Immigration and Asylum: Challenges to European Identities and Citizenship

Stephen Castles

in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560981
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Immigration and Asylum: Challenges to European Identities and Citizenship

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  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)


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Many Europeans today perceive immigration as a major problem for society. Some claim that asylum seekers and low-skilled migrants are an economic burden and that ethnic diversity undermines the solidarity necessary for strong welfare states. Above all, a widespread discourse portrays Europe's new found cultural and religious complexity as a challenge to historical models of national identity and citizenship. Such concerns are far from new, but they have grown sharply. The trigger for the perception of a ‘migration crisis’ was the end of the Cold War. This article examines the history of migration, ethnicity, and racism, which has always been closely interwoven with nation-state formation, colonialism, and modernity. The ‘migration crisis’ of the early 1990s reveals itself as just one of several crucial turning points in Europe's migration history. Before discussing such epochal shifts, the article summarises pre-1945 experiences, with emphasis on developments since World War II, and also examines multiculturalism and social cohesion in Europe.

Keywords: Europe; citizenship; migration; migration crisis; World War II; multiculturalism; social cohesion; ethnicity; racism; national identity

Article.  8856 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Contemporary History (Post 1945)

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