Key words: migration, international migration, refugee, asylum, society
Nowadays the scale of international migration has become as large as ever and, according to some researchers, the number of international migrants is to increase in the near future. The phenomenon of international migration affects almost every state in the world, and, being a global movement, is interrelated with a number of spheres, such as development, poverty, human rights and many other. It is the exact reason why there is a great need in studying the issue of migration from the point of view of sociology, since its scale and intensity have made migration one of the main aspects of social reality. The paper aims at discussing and analyzing the issue of migration through the lens of social science and seeks to work out the problems provoked by this phenomenon in the society.
In reference books, a number of authors have attempted to define migration. In this paper, we will refer to it as ‘any spatial flow made between various locations within one or several administrative divisions without any reference to its duration, pattern or goal’ [4, p. 23]. Therefore, according to a definition suggested by a Russian researcher Tatiana N. Yudina, a migrant is ‘a person who is migrating (crossing the borders of some territories to change his permanent residency for good or for more or less long period of time’ [7, p. 141]. In social science, migrants are a group the members of which consider themselves to have an identity and share some behavioural patterns in a new residency [1, p. 169].
It is important that social theories view migrants as those needing social aid to adapt and integrate [3, p. 66]. It is supposed that this need is predetermined by the permanent opposition of insiders and outsiders, which often occurs when people move to a new place. People identify themselves within three dimensions, including physical, spiritual and professional spheres. Physical dimension implies ecological and natural aspects, living conditions and amenities, that is why sometimes relocating to a new place happens to be a stressful situation in which adaptation to new living conditions is a rather complicated process. Spiritual dimension entails moral and cultural values which a certain group of people share and which predetermine their identity. When relocating, migrants no longer have direct connection with this dimension, which adversely affects their integration in a new society. Professional dimension covers what would be known as successful self-realization at work, the opportunity to be well-paid and so on, which ensures adequate integration in this new society. Thus, there is a need for varying strategies and models of integration in a new society.
This research views relocation of populations which implies crossing national borders, making it an international migration. According to T. N. Yudina [7, p. 125], scholars usually define this phenomenon as migration as a result of which permanent residency and citizenship change or which is associated with staying in a different country, is long-term, seasonal or oscillating. The United Nations Statistical Division defines long-term migration as lasting more than a year. Crossing national borders is a distinctive feature of this phenomenon. As stated by the UN, an international migrant is any individual who has changed the state of their regular residency. [5, p. 15].
Sociologists define several types of international migration depending on the duration of stay (or absence): non-return, temporary, seasonal, oscillating and incidental. Depending on the direction, migration falls into two types (entry or departure), and scientists use specific terms, i.e. ‘immigration’ and ‘emigration’ to refer to these. Moreover, currently researchers distinguish illegal immigration as a modern type of international migration. There has been a significant increase in the number of illegal migration since 1970s. Besides the abovementioned types of migration, scholars sometimes define another criterion, such as reasons or circumstances of relocation (forced and voluntary migration), which usually will be political and ecological factors [5, p. 13].
It is worth pointing out that in 1980–1990s the scale of forced international migration has increased significantly, which is closely connected with the change in the pattern of international migration that became global at that time. In addition, the increase in the number of forced international migrants was predetermined by a number of factors and issues. As of now, global community discusses the issue of forced international migration and its scale referring to it as ‘humanitarian catastrophe’, as there has been a particular growth in the migration flow from North African states and Syria to the European Union.
Over the last fifty years, the scale of international migration has accounted for 3 per cent of the global population, which demonstrates certain stability. However, the phenomenon of international migration does not imply any stability of migration routes, demographic composition or motives [9, p. 58]. According to the UN data on the year 2015, more than half of the overall number of migrants live in one of the following states: the USA, the Russian Federation, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, India and Ukraine. Sociologists claim that there are a number of aspects which affect the patterns of modern migration, such as migration to the developed countries (mainly to acquire economic gain); migration from one developing country to another (the so-called ‘South-South’ migration); interregional migration (about 50 % stay in the same region, and only 40 % cross national borders); migration as a result of changing national borders and political and economic instability; migration as a means of coping with workforce deficit; specific conditions for entry of highly qualified migrants to improve competitiveness of the economy [9, p. 59].
When discussing the types of international migration, T. N. Yudina emphasises that these types are rather relative and closely interrelated. Another distinctive feature of international migration is constant increase of its scale and its global character, which allows discussing the need to consider possible reactions of the population in the host country and those of migrants as well as social consequences of migration [8, р. 130].
Researchers define four main reaction patterns in the host countries: absolute exclusion, differential exclusion (segregation), assimilation and pluralism [8, p. 99]. Comprehensive approach towards analysing these patterns is important from both the sociological and political perspectives as state migration policy is based upon these patterns.
The pattern of absolute exclusion implies preventing migrants from entering the country, which is a rather complicated task as globalization greatly affects all countries around the globe. At the same time, differential exclusion (or segregation) means that migrants are united in certain social subsystems and only participate in certain spheres of social life, not having access to a number of spheres. This pattern is common in countries where migration is considered a temporary phenomenon needed only for fulfilling short-term tasks (e.g. when there is workforce deficit or refugees seek asylum, etc.). Legal framework is the main tool for creating conditions for this pattern. Within differential exclusion, permanent residency of migrants in the host country is viewed as a threat to economic, social, cultural and political spheres [8, p. 99].
