Migration in the EU in Retrospect 

Migration in Europe

Until the middle of the 20th century, Europe was actually not characterized by an inflow of people but by a remarkable emigration to other parts of the world.1 In fact, 50 million people left Europe between 1815 and 1930. Their destinations were countries such as

The EU itself was found officially in 1993, but its history lies in the 1950s when Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Italy decided to establish the EGKS (European Union for coal and steel).3 Aim of this Union was not only to strengthen the trade between these four countries, but to strengthen and establish trust and a feeling of community and therefore avoid catastrophes like WWII.

After WWII the situation changed significantly and Europe evolved to a major destination for immigrants. From the 1960s on there was a constant increase in the number of migrants. 2013, 52 million people of Europe’s overall population were migrants.4

Migrants in 1960: 3.5 %
Migrants in 2013: 10.3 %

This change did not occur in all EU-countries simultaneously. The reasons can hardly be summed up in one sentence but many countries were facing changes concerning their immigration policy which was closely linked to either decolonization and/or labour recruitment.5 One of the biggest migration movements though, resulted from decolonization after WWII.6

The twentieth century was shaped by authoritarian regimes, which often tried to create political homogenous landscapes.7 The geographic expansion of the European Union with the reunification of Germany, the adhesion of Portugal and Spain and the economic growth of southern European countries on the one side and turbulences such as the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Yugoslavian war on the other side created large numbers of refugees seeking (political) asylum in Europe.8

Again, during the 2000s the Eastern enlargements of the European Union in 2004 and 2007 gave rise to substantial East-West migration flows.9

This is only a short and not at all complete insight of migration in Europe in retrospect.

If you want to read a more in depth account of migration in Europe, check the following books and sources:




  1. http://ftp.iza.org/dp7778.pdf
  2. ftp.iza.org/dp7778.pdf
  3. http://www.bpb.de/internationales/europa/europaeische-union/42989/europaeische-gemeinschaften
  4. ftp.iza.org/dp7778.pdf
  5. http://ftp.iza.org/dp7778.pdf
  6. https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/migration/dossier-migration/252254/globale-migration?p=all#footnode8-
  7. https://www.bpb.de/apuz/229817/kleine-globalgeschichte-der-flucht-im-20-jahrhundert?p=0
  8. http://ftp.iza.org/dp7778.pdf
  9. http://ftp.iza.org/dp7778.pdf