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Brief History of International Migration in the Commune of Cleja

Both internal and external migration histories of a locality or region are very relevant to ongoing migration: in Cleja’s case, important parameters of the commune’s migration history are the early link with Hungary, and the commuting of individuals from village to town.

When it comes to mobility, the number of commuters decreased from 2001 to 2011, and in the three villages there were, according to National Institute of Statistics data at the time of the census of 2011, 2,460 persons who had returned from abroad and 1,138 who had emigrated. The main destination recorded was, as expected, Hungary (585), followed by Italy (276), Portugal (29) and Israel (20). The volume of international migration is difficult to estimate based on census data, but RCM (“Recensamantul Comunitar al Migratiei”) 2001 data shows that 15 years ago the phenomenon was already widespread in the commune.7 The rate of international migration in the commune at the time of the migration census—December 2001—was one of the highest in rural Romania.

Emigration of locals after 1990 follows the pattern of ethnic and religious networks of Romanian villages—in the first years after 1989, these were the main networks used for migrating abroad.8 With regard to the selectivity (the demographic and socio-economic status of individuals who migrate abroad), the representative rural Romanian migrant between 1989 and 2000 was the “young male, relatively educated, of religion other than Orthodox Christian” (Sandu 2000, 21) who reached across borders through kinship networks. Migration from Cleja went through the stages evident in the international migration of Romanians: departures began soon after the Revolution: “Let’s say ’90-’91”, followed by “the largest wave... it was somewhere in ‘94”, which “continued until 2000 as, let’s say, a period in which many left their children at home with relatives, grandparents” and then “those who left abroad felt like they achieved something, and then they began taking their relatives, siblings, grandchildren abroad” (the mayor of Cleja).

Due to the cultural, ethnic and language elements specific to the region, Hungary has been the “nearest” destination for Clejeni who leave their country for jobs abroad with the help of acquaintances, neighbours or relatives. Italy was the second main destination, mostly with unregulated departures for work in constructions for men and housekeeping for women. The unregulated character of migration refers either to how they entered Italy or to their status on the labour market. In contrast, departures to Israel, as well as to Portugal, mostly for jobs in constructions, happened through labour contracts.9

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