Immigration to Europe


Europe has a long history with immigration; however, the issue became fully blown in the 20th century when Europe started experiencing a substantial increase in immigrants. After the World War II, the western European countries started experiencing high growth in immigration. Currently, most of the European nations have a large number of immigrant populations both from the non-European and European origin (Osborne, 2017). On the other hand, the contemporary globalization has also contributed to the acceleration of immigration to Europe in scale and speed. However, the issue has been an important point of reference politically, economically, and socially in the European countries. Political attitude towards immigrants have, for instance, shifted with animosity towards immigration gradually creeping in the debate and rapidly replacing the cordial acceptance of immigrants with hatred. Over the last decades, European countries and nationals have increasingly expressed their negative attitudes towards immigration. There has also been recorded a significant difference in the strength of anti-immigrant and anti-immigration attitudes among the countries in Europe.

Among the various and strongest contributing factors for immigration in Europe is the free border policy introduced by the European Union to all the EU citizens. Since the introduction and acceptance of the freedom of residence and movement policy by the European Union, citizens of the countries within the European Union enjoyed the right and privilege to freely move and reside within European Union (Osborne, 2017). Since then, the term immigrant became widely accepted and used among the UE countries to refer to non-EU citizens or extracomunitarian. The number of the non-EU nationals migrating to Europe has also maintained an exponential trend with around 1.4 million having immigrated into the EU between 2010 and 2013 using regular means each year excluding refuges and asylum seekers. Although the reason for immigration may significantly vary amongst the immigrants depending on the push and pull factors of the country of origin and destination, refugees and asylum seeking has been established as the main reasons (Osborne, 2017). In 2015, the number of immigrants arriving in Europe from outside the EU countries increased substantially with asylum seekers contributing the biggest percentage thus leading to the European migrant crisis.

The immigration issues have attracted massive debate in the recent past due to the increased security concerns especially from the Muslim countries and the economic woes in Europe. Demographers project great shortcomings with the increased arrival of immigrants and major concerns have been raised about the political ability of the European countries to cope with these arrivals. It has also been projected that uncontrolled immigration would continuously increase and not likely to subside the current levels (Osborne, 2017). As a result, the continent would experience a surge in its population beyond its capacity with the immigrants comprising of the greatest percentage of the total population. The immigrants and their progeny will not only have increased the European population but will also account for the projected cultural diversification of the population. Christianity will, therefore, become gradually replaced with Islamic because the number of Muslims arriving in Europe is considerably higher than the Christians. However, these projections may not be fulfilled if the economic woes in Europe continue, thus making the continent less attractive to African and Asian immigrants.

One major factor that can considerably contribute to low rate of immigration to Europe is low population growth in the Africa and Asia. It has been established that most of the immigrants moving into the European countries come from Asia and Africa due to the harsh conditions in the two continents prompting them look for better living in the West (Osborne, 2017). Deportation of the illegal immigrants from Europe can also be integrated with border closure to reduce border porosity. Crossing the borders can regulate and significantly reduce the levels of legal immigration; however this must be approached with caution as most of the employed efforts of reducing immigration show low levels of success.

Migrants are known to always find inevitable routes to their countries of destination whenever one crossing is policed. For instance, Mexicans have always found ways of getting into the United States despite policing efforts embraced by the U. S to prevent immigration. On the other hand, border enforcement policies adopted by the U.S against Mexico have only succeeded in worsening the problem and destabilizing their relations (Osborne, 2017). The immigration issue is said to have been the main issue of concern and motivation behind Brexit with control over immigration being a major campaign factor of Britain remaining in the European Union. Security concerns over border porosity have become an increasingly important perspective in immigration debate due to the recent insurgence of terrorism and Islamic terror groups in the world and the Arab spring.

Immigrant Groups in Europe

In the current wave of globalization, millions of people continue leaving their home countries to other countries. While some of the migrants move to their countries of destination voluntarily to seek better economic opportunities, a large number of others are victims of political strife that force them out of their homes due to political turmoil. These groups of immigrants move to other countries to seek asylum for the fear of losing their lives in war or prosecution (Osborne, 2017). It is estimated that if the total number of the world’s international immigrants were to live in a single country, the nation would make up the fifth largest country in the world. However, international immigrants are dispersed all over the world with the largest number of them moving to the high-income countries from the middle income countries.

In the wave of Arab spring and violent episodes in Iraqi, Afghanistan, Syria, and other violent countries, Europe has been home to many immigrants from these nations who come to seek refuge and run away from violence. As a result, the European countries have experienced their own refugee crisis with around 1.3 million refugees seeking asylum in the EU in 2015 (Osborne, 2017). Most of the asylum applications also comprise of thousands of unaccompanied minors which has continued to change the face of Europe due to the influx of different nationalities, ethnic groups, and races.

