Migration is one of the most divisive policy topics in today’s Europe. Emotions run high when citizens across our continent discuss the refugee ‘crisis’ of 2015, intra-EU migration, posted workers, border control, Schengen and so on. Perceptions often differ vastly from realities on the ground. That is why we decided to provide a comprehensive and data-driven book on the current state of affairs of immigration in Europe, which I am very happy to introduce.
The book offers numerous insights. On overall immigration numbers and their relationship to Europe’s demographics, it is fascinating to note that only 30 years ago, in the mid-1980s, Europe became a net immigration continent – after 400 years of populating many parts of the world. More recently, it is important to note that net immigration has become distinctively more important for population change than the natural change. In 2015, the natural rate of population change turned negative.
Another issue is perceptions of migration. This volume shows the relatively high support for intra-EU migration as opposed to immigration from outside the EU, and documents how emigration away from central and eastern Europe has created labour shortages in that part of the world and has also affected its demographics.
The book also surveys research on the economic impact of migration and analyses the importance of education for integration of immigrants into the labour market. It finds that in many EU countries, second- and third-generation descendants of immigrants are much less well integrated into the labour market and have worse educational outcomes than natives.
This volume also documents the vastly different ways in which EU countries assess asylum applications. In some countries, large percentages of applicants get granted asylum status while in others the percentages are very low.
The authors conducted a novel survey of banks and concluded that the tightening of financial regulation that has been necessary to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing has made it more difficult to offer financial services to refugees. The solution to this problem is not to ease regulation, but to tailor it to the specific needs of refugees, offer clear guidelines to banks and improve refugee identification.
The authors make a number of important policy recommendations, highlighting the importance of effective EU border control, consistent implementation of EU decisions and of practical measures such as creating an EU database and ID for refugee identification.
I would like to thank the authors for a very comprehensive and thorough work which I am sure will inform many stakeholders and help improve the fact base that underpins important debates. My gratitude also goes to the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, which funded this study.
Guntram Wolff, Director of Bruegel
Brussels, January 2018