18th Annual IMISCOE conference, Luxembourg (online), July 7-9 2021

Michael Eve, Università del Piemonte Orientale, michael.eve@uniupo.it

Maria Perino, Università del Piemonte Orientale, maria.perino@uniupo.it


Changing the narrative on migration’ involves reflection on the way migration scholars and international institutions may contribute to the framework of a debate in which anti-immigration forces insert themselves.

An aspect of the framework where ‘populist’ opposition to immigration flourishes is the opposition between those who ‘welcome’ migrants for humanitarian reasons or for love of ‘cultural richness’, and those who wish to restrict migration for the ‘national interest’. This framework presupposes that mass migration to the West exists essentially because of conditions in emigration countries, from wars to economic hardship. This assumption is bolstered by media presentations and by restrictive policies pursued in recent decades which have not succeeded in reducing the total volume of migration to Western nations, but have profound effects on public perception of migration as something coming from ‘outside’.

We argue that a shift in academic discourses in recent decades has not helped to counter this perception of migration as driven by conditions ‘outside’.

In 1979 Piore stressed the centrality of demand for labour as the driver of migration, and the need to understand the choices of local workers. But at the end of the century Arango, in an authoritative volume (Massey et al. 1998) stressed push factors. There has been a sharp shift in policies, very different from the era of the Gastarbeiter programmes, but not in demand for labour: migrants have continued to find jobs in sectors from agriculture to construction, tourism, cleaning and care services. Migration Studies should not just study migrants.