Seleziona la tua lingua

Rivista di etica e scienze sociali / Journal of Ethics & Social Sciences



1. The Global Context of International Migration

The process of global integration has accelerated during the last few years. As a result social, political and economic activities are increasingly interconnected throughout the world. Increases in the levels of interdependence between members of the global community encompass two related trends:

- increased mobility of capital facilitated by the modernisation and expansion of financial systems;
- increasing mobility of people between nations, for both tourism and employment.

2. International movements of people have been an enduring feature of the world’s history since the 16th century. These movements were dominated by European migration, first on a relatively small scale for the purpose of colonisation, then large scale movements of at least 48 million Europeans who left their countries of birth for the "New World" between 1800 and 1925.

The years immediately following World War II were characterised by resettlement migration among the industrialized countries by people from European backgrounds. However this European focus has shifted dramatically since the 1960’s, with migration becoming a global phenomenon (Table 4). International migration involves an estimated 45 - 50 million persons per year. Some estimates put this figure as high as 90 million. New developments in the international movements of people include:

- a variety of patterns of movements between regions (migration from the developing "South" to the industrialized "North");
- temporary movements of people which have become more important than permanent movements;
- the dramatic increase of refugee movements (table 2)
- movements of people between countries of the same region, for example:
- the western European expansion of the 1950’s and 1960’s was significantly assisted by labour migrants from Mediterranean countries;
- the oil-rich Middle East countries have drawn workers from neighbouring Arab states and some Asian countries. In some of the Gulf States, migrants - outnumber the native population;
- Japan and the newly industrialised countries of Asia have been attracting growing numbers of migrants within the Asian region.

3. Access to work and migration pressure in Asia

The disparity between annual labour force growth and the supply of jobs in the industrial sector of selected countries in Asia (Table 1) can be taken as an indication of the likely level of population increase leading to the pressure to migrate.

The expected surge in population growth rates leads to concern about how the increasing population, primarily the rural population, will be able to support itself on the limited resources available. In all of these countries export oriented economic policy discourages small local industries and creates an unhealthy flow of population and jobs towards the big cities. There is little scope for emigration to the industrialized "North"; the South-North migration has thus far not usually originated in regions with the largest overpopulation and poverty. Rather, international migration has been prevalent from the economically developed regions of the "South" - Philippines, India, China and Sri Lanka are examples of countries that provide substantial flows of international migration.

At the same time, it must be remembered, that it is not always the unemployed who emigrate to escape poverty. It is not the poorest who become migrants but people who have access to some economic resources and have jobs. Their urge to migrate is dictated by the desire to improve their already favourable situation relative to the rest of the population. As a leading expert on international migration put it:

Persons suffering severe poverty are generally more likely to stay put until near-starvation overtakes and they struggle to move elsewhere probably, as in the case of Africa, to a nearby country not much better off then their own. Such persons, it has been argued, pose no migration threat to countries of the North: distance, inability to finance travel and fear of the unknown combine to prevent them from becoming part of a mass exodus. Greater pressure is expected to come from compatriots in better economic circumstances, or from persons in countries higher up the international per capita GNP ladder, who are ambitious, know where the opportunities exist, can raise the travel costs and, if necessary, will risk arrest in a country of the North knowing that their deportation is unlikely. Persons with these characteristics appear to typify the increasing asylum-seeker and illegal populations in countries of the North. (R.T.Applyard International Migration Challange for the Nineties, Geneva: International Migration Organization, 1991.)


4. The refugees and asylum seekers represent the "human face" of migration that we see on our TV screens as we watch tragic developments that follow civil wars in the former Yugoslavia and Africa or the consequences of major natural disasters in Bangladesh or Central America. The numbers of refugees keep on increasing at an alarming rate: in 1980 the world had something in the order of 8 million refugees. Today we have more then 22 million and the number is increasing every day.

For the purpose of this presentation I wish to highlight the plight of those refugees who, to escape persecution of hunger, unsuccessfully seek asylum in the affluent countries of the "North" , principally in Europe. Many of you will remember the police assault on the church of Saint-Bernard in Paris in August 1996. Force was used to deport from France groups of North Africans classified as illegal migrants. This was symptomatic of the time of troubles over immigration which both Europe and America are entering. These are the result of real pressures from migrants and of the less than coherent, less then humane response of government and peoples to these pressures. We see it in the rise of anti-immigration parties in France, Germany, Austria and Norway to mention only a few such examples.


