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From the 1990s to 2012: Recent Trends in Migration towards and Within Europe

Patterns of migration from, towards, and within Europe underwent significant changes and further diversification starting in 1990. The collapse of the Iron Curtain and the opening of the borders of Eastern Europe induced new migration flows across Europe. The end of the Cold War, as well as the wars in the former Yugoslavia led to new flows of asylum seekers to Western Europe. Between 1989 and 1992, for example, asylum applications increased from 320,000 to 695,000, to decline to 455,000 by the end of the decade (Hansen 2003) and increase again to 471,000 in 2001 (Castles et al. 2014). The top-five countries of origin during this period were the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (836,000), Romania (400,000), Turkey (356,000), Iraq (211,000), and Afghanistan (155,000) (ibid.). In the first decade of the twenty-first century, new asylum applications followed the conjuncture of admission restrictions and numbers of violent conflicts (ibid.). Between 2002 and 2006, asylum applications in the EU-15 decreased from 393,000 to 180,000 (ibid.). From 2006 onwards, however, asylum applications rose due to the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and more recently, the Arab Spring. By 2010, the EU-25 plus Norway and Switzerland had received 254,180 applications, and humanitarian migration accounted for 6 % of newcomers to the EU (ibid.). Most applications were made in France (47,800), Germany (41,300), Sweden (31,800), the UK (22,100), and Belgium (19,900) (OECD 2011, Table A.1.3., cited in Castles et al. 2014, 229).

The 1992 Maastricht Treaty's abolition of borders considerably eased intra-EU movements (see also next sections of this chapter). At the same time, entrance into the EU became progressively restricted due to the unification of the European market, which imposed strict border controls and visa regulations. These controls on the entrance of foreigners went hand in hand with increased irregular migration (Bade 2003; Bonifazi 2008; Castles et al. 2014). Migrants' countries of origin as well as their migration motives became increasingly diversified.

[Nowadays migrants] come to Europe from all over the world in significant numbers: expatriates working for multinational companies and international organizations, skilled workers from all over the world, nurses and doctors from the Philippines, refugees and asylum seekers from African, near Eastern and Asian countries, from the Balkan and former Soviet Union countries, students from China, undocumented workers from African countries, just to single out some of the major immigrant categories (Penninx 2006, 8).

During this third period, integration issues became a central policy concern (see Doomernik & Bruquetas in this volume). Many European countries stepped up attempts to attract highly skilled or educated migrants. This goal is still reflected in a number of national programmes today, for example, in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and the UK. The EU established its Blue Card Scheme, an EU-wide residence and work permit (Eurostat 2011). Moreover, student migration from outside the EU became increasingly important in some parts of the EU (ibid.). Some countries' governments have actively recruited students with the intention of incorporating the “best and brightest” into their domestic labour market upon graduation (Lange 2013). Institutions of higher education have joined these efforts, stimulated by the economic benefits of attracting international students in the form of high tuition fees (Findlay 2011). In this context, several European countries, such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK simplified procedures for international students to make the education-to-work transition (Tremblay 2005; Van Mol 2014).

In the last section of this chapter, we differentiate between intra-EU mobility of European citizens and migration within and towards the EU of third-country nationals, as these groups are subject to different legislation. Intra-European mobility is often considered in positive terms, as contributing to the EU's 'vitality and competitiveness' (e.g., EC 2011, 3–4). European citizens, moreover, are entitled to move freely within the EU without the need for a visa, and hence may face fewer institutional barriers in migration trajectories. Migration into the EU, in contrast, remains largely associated with active measures of access restriction and border control (see, e.g., Council of the EU 2002). In recent decades, European migration policy has thus represented 'different intersecting regimes of mobility that normalise the movements of some travellers while criminalising and entrapping the ventures of others' (Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013, 189). The global economic crisis that started in 2008 might be considered the end of this third period, as it brought, at least temporarily, an end to 'rapid economic growth, EU expansion and high immigration' (Castles et al. 2014, 103). However, as Castles, De Haas and Miller (ibid.) observe, the decline in immigration from non-European countries has been rather modest, and the anticipated mass returns to migrants' home countries have not occurred as yet. The crisis mainly seems to have affected intra-European migration, with a decrease in overall free movement within the EU and with the peripheral countries hardest hit by the crisis—particularly Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain—again becoming emigration countries (Castles et al. 2014).

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