As Migration to EU Shows No Sign of Letting Up, Which Member State Will Lose Its Identity First?
Although represented as a remedy against demographic woes and labor shortages, immigration also leads to new challenges resulting from integration, such as segregation, social exclusion and a state of disunity.
As Europe becomes increasingly globalized and diverse, it faces new challenges that include the possible loss of established national identities, as borders and boundaries get increasingly blurred because of mass migration ranging from economic migrants to asylum seekers.
The UN defines an immigrant as someone who has been living in a country other than his or her country of birth for at least a year. In addition to new citizens or residents, a variety of people fit under this definition, ranging from foreign workers to refugees and even illegal aliens who are notoriously hard to track.
With this definition in mind, here’s a breakdown of immigration by country as a percentage of the nation’s population, based on figures from Our World in Data, a project of the Global Change Data Lab, a non-profit organization based in the United Kingdom. It is, however, worth pointing out that statistical methods differ from country to country as to whether second-generation immigrants and their offspring are counted and do not necessarily reflect the true ethnic composition, often being more conservative.
Tiny Liechtenstein emerged as the undisputed European leader in its share of immigrants with nearly 68 percent, trailed by fellow minuscule nations such as Monaco (67 percent) and Andorra (59 percent), which all offer tax breaks to Europe’s wealthy.
Among EU member states, however, Luxembourg is in the lead with 48 percent, with Portuguese, Frenchmen and Italians forming the largest communities.
It is trailed by Malta at 26 percent, which in recent years emerged as a transit country for migration routes from North Africa towards Europe.
13 December 2022, 07:00 GMT
Sweden ranked third in the EU with 20 percent, with Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans having formed sizeable communities in recent years and eclipsing the traditional Finnish minority. The history of immigration in Sweden stands out from its peers. The country has until recently long remained a homogeneous society yet massive immigration altered its demographic composition beyond recognition. Over the past 20 years alone, Sweden’s share of its non-western population has increased from 2 percent to 15 percent of the total population, an unprecedented increase in the country's history. Although similar trends are witnessed in fellow Nordic nations, Sweden appears to be miles ahead.
At 19 percent, Austria is home to a sizable immigrant population from the former Yugoslavia, although there are also plenty from Germany and other EU nations.
Neighboring Germany also had 19 percent of immigrants, with Poles, Turks, Syrians and citizens of former Yugoslavia forming the largest communities.
Though not in the EU, remote and until recently highly homogeneous Iceland is worth an honorary mention with 18 percent. In recent years, many Poles, Lithuanians and Romanians have made the island nation their new home.
Despite remaining largely mono-ethnic until late 20th century, Ireland scored 18 percent, having embraced diversity and become an immigration magnet through a combination of liberal laws and a “Celtic Tiger” boom, a period of rapid economic growth, named after the Four Asian Tigers. Poles, Lithuanians and Romanians form the largest diasporas.
At 17 percent, Belgium is home to substantial Moroccan and Turkish communities, trailed by fellow Benelux nation of the Netherlands at 14 percent.
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In terms of actual immigrant population size, large EU nations such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy are in the lead with 15.1, 8.7, 7.2 and 6.2 million respectively. And the influx of immigrants continues: in 2021 alone, more than 632,000 applications were lodged in the EU.
Although touted as a remedy against low birthrates and labor shortages, immigration also leads to new, previously unknown challenges through poor integration, such as segregation, social exclusion zones and the attrition of the social fabric. The debate on these issues is notoriously febrile, as the media and the lawmakers are often reluctant to recognize the realities and their consequences that could threaten their societies, despite all sorts of polls indicating citizens' desire to limit immigration or tighten integration procedures.
Furthermore, in European politics and mainstream media, criticism of immigration as something that could "replace" ethnically homogeneous populations with people of non-European origin is dismissed as a myth and a fringe conspiracy theory. Despite this, a number of forecasts have envisaged, for instance, Swedes becoming a minority in their own country in a matter of decades, if the level of immigration continues at its present levels.