Semi-reluctant Hosts: Southern Europe’s Ambivalent Response to Immigration
The human tragedy of migration has become a regular feature of those southern European countries with accessible coastlines (Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus), inhospitable illegal border crossings (Italy and Greece) or even borders set with landmines (Greece/Turkey). The number of deaths by drowning, freezing and explosion can only be crudely guessed, but it is the dramatic arrival of shiploads of starving emigrants which most captures the public attention – frequently with a humane and compassionate response. Public policy, however, does not generally approach such matters in other than legalistic formulations; the typical initial state response has been to characterise the migrants as “illegal”, then later to concede that some might be candidates for political asylum. This status, in southern Europe, is anyway scarcely better than illegal immigrant (Black, 1992; Malheiros and Black, 1997). In this paper, I hope to convey an impression of the massively complex, rapidly changing and frequently misunderstood nature of the international migration to southern Europe; its relationship with the economy and society; and the role of the state in managing the phenomenon. I conclude with a short appraisal of policy, along with some personal thoughts on how progress might be made.