Immigration within and into Europe has increased in recent years, with local populations' anxieties raised(Pilcher 2010, p445). I will look at the socio-cultural challenges which immigration introduces. These include the real and perceived impacts on native populations, and the policy responses which stem from the issues. Next, economic well-being is an aspect of the immigration question that will be examined. I will consider soem of the various problems which are encountered in tackling this subject. While attempts to reach conclusions of the de facto effects of immigration in terms of the economies are not made, considering the arguments made may help in gauging the extent of the challenge that immigration poses. I will also examine some of the structural changes which immigration makes in the political sphere, with electoral and representative politics being affected. With constituencies changing significantly throughout several countries, the resultant shifts in terms of policy and governance are concerns which need to be taken seriously.
Social and Cultural Challenges
The social and cultural tensions which arise from hosting immigrant communities are often expressed as a failure to integrate or assimilate immigrants into society. Yet cleavages can be amplified due to the liberal and egalitarian doctrines which underpin European states. Provisions have to be made for immigrant citizens which may cause resentment in the existing population as a consequence of competition for diminishing resources, as well as the overarching factor of cultural stability(Lahav 2004, p1167). Yet this difficulty may be eased by the inclusion of non-EU immigrants in a reformulation of the European identity. If, as Diez & Whitman(2002) argue, the convolution within Europe and its own internal migrations can succeed in forging a new amorphous identity, there is hope for this newfound concept of tolerance to be extended to non-EU immigrants. The case of managing the integration of immigrants into existing societies then is part of a larger task of re-orienting the nature of European societies. On the face of it, this seems an enormous challenge, which requires the obsolescence of national identities, and something akin to a new Europe along the lines of the United States!
As immigration continues within Europe, fears amongst the immigrants themselves can contribute to separation and retreat into self-protecting 'enclaves'. Social integration then becomes even more difficult as communities prefer to strengthen their positions relative to the mainstream society rather than assimilate(Castles 2000, p89). The additional aspect of racial difference can only intensify the separation, and is difficult to overcome. Stephen Castles suggests that there has been a degree of racism present in European countries for decades, which is culturally and institutionally embedded. He argues that the formation of ethnic minority blocks was not inevitable, but is perhaps a...