Muslim Migration to Europe

Immigration to and migration within Europe has significantly increased since the mid-Twentieth Century. A lot of migration has been within Europe, especially by Eastern Europeans as well as migrants from North African countries. Since the 1960s, the percentage of immigrants to Europe who are Muslim has significantly increased. The settlement of Muslim communities in Europe has sparked many debates about European immigration and integration policies. This teaching module will explore the migration of Muslims to Europe and the history of immigration and citizenship policies in European countries.

III. WORLD HISTORY I. The Post-War Period, 1945 - Present: The student will demonstrate knowledge of significant political and cultural developments of the late 20th century that affect global relations.


Four major streams of migration to and within Europe:

- 1945-1960s: War adjustment and decolonization
- 1955-1973: Labor migration
- 1974-1988: Restrained migration
- 1988- Present: Dissolution of Socialism, East-West migration, Asylum/Refugees

After WWII millions of people were displaced and internal migration increased within Europe as many people sought new lives and work opportunities after the war. The United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention influenced many European countries to accept refugees and asylees from WWII and other war-ravaged areas. The convention defines who a refugee is and the responsibilities of states to protect them. Initially the focus was to protect refugees from World War II but over time the geographical and temporal boundaries were opened up by the 1967 Protocol to the convention. Denmark was the first to ratify the Convention in 1952.

At this same time, the period of decolonization encouraged European colonists to return to Europe. Former colonial subjects also moved to Europe for work and studies. For example, during this period the United Kingdom drew many migrants from countries in the former British Empire such as India, Pakistan and Yemen as well as refugees such as Poles, Jewish Holocaust survivors and Hungarians who were fleeing the Soviet Army.

In the 1950s, many labor migrants or "guest workers" from Southern and Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa were recruited by governments and businesses to work in and rebuild Europe. Germany, for example, recruited labor migrants from Turkey. France and Belgium attracted many young men from Morocco and Algeria. Over time more immigrants joined them as European economies flourished and job opportunities continued to grow. Many of these labor migrants intended to work for a few years and then return to their home countries.

In the 1970s an economic recession hit Europe and left many labor migrants unemployed. From 1973 to 1975 many Western European governments implemented restrictive immigration policies. These policies varied from country to country but were generally referred to as "immigration stop" policies and were used to stop foreign labor recruitment and prevent immigrants from coming to Europe. However, these policies were not effective in encouraging return migrations. Many migrants stayed in Europe and brought their families to join them through family reunification policies and continued labor migration. Since the 1970s the numbers of immigrants have increased rather than decreased in Europe.

Along with the increase of immigrants the Muslim populations have also increased in Europe over the past few decades. For some Muslim migrants already living in European countries there were opportunities to gain citizenship during the 1970s and 1980s which explains the increase of Muslim populations. During this time many governments tried to enforce restrictive immigration policies but they also provided amnesty for migrants who were living in their countries. For example, by 1974 Belgium had instituted strict policies for work permits in an effort to reduce immigration but also granted amnesty to many labor migrants living in the country at the time who did not have work permits. Many governments supported family reunification policies for migrants already living in Europe as a means to encourage a stable lifestyle for labor migrants and integration with the larger society.

Many recent immigrants have gained access to European countries through family reunification and marriage. There has also been an increase of asylees and refugees who are fleeing war-torn countries or unstable political regimes, such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Netherlands in particular has received many refugee and asylum seekers. Many have also used undocumented immigration routes to seek work and safety in European countries, including by boat across the Mediterranean or across the desert and through the Middle East, in particular Yemen. The new Muslim immigrants to Europe tend to be families intent on permanent settlement rather than the labor migrants who were more mobile. However, there has been a gender shift in the demographics of immigrants. Historically men have been seen as the primary labor migrants but recent scholarship reveals that women were also part of early migrant populations and continue to migrate to Europe. For example, Moroccan women continue to migrate to Southern European countries often looking for work in domestic service, agriculture and small industries. {See case studies on immigration and citizenship policies by country}

European governments have tried various methods to reduce immigration such as enacting tougher deportation policies, trying to improve the conditions of emigrant countries and also warning illegal immigrants about the dangers that face them along the routes. European governments have also made it increasingly difficult to obtain permanent residency or citizenship as a means to reduce immigration. For example, Germany's nationality law was based on the rule of jus sanguinis (right of blood) where a person had to have German ancestry in order to gain German citizenship. That law has been only recently changed to allow for long-term immigrants in the country to gain citizenship. Other citizenship laws focus on the perceived lack of integration by recent immigrants. The Netherlands, for example, recently instituted immigration laws that potential spouses must have knowledge of Dutch language and culture in their home countries before permission to enter the country. However, many immigration laws that European governments try to enact are also subject to the European Union Courts, which has promoted free movement over restrictive immigration policies.

Since the 1970s, Muslim communities have begun to stabilize and grow in Europe as first and second generation migrants have become more settled. They are part of the changing social, political, and economic landscapes of many European countries. For more on the issues and challenges facing Muslim migrants in Europe see the Case Studies and Debates below.

Classroom Resources and Handouts

Case Studies by Anduin Wilhide, PhD Candidate, History, University of Minnesota
United Kingdom.pdf
European Union.pdf
Table - Muslims in Europe.pdf

Source 1
Does Islam Require Muslim Women to Wear a Hijab? KFAI reporter examines the practice of wearing hijab in different cultural contexts, including Turkey (4:43 audio clip):

Source 2
Moving Here; Migration Histories:

Source 3
BBC "Muslims in Europe": Provides interactive maps on Muslim migration including demographics by country, video and audio stories by Muslim migrants and articles about key issues facing Muslims in Europe.

Source 4
NPR "An Islamic Journey Inside Europe": Provides several interviews with Muslim migrants from Europe who discuss a variety of topics about what their lives are like.

Suggested Readings

Hansen, Randall. "Migration to Europe since 1945: Its History and its lessons," The Political Quarterly Publishing Co. (2003)

"Europe's Shifting Immigration Dynamic" by Esther Ben-David, Middle East Quarterly Spring 2009, pp. 15-24.

Migration Information Source: (Country Profiles)

Focus Migration: (Country Profiles)

Pew Forum Research Center Mapping the Global Muslim Population: European Overview (2009) Also see BBC's "Muslims in Europe" interactive map:

Wikipedia "Islam in Europe":

Curriculum Resource: History of Refugees:

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This page contains a single entry by mccoy019 published on October 21, 2010 11:37 AM.

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