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In this chapter we addressed the first key actor of the binomials presented in Chap. 1 of this volume, namely migrants themselves. We first of all presented a historical overview of trends in international migration to and within Europe since the 1950s. Furthermore, we examined the demographic characteristics of these migration flows

Fig. 3.5 Population pyramid of Polish migrants to the Netherlands, 2009 (%)

as well as the characteristics of residing migrants across Europe using recent data. We looked at both immigration and emigration in the European context to do sufficient justice to the dynamic nature of migration. Yet, our findings provide only a general overview, as the complexity of migration to and from Europe extends well beyond the scope of a single chapter. Three historical periods were distinguished. It is important to bear these different periods in mind when studying current migration flows in Europe. They help to frame but also for analysing the (demographic) behaviour of migrant populations. The distinguished periods may help us to structure and understand the socio-demographic situations which migrants face today. In addition, this distinction into different periods enables us to appreciate the current and ongoing political and public debates on migration in Europe.

The first period was characterized by labour migration and a favourable stance towards migration, covering the years from the beginning of the bilateral guest worker agreements until the oil crisis. European governments first recruited guest workers in Southern Europe, but quickly expanded towards countries at Europe's borders. Apart from labour migration, a significant postcolonial migration flow characterized this period. Due to struggles for independence in former colonies, many European countries received return migrants as well as migrants fleeing hostile conflict environments. The Cold War limited East-West mobility during this period.

The second period extended from the oil crisis in the early 1970s to the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 1980s. It was characterized by a cessation of guest worker migration and stringent entry restrictions for new migrants. Nevertheless, migration flows were transformed rather than halted. Whereas previously labour migration had been the main migration channel, family reunification (and family formation) now took over the primary role, and asylum applications were also on the rise. European governments became aware that migrant populations were likely to remain on their territory, and they slowly began to develop integration policies. This continues to be an important issue in the discourse today.

The third period dates from the 1990s to the present day. During this time, we find substantial diversification in terms of countries of origin, destinations, flows, migration motives, and structure of migrant populations. One of the most important elements in this period has been the removal of barriers to intra-European mobility,

Fig. 3.6 Population pyramid of Romanian (a) and British (b) migrants in Spain, 2008–2011 (%)

Fig. 3.6 (continued)

while migration into the EU has become more restricted. As such, intra-EU mobility and migration into the EU have become embedded in different and often opposing discourses. The end of this third period might be the economic crisis, which so far seems to have affected mainly intra-European mobility patterns. Peripheral countries have been hit particularly hard by the crisis, and an increasing tendency towards emigration can be observed from countries such as Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Immigration of non-EU migrants, however, seems less affected. This is perhaps because many migrants from outside Europe have found other routes of arrival, including irregular entrance and stay. Moreover, European countries are interested in highly skilled migrants in the context of a global competition for talent.

As a result, it seems that comparable to the “migration stop” after the oil crisis of the 1970s or during the Cold War, migration towards Europe will be transformed rather than come to a complete halt in the coming years. Mobility within Europe, in this regard, cannot be seen as separate from migration from outside the EU. Studying migration systems rather than focusing exclusively on one aspect of mobility is thus called for. At the same time, our analyses in this chapter also suggest an increasing dichotomy between migrants who are in a favourable situation with easy access and rights in Europe (e.g., EU free movers and highly skilled migrants) and those in less favourable situations (mainly those arriving from outside Europe for other reasons). Development of this dichotomy has important consequences for the lives of individual migrants and for social cohesion. European societies must demonstrate awareness of this with policies crafted to acknowledge the diverse nature and dynamic character of migration that we have shown in this chapter.

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