Immigrants for Economic Opportunities

As aforementioned, immigration is significantly motivated by certain characteristic of the country of origin and country of destination; the push and pull factors. It has also been established that there are two main reasons as to why immigration is a welcomed practice with seeking asylum and refuge as well as looking for better economic opportunities controlling the push factors. After the World War II most countries including Germany, Belgium, and France voluntarily allowed and even enticed foreign workers to their economies (Berry, Garcia-Blanco & Moore, 2015). On the other hand, the countries were experiencing a period of economic boom which significantly attracted immigrants mostly from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. Immigrants were also attracted from the British Empire into the United Kingdom. Colonies were also an important hub from which most of the colonial master saw an opportunity of getting labor force to support their expanding economies. The European governments viewed the migrants from the perspective of temporary guest workers. However, the good living standards allured the immigrants to finally make permanent residences in these countries.

The economic allure of the European countries continued to motivate the immigrants living in Europe to continuously sponsor the immigration of their extended families. On the other hand, immigration was encouraged when the European countries relaxed their restrictions on family reunification. Many immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe were initially focused on temporarily working to fill short-term labor market (Berry, Garcia-Blanco & Moore, 2015). However, the introduction of immigration stop saw new immigrants comprising of the whole families-parents and their children- settling permanently in Europe after leaving their homelands. The liberal lifestyle that the workers experienced in Europe greatly attracted immigrants from the colonies. The immigrant parents also brought their children to Europe with the primary aim of giving the new opportunities.

Seeking better economic opportunities is a personal decision behind immigration. However, immigrants do not choose their countries of destination blindly; instead they are motivated by their families and acquaintances to move to certain countries where they previously immigrated. In such destinations, immigrants are likely to get social networks and informal support structures. Europe has opportunities which offer unique possibilities to the immigrants. In the North African context, Europe is a closer destination than other destinations such as Australia, Canada, or the United States which does not require air travel to be accessed (Hipsman & Meissner, 2013). On the other hand, there exists a freedom of travel policy within Europe which provides the immigrants with an opportunity to start their immigration journey with the easily accessible country. Later, the immigrants can use other routes to reach their true destination. For instance, most of the asylum seekers are known to escape the normal routinely used and legal asylum application procedures. Countries like Norway and Sweden, for example, can provide easier access routes to Italy or Greece.

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Immigration through Education and Family Reunification

Other than migrate for economic reasons and expanding opportunities for better life in Europe, Europe has been an important destination for most of the North African and Middle East immigrants because of the lenient immigration policies to their colonies. European countries have opened various immigration routes such as student permit or employment for skilled workers, family reunification and marriage, asylum, and illegal immigration (Osborne, 2017). Although immigration of students and skilled workers has a negative effect on the economy of the home country, Europe embraces this as the ideal form of immigration. Most professionals including academics, engineers, and doctors welcome the opportunity to work in the European countries with open arms as this is believed to unlock the possibilities of prosperity in the lives.

Immigration in Europe today is also accomplished through family reunification and marriage. In this regard, host countries use virtual human visas to transform the immigrant youths. As such, most of the current immigration to Europe are being perpetuated through marriages where the commonality of marriages within the scope of the extended family between the immigrants and their extended families (Woolfson, Fudge &Thörnqvist, 2014). Immigrants who understand the European immigration system adopted by the Western legal systems use marriage as an incentive of having their families move to Europe to work and get good life. For instance, studies carried out to investigate the marriage trends among Moroccan youths living in Belgium indicate that they prefer marrying spouses from Morocco.

Immigrants by Asylum Seekers

Traditionally, asylum seeking was a type of immigration that was specifically reserved for the immigrants who fled persecution. Some of the asylum seekers who came to Europe before the immigration stop did not bother to go through the legal process of asylum application to be recognized as refugees and, therefore, came as economic migrants. After the immigration stop, most of the economic migrants adopted the act of subversion by beginning to pose as refugees (Woolfson, Fudge &Thörnqvist, 2014). Most of the immigrants in Europe get their entry as asylum seekers and use illegal means to enter their country of destination by lying as much as possible and destroying their papers only to ensure that they achieve the objective of entering Europe. The bottom line here is that asylum seekers are supposed to get in a country due to bad situations such as war, political turmoil, or to escape prosecution at home countries. However, most of the asylum seekers in Europe are not genuine, but only go to Europe to get better life.

