The Need for a Common European Immigration Policy

, by Ana Botelho de Azevedo , Dietrich Baenziger

The Need for a Common European Immigration Policy

Immigration is a major challenge for Europe and in general a priority in governmental agendas and international organisations. Immigration policies should be linked more and more to the reality and should be the foundation stone of integration at all levels, in combination with intelligent migratory flow controls. It is important to establish commitments in areas such as work, social, security, housing, health, education and justice in a transversal perspective on one hand, and on the other regarding discrimination, gender equity, equal opportunities, citizenship rights, as an example.

The European countries (and usually host countries) control their migratory flows by creating laws that try to restrict the immigration from third countries.

Research shows that Europe, due to demographic and labour reasons, needs immigration. Nevertheless, besides the political acceptance of immigration due to the above-mentioned reasons, there is a populist and security-centred argument that is sceptic to the values of immigration and is discriminatory in the selection of the few who are allowed to enter a country and furthermore is resistant to an intercultural and inter-religious society as one can see for example in the current Swiss initiative aiming to prohibit the construction of minarets.

According to the statistics [1] 33,6% of the immigrant of the world live in Europe (28% in Asia, 26,8 in America, 9% in Africa and 2,6% Oceania). Hence, it is clear that Europe, since the 1960s, has become a principal destination of worldwide migration flows.

A unified Europe should strive to have common parameters regarding reception, legalisation and naturalisation of immigrants

(i.e. there are common policies about expulsion of immigrants in illegal situation but no policies about the chance for them to legalise the situation).

Different naturalisation produces inequality in rights

Focusing on the naturalisation law in some European host countries, the right to acquire nationality (naturalisation) varies widely, which produces inequalities in the attribution of rights. Examples for these are voting and movement of immigrants in Europe and abroad depending on the receiving country’s policies. According to the political scientist Rainer Bauböck, Austrian Academy of Science, the authors (in particular policy makers) of the concept of the European citizenship were not aware of some tensions in the attribution of nationality. Bauböck presents in the following examples the reason for this: During the 1990s Italy granted the Italian nationality to people with Italian ascendancy while at first not requiring that people live in the country. That resulted in many Brazilian and Argentineans acquiring the citizenship without ever having been in Italy or Europe. After receiving the European passport they could immigrate to Spain, UK and United States.

The distinction between the attribution of nationality by jus soli (by the place of born) or jus sanguini (nationality of the parents) is important. For example, when a child of a non-EU citizen mother is born in an EU country that applies jus soli, the mother will receive a residence permit or nationality (depending on the country) in order to take care of the European citizen (a minimum time spent in the respective EU country may be required for jus soli to be applicable). Hence it is possible that a child receives the nationality automatically while for example a Spanish that immigrates to Portugal might have to wait 6 years until becoming eligible for naturalisation.

The attribution of nationality by jus soli or jus sanguini, double nationality or rejection of one of the nationalities, the time needed to receive the citizenship as an immigrant should be similar or even equal in a unified Europe.

Therefore, Europe should decide upon a common approach on migration, especially regarding:

 Designing a European law regarding the attribution of nationality

 Homogenising the rules of access to European host countries

 Creating an efficient European governmental network on migration

 Monitoring the European common migration policies

Viewing the current diversity in European immigration laws on the one hand and the European common market and Schengen on the other hand and the need for immigration to satisfy Europe’s economic needs, a common approach to immigration becomes more important.

This does not only mean a common approach to prevent people coming into the EU but much more a common approach on what grounds working and residence permits and finally citizenship should be grated. This would not only allow potential immigrants to better understand the policies but as well business would benefit as it would be much easier to employ the immigrant where needed and not where the immigrant entered the EU. This would not only be a benefit for the individuals but also for society as a whole, as integration and social inclusion would be facilitated, and therefore the European ideal supported.

Image: Cayuco, African immigrants reach Tenerife after treacherous crossing; source: Flickr


 Towards a common European Union immigration policy: explanation of the situation and update on latest development from the European Commission; source: DG Justice and Home Affairs

 International Organization for Migration:

 High Commissioner for Migration and Intercultural Dialogue:

 Migration Information Source:

 International Labour Organization (ILO):

 International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion:


[1International Migration 2006, Department of economical and social affairs of the United Nations.

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