Assimilation pattern entails the policy to integrate migrants into the host society by means of adaptation. It is expected that language, cultural and social differences would disappear because of integration. States keep up assimilation by establishing supportive environment. It is worthwhile mentioning that as of now states design integration policy as adaptation is considered a gradual process. It is important to note that in most cases assimilation and differential exclusion ground upon the idea that migration should not affect the host country dramatically [8, p. 100].
Pluralism pattern is one within which migrants and native population of the host country possess equal rights, the state respects cultural and ethnic diversity, which is viewed as one of the key values. There are two main ways to this pattern: one is non-interference when the state recognizes cultural and confession diversity but does not support any ethnic groups; the other is the policy of multiculturalism when the society accepts cultural diversity while the state is ready to introduce certain changes in social structures. [8, p. 102].
We should emphasize that multiculturalism ministers the formation of ethnic communities, but this process is most intensive in the countries where migrants are considered a threat to economic sustainability, national identity and social order. The abovementioned patterns cannot be seen in one and only pure form, since state migration policy can rely upon one pattern or can approach migration with a blended model.
As there are four reaction patterns towards migration, migrants also follow certain models or strategies when participating in the social life of the host country: segregation, assimilation, integration or multicultural strategy. It is obvious that a lot of facets affect the way migrants participate in social life and behave in a new environment, and these strategies determine the level of integration and the degree to which they accept rules and norms existing in this new society [8, p. 107].
Segregation implies that migrants try to isolate themselves from the dominant culture of the host country and establish ethnic communities. Assimilation can be best described as migrants being ready to accept new behaviour models and cultural values and abandon those of their own. Integration is very much alike assimilation, the only difference being that migrants when accepting news do not turn down their own culture that is still important to them. Multiculturalism in this case means that migrants do not feel any pressure from the host society to abandon their cultural and confessional values, behavioural patterns and so on, their culture is respected and they become part of this society without any effort.
Sociological theories tell that migration can have both positive and negative consequences. Positive consequences would usually include demographic increase in the host country and the possibility to make quality changes in age/sex structure of the population. Australia is a great example of this since according to its migration policy working-age migrants are given preferences. Paul Collier points out that migration increases diversity in the society, which promotes providing more opportunities, creating additional motivation and more choice options. Collier also emphasizes that moderate migration is best for any society, while constant migration can bring about a number of issues [2, p. 128].
Nowadays globalization greatly affects societies all around the world, and international migration is closely related with globalization. Undoubtedly, social, political and economic consequences of migration can differ significantly depending on a particular country. For instance, when analysing the effect of migration in underpopulated and densely populated regions one can draw opposite conclusions. Moreover, what matters most is the way migrants and the host society relate to each other. At the moment, we witness a paradox since migration and globalization encourage states to strengthen their national borders. Being one of the major global processes, migration affects principles of national states that were formed back in 18th century. The fundamental principle of any national state is the idea of one shared culture, while migration introduces cultural and ethnic diversity as a threat to the dominion of a particular country [8, p. 111].
Having analysed different interaction patterns, we can state that social consequences can differ a lot in each particular case. For example, differential exclusion (or segregation) might lead to marginalization of migrants, as there is a significant gap between them and host population, there would develop ethnic, cultural and religious separatism. At the same time, states with assimilation pattern and differential exclusion face racism as territorial isolation leads to ethnic delinquency.
In today’s world, migrantophobia has become commonplace due to critical social and political context. The phenomenon of migrantophobia has resulted both from migration and changes in values and priorities within a relatively unstable economic situation. As M. A. Shakirzyanov put it [6, p. 1], migrantophobia is a type of xenophobia which is best characterised by particular concentration on a specific object. We should note that restrictive migration policy aiming at combating illegal migration contributes to the increase of migrantophobia in the society. The aggravation of this phenomenon is brought about by a number of reasons such as religious clash, different mentality, historic factors, and competition for acquiring social and economic benefits and so on. In several studies, authors state that the most effective way of preventing and avoiding migrantophobia is to support and promote close contact between the host population and migrants [6, p. 5].
When overviewing the issue of migration, we should consider a particular group of migrants who are forced to leave their home country and seek asylum, i.e. refugees. From sociological perspective, refugees or individuals seeking asylum are those who were forced to leave place of residence because of various threats and who came to a different country [7, p. 13]. Threats can be of different nature such as military conflicts, natural disasters and so on. We should note that the term ‘refugee’ in many countries is applied only if an individual had to leave his/her home country due to certain reasons. For instance, in the UK one cannot be a refugee if they left the country seeking economic benefits or because of natural disasters.
Since 1970s, there have been introduced a number of categories to refer to refugee flows, among which researchers particularize urban refugees, camp dwellers, and self-settled refugees. Current studies identify differences between the categories and discuss the transfer of refugees from one category to another. The key point in viewing refugees is the state policy in accordance with which they determine refugee flows, their social and economic status, and the efficiency of migrant related connections between their native country and the host one. As V. Lassailly-Jacob put it, sometimes talking about forced and voluntary migration is not correct as quite often forced migration results in labour migration which occurs to be an adaptation strategy [10, p. 191].
As of now, sociological studies concerning international migration stumble upon a number of complexities. Thus, rapid development and diversification of migration, restrictive migration policy and asylum regulations in most countries lead to significant increase in the number of illegal migrants. This category of migrants is quite unstable, prone to marginalization, which poses doubts on the majority of migration theories based on the ideas of integration, assimilation and social unity. The increasing scale and impactful changes in the routes of international migration as well as the development of transnational networks have made differences between the categories of migrants less pronounced. Further research is needed to cope with the changing conditions and reasons for international migration, as the global community is not yet ready to resolve the current crisis.
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