The potential immigrants who fail to immigrate through education, marriage, employment, and family reunification processes use asylum process even when the situation back home is stable. Among the asylum seekers, only a minority are quota refugees whose status has been recognized by the United Nations during a stay in refugee camps (Berry, Garcia-Blanco & Moore, 2015). Most of the asylum seekers use illegal means by using smugglers to obtain fake documents which they eventually use to get access to countries they know to likely accept their applications. For instance, refugees from Norway and Iraqi seek asylum in countries with liberal asylum laws such as Norway and Sweden by crossing several European nations.

Although, most of the asylum seekers are not genuine and only use this as a platform of getting entry to the envied Europe in the Asian and African countries, there are also a significant number who are genuine. Due to the democratic development of Europe and European countries, they provide a good heathen for refugees who escape prosecution, injustice, war, and other political and social misdoings in their home countries (Woolfson, Fudge &Thörnqvist, 2014). After getting their independence, most of the African countries have been under the rule of dictatorship governments, which have always fueled political instability and war. Asylum seekers from these countries migrate to Europe to escape prosecution. In the 20th century, Germany hosted many Muslim students who escaped from political prosecution by military, secular leaders who were determined to eradicate Islamist groups.

European countries like England, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany have over times been a preferred destination for asylum seekers because of their democratic development. As such, Islamist activists in Egypt, North Africa, and Syria have sought asylum from them when domestic crackdown intensified to flee oppression. In the recent past, Islamic countries have experienced a public uprising known as the Arab spring protesting against the strict application of the Islamic laws and Islamic dictatorship and increased association with terrorism (Berry, Garcia-Blanco & Moore, 2015). It has resulted in many refugees from the affected countries in Africa such as Egypt and Libya as well as Syria seeking asylum in Europe when the war intensified in their home countries. The European nations’ appreciation of democracy and respect for human rights only becomes the best place to seek shelter when things get bad in most of these countries.

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Integration of Immigrants in the Host Country

Cultural integration is an important aspect in immigration both for the immigrant and for the host country. In most cases, the ability of a host country to effectively integrate the immigrant population determines how effective the immigrants will contribute to the economic growth of the country. Integration of the non-European immigrants in Europe is diverse depending on the host country. However, the increased rate of terrorism has increased security concerns where there is an increase in negative attitudes towards immigrants who are now viewed as a security threat to the host nation (Berry, Garcia-Blanco & Moore, 2015). Although not all immigrants are affected, immigrants from Islamic states are faced with increased animosity which hinders integration. Cultural integration of immigrants in the host nation is usually determined by the relationship between the country of origin and host country of the immigrants. Immigrants from previous colonies of the host European country enjoy the best form of cultural integration as they tend to share similar cultural values that they learnt from each other from colonization.


In the United States, illegal immigration is practiced by clandestinely crossing the land borders using fraudulent documents for admission in the formal ports of entry. The United States provides a good environment of economic growth for an immigrant from the developing countries because it is the world’s strongest economy (Hipsman & Meissner, 2013). On the other hand, the United States is the world’s largest democracies where an immigrant is likely to freely express their identity with confidence, thus asking cultural integration possible. Getting an employment opportunity is thus easier for an immigrant who is seeking better economic opportunity in life. However, the bellwether of economic and social conditions which provides great employment opportunities is marred by the strict immigration policies in the U.S (Hipsman & Meissner, 2013). Illegal immigration has also sparked resentment and anger which has created great national concern.

The deportation of illegal immigrants during the Obama administration and the hostility of the Donald Trump leadership towards immigrants make the United States unfriendly destination for a poor immigrant looking for better economic opportunities in the West. President Trump’s administration has created a belief among the American nationals that immigrants come to take up their employment opportunities and are responsible for the high unemployment rates among them. This makes integration in the United States difficult for immigrants due to increased hatred, animosity, and xenophobia. As such, as a poor immigrant who is undocumented, I would prefer settling in Europe which has a higher border porosity, employment opportunities, and better integration.

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  1. Berry M, Garcia-Blanco I. & Moore K., (2015), Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries, United Nations High Commission for Refugees
  2. Hipsman F.& Meissner D, (2013), Immigration in the United States: New Economic, Social, Political Landscapes with Legislative Reform on the Horizon, The Online Journal of the Migration Policy Institute. Migration Information Source.
  3. Osborne S. (2017), Most Europeans wants Immigration Ban from Muslim Majority Countries, poll reveals
  4. Woolfson, C., Fudge, J., &Thörnqvist, C. (2014) Migrant Precarity and Future Challenges to Labor Standards in Sweden. Economic and industrial democracy, 35(4), 695-715.
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