5. Conclusion: The Christian response

The idea that migration no longer fulfils the historic function of cultural mixing and stimulation and of providing a rapid flow of labour to economically dynamic areas has played a part in the developments sketched in this lecture. But for the committed Christian and for certain kinds of anti-racist liberals, the question of policy is secondary. Such people begin at the point of trouble, in a particular place, with particular individuals, not at some strategic height where inflows and outflows of people are calculated as if they were water flowing through pipes or up against dams. For Christians it should be a question of basic action on the right attitude, which is to offer help to people in despair of poverty or of threat to their lives. Governments, however, rarely follow such emotional logic.

Adding to political pressures by governments in the "North" wanting to be seen to act against illegal immigration and to limit legal immigration are economic pressures. The sudden market collapse in several Asian countries which have integrated themselves into the global economy, has played havoc with migrant workers. Of the 143,000 Filipino workers in Hong Kong, over 80,000 returned home before last December. Malaysia is forcing out two million Indonesian workers in order to give their jobs to Malaysians. In these and other comparable instances individual economies react to sudden withdrawals of foreign investment funds by drastic measures designed to curtail the size of their workforce. Migrant workers are the first to bear the brunt of such policies within the global economy.

As the 1998 document issued by the Philippines Bishops’ conference pointed out:

Globalisation [which is] based on the decisions of a few mega-instituions, selfishly promoting the welfare of the powerful and affluent few, and purposely disregarding the needs, rights and dignity of the great voiceless multitude, is the kind of globalisation the great majority of humanity would be better without.

There are echoes of this statement in scripture and tradition. Migration is, in fact, a central Christian metaphor. God is imaged as a free spirit wandering over the face of the earth (e.g. Genesis 1:2), who visits Abraham as three travellers (Genesis 18). The Holy Family are refugees, fleeing to Egypt from Herod’s "killing fields" (Matthew 2:13). Jesus, rejected by his compatriots (Matthew 13:57, Luke 13:31-33), moves from town to town and "has nowhere to rest his head" (Matthew 8:19-22, Luke 9:58). Migrants can be to us, then, Icons of Jesus and a stimulus to compassion out of love for him.


Table 1: Population and labour force growth in selected countries of Asia


Average annual growth

population 1980-1990 (%)

Projected annual labour

force growth,

1999-2000 (%)

Projected industrial sector

jobs per new entrant

to labour force in 2000

South Asia
2.8 3.6 0.17
India 2.2 2.1 0.42
Pakistan 3.2 3.7 0.35
South East Asia
3.4 2.4 0.33
Philippines 2.5 2.8 0.22
North East Asia
0.6 0.4 3.70
South Korea 1.2 1.8 2.13

Source: Stahl, Charles W. and Reginald T. Appleyard, "International Manpower Flows on Asia: an overview," Asian and Pacific Migration Journal Vol. 1, No. 3 - 4: 420 - 431, 1992.


Table 2: principal sources of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers, December 1993

Former Yugoslavia  
Sierra Leone 
China (Tibet)  
Sri Lanka   

* Indicates that sources vary widely in number reported

** The latest (1995) estimate is 750.000

source: World Refugee Survey, 1994, Washington: US Committee for Refugees, 1994


Table 3: Estimated and projected world population by regions 1970-2025 (millions) 

  1970 % 1990 % 2000 % 2025 %
Africa 362 9.79 642 12.13 867 13.85 1597 18.78
North America 226 6.11 276 5.22 295 4.71 332 3.90
Latin America 286 7.73 448 8.47 538 8.59 757 8.90
Asia & Pacific 2121 57.36 3139 59.32 3743 59.78 4950 58.21
Europe* 703 19.01 787 14.87 818 13.07 867 10.2
Total 3698 100.000 5292 100.000 6261 100.000 8503 100.000
Industrialized ("North") 1049 28.37 1207 22.81 1264 20.19 1353 15.92
2649 71.63 2649 77.21 4997 79.81 7150 84.09

*Includes former USSR

Source: adapted from World Population Prospects, UN Population Division, New York: 1990


Table 4: Foreign-born populations in selected countries 

Country Year of census Foreign-born number (000’s) % of total population


Ivory Coast







Ghana 1970 573 6.6
South Africa 1985 1862 8.0
Zimbabwe 1982 527 7.1







Canada 1981 3867 16.2
USA 1990 14080 8.7
Venezuela 1981 1049 7.2







Hong Kong 1981 2132 42.8
Israel 1983 1422 42.6
Kuwait 1985 1016 59.9
Malaysia 1980 673 5.2
Saudi Arabia 1974 791 11.8
Singapore 1980 527 21.8
United Arab Emirates 1975 356 81.8







Belgium 1981 879 8.9
France 1982 5002 11.2
Germany 1986 4513 7.4
Netherlands 1986 552 3.8
Sweden 1986 719 8.1
Switzerland 1985 916 14.8
United Kingdom 1981 3390 6.3







New Zealand 1981 465 14.6

Source: International Migration Policies and the Status of Female Migrants.

