leave their countries in order to get something to eat and live in a better way. Unfortunately, they come here and survive in terrible conditions, people often mistreat them.
2-What, in your opinion, are the reasons for them to leave their countries?
Hunger, wars, they need money to support the families they leave behind, some come fleeing from their countries' political situations …
3-What kind of problems do you think they encounter when they arrive here?
Once they succeed in reaching Spain, most just manage to survive with very little as they may have already spent all their money on coming here. Those who take the risk of coming by boat usually have no food, no money, no proper clothing and not even papers.
4- Do you think they could steal our jobs?
No, I don't think so. As human beings they should have the right to get a job like any other citizen does; the problem is that, as unemployment is an important issue in our country, people fear the immigrants may steal the jobs from us.
There are jobs out there that people don't want to take. Nowadays people would like to stay home and get a salary anyway, I mean people like the easy way: to be able to eat well and live fine in exchange for doing nothing.
5- Do you know any immigrant?
I do. I could tell you the story of someone I know who left Algiers fleeing from the war. I am helping him at the moment so he can get a residence card. He is working now and earns his living honestly. Some lawyers I know are also helping him so that he can legalise his situation.
6-Do you think they are qualified enough to be able to get any good job?
Yes, I think so.
7-Do you believe they should have the same rights as Spanish citizens concerning housing, employment …?
Of course, as long as they are honest and work hard, like any other person.
8-Do you know where they usually come from?
From Cuba, lots of people come from Africa also. I keep in contact with the Red Cross and try to get legal assistance to help them with their situations.
9-Do you have any idea about how they feel when they first come to live here?
They are eager to find a place that welcomes them, that shelters them by giving them work permits, residence cards …, some hope to achieve the status of political refugees. Most of them would like to go back some time but some get married here and settle down in the canaries. In any case, they don't loose contact with their countries. I also think there is racism in Spain although some people would deny this. I am not a racist but I have witnessed racist acts, I was even kicked out from my job at an American company for marrying an Indian.
We have learnt a lot by working on this paper about immigration and how it affects our society. The issue is causing a lot of problems of racial discrimination, prostitution, delinquency …, but we tend to think that controlled immigration could enhance people's vision of life with more culture and knowledge about other countries, their people, and their customs. Why, then, do we choose to close the door to other means of enriching our society? Everybody's right to live should be respected and everybody should be given a second opportunity without being forced to forget about his/her own culture, religion, customs… Everybody should have the right to be different. We think that countries where immigration is a problem should reach an agreement and help more. We, civilians, ought to take part in the debate as the whole matter is affecting our lives, we should stop and think about our attitudes and behaviour and sympathise with the immigrants. But first we should start by asking ourselves one question: "Am I a racist?"