Encouraging re-migration

Why return if you will be judged?

Gertruda Gecaite
31 March 2014

International migration is controlled by the immigration policies of host country. Policies to recruit migrants were introduced in the late 19th century when the German Empire started to regulate the surge of Polish people. Remarkably, the policy, which allowed only those with a work and residence permit to settle down, was perceived as a recipe to follow for other governments. Germany succeeded in achieving the main goals of filling out the demand of the labor market and providing a flexible labor force, while Prussia created a policy (this model is used by few countries nowadays) which allowed illegal workers from Eastern Europe to stay abroad temporarily in exchange for jobs provided in the field of mining and metallurgy. During the time of recession, when there was no need for foreign workers, they were simply repatriated. For instance, Polish workers had to leave France during the crisis in 1926-1927. However, when there were recovery signs, a foreign labor force was again useful.

 

Pushed into the corner

The European Union, as an economic and political unity, has been pushed into the corner and has to deal with the influx of newcomers and their integration. The unity has implied immigration policies that seem to favor migrants from the EU. They are able to reside and work in any country of the EU and move freely without obstacles, while the policies that refer to non-EU citizens become more restrictive. The phenomenon of “Fortress Europe” reflects the EU policy of keeping non-European newcomers outside its borders. However, the stricter policies concern not only seeking the balance of attracting high-skilled workers but also to reduce the negative effects of migration on unemployment among newcomers and the income of some specific groups.

For instance, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, has implemented measures to block newcomers from Eastern Europe, particularly Romania and Bulgaria, from claiming government benefits. Cameron emphasized that it was a huge mistake to open the borders to Eastern Europeans. Accordingly there is a concern that the UK has already overstretched its social system, which has become difficult to manage. Opponents claim that such a hostile approach toward migrants comes from British Eurosceptics, as well as the willingness to recapture the country’s power and strengthen nationalism. Rather without the help of the EU. However, migrants from the new members of the EU contribute to the British economy by filling vacancies in the labor market, as well as bringing new ideas and maintaining the welfare system.

The other significant minority group that faces difficulties in Western Europe is Muslims. Since the wave of Muslims to Europe (in the mid 20th century), countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, Britain, and Sweden, supported cultural diversity and the implementation of integration policies which would sustain the idea of multiculturalism. Immigrants’ acceptance is perceived as “promoting cultural diversity and even institutionalizing it may be acceptable as long as minority cultures remain minority cultures.” However, this turned out to bring clashes between minority-majority populations.

The example of Sweden, which has experienced a vast flow of Muslims since 1960s, demonstrates that Swedish society now finds itself trapped between cultural survival and multiculturalism. The implemented integration policies failed to bring a xenophobic approach towards Muslims who are usually associated as a danger to national safety and the host country’s identity. Therefore, recent EU interest to solve this issue has intensified due to the connection between countries’ integration policies and increased challenges to social inclusion. However, EU policymakers consider the integration of minorities as a matter of their participation in the labor market and self-maintenance, while various factors to be included in the integration programs such as the religious aspect, cultural backgrounds, and variety of identities have been forgotten. Moreover, common principles applied to all migrants, excluding the importance of culture, narrows future integration prospects.

 

Mobility as a choice

The phenomenon of migration could be perceived as a free choice to be mobile, but it also has a negative impact on a country where emigration level exceeds immigration. However, countries are responsible for implementing measures to sustain their societies and prevent brain drain. Take the example of Poland, which has the highest emigration rate. Even though it does not provide any directive tools to lure Poles back into returning to their home country, small initiatives have attempted to contribute to Polish society.

For instance, the Information Center of Employment Services “Green Line” in Poland established the guideline for those who wish to return in order to provide useful information concerning up-to-date job trends in the labor market, changes in the taxation system, social benefits, and the Labor Code. Moreover, there have been campaigns and other initiatives created that try to promote Poland abroad, which invoke academic conferences, international enterprises, and cultural events. Equally significant is the encouragement of foreigners to study and carry out research in Poland, through scholarships and grants. Even so there is a tendency for foreigners to stay in Poland just until the finish their studies. Other countries such as Bulgaria and Romania have introduced very similar initiatives in the form of informative publications for those who are thinking of returning to their home country, as well as consultations.

However, it seems that those measures play rather a social role than a real one. Meanwhile, in order to understand the outcome of mass emigration and find tools to enforce citizens to return, Lithuania conducted research titled “Return Migration” in 2008. The survey revealed that Lithuanians mainly leave for economic reasons. However, taking into consideration the opinion collected from Lithuanians abroad, also Migration Center in Lithuania, Social Research Institute, there were proposed recommendations that might help to improve the return policy. The return migrants mentioned the importance of developing a database system where people would be able to find information on how work experience would be counted in order to have health insurance and social benefits. Moreover, the reintegration of children, their psychological adjustment, and special centers to fulfill this demand were mentioned as significant factors.

The powerful tool that is the media should sustain encouragement of re-emigration. In Lithuania media content analysis, referring to migrants, discloses rather negative attitude towards emigrants, which affects an emigrant’s eagerness to return – why return if you will be judged? However, if a high emigration society is unable to monitor human resources and people’s potential, then it is trapped into a vicious cycle. The more it loses, the more it has to search for a substitute to contribute to the country’s wellbeing. Therefore, focused work with the media and long-term action to increase youth employment opportunities should be perceived as part of the return policy.

 

Gertruda Gecaite graduated in social sciences from Vilnius University in 2010. She completed an MA in International Relations at Lazarski University, Warsaw. Her fields of interest are the clash of cultures, migration policies, minority rights, and blogging about these issues.