New York. United Nations, 1995


Table 5: Principal regions and selected countries of asylum, December 1993 

Region Country Numbers Main sources
Africa   5,825,000  
  Malawi 700,000 Mozambique
  Sudan 633,000 Ethiopia/Eritrea
Middle East   4,924,000  
  Iran 1,995,000 Afghanistan
  Jordan 1,073,000 Palestine
South & Central Asia   2,151,000  
  Pakistan 1,482,00 Afghanistan
East Asia & Pacific   468,000  
  China 296,000 Vietnam
  Thailand 108,000 Burma
  Hong Kong 35,000 Vietnam
Europe   2,614,000  
  Yugoslavia 357,000 Bosnia (Serbia)
  Germany 529,000 Yugoslavia & others
America & Caribbean   273,000  
  USA 150,000  
  Mexico 52,000  
  Canada 20,000  
Total all regions   16,225,000  

source: world Refugee survey, 1994, Washington: US Committee for Refugees, 1994

Sociologist, demographer, (Politico sociale) and pupil of Prof. Florian Znanieki, is known as a founding theoretician of the problem of multiculturalism. Born in 1920 in Krakow, where he finished school in 1938, he participated actively in the resistance during the Second World War before emigrating to Great Britain where, in 1945, he matriculated to the University of London and in 1952 graduated Master of Science.

In the years 1952-1955 he dedicated himself to scientific and analitical work for the British Foreign Office, worked with the BBC’s European Services. He also woked with radio Free Europe until 1968.

The most rich and fruitful period of his career began after his emigration to Australia in 1956. The level of his studies on Polish immigration in Australia and research work at the Research School of Social Sciences of the Australian National University at Canberra won him recognition in the scientific world. During that period, J.Zubrzycki published his most important scientific commentaries regarding emigration, methodological work on the processes of migration and the results of empirical research on the processes of colonization and the adaptation of immigrants to new ways of life. The new theoretical, methodological and empirical model of research on migration which he developed was valued and applied by many researchers in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

The problems of immigrants in adapting to their new surroundings was presented with the concrete example of the professor in the book, maybe his best-known "Settlers of the Latrobe Valley" (1964). The monograph deals with the European immigrants in the context of an analysis of all the aspects of their lives in the various phases of the process of structural reorganisation of their communities. This work is cited many times as an exemplary model of the methodological and empirical treatment of the problem of social analysis of groups of emigrants.

Professor Zubrzycki is called "The Father of the Australian Politics of Multiculturalism" which was officially inaugurated by the Australian government in 1973. In fact, it was mostly by him that the basis of these politics were theoretically and concretely explained.

Professor Zubrzycki was the founder of a distinguished sociological journal "The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology" and in 1971-72 was the President of the Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand. During his professional and scientific career, he was also a member of consultative bodies of the governments of the United Kingdom and of Australia and the State Administration of Australia. The Professor has dedicated an important part of his activity to ethnic Australian organizations.

In the years 1981-83 he was a member of the Board of the Museum of Australia and the President of the Ethnic Affairs Task Force of the Australian Council on Population and Ethinic Affairs. From 1991 he was the President of the Australian Institute of Polish Affairs. In 1994, he was nominated a member of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences at the Vatican. In 1998 he became a dottore honoris causa of the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Posnan, Poland and an Honorary Member of the Association of Sociology of Poland.

Professor Zubrzycki has published 13 books and collaborated in the publication of another 24, he was the author of over 70 articles, 5 reports for the British Foreign Office during 1953-58 and of 5 reports for the Australian Government prepared by organisations of which he was president.

Jerzy Zubrzycki lives and works in Canberra in Australia. He is married with four children.

Summing up his own experiences he says "probably the most important lesson of my life’s journey as a scientist and man of action seems to be: empirical verification of scientific theories is absolutely necessary in the living organism of society. There’s a need for practical experience of that which first was just an abstract. Even today the sayings of those who founded the rules of scientific knowledge stick in my mind: of Roger bacon who said "Argumentum non sufficit sed experientia" and the teachings of John Locke "Nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu."