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HesaMag #20 Migrant workers in Fortress Europe

Laurent Vogel and Mehmet Koksal

Publication date : 2019

Number of pages : 58

Edited by :

Laurent Vogel and Mehmet Koksal

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The number of legally resident migrants stands at over 22 million, but the number of Europe’s “undocumented” migrants, whose status is precarious and whose rights in many areas are limited as a result, is much harder to determine. These migrants are often forced to tolerate adverse working conditions; since they are discriminated against in the labour market, both male and female migrant workers are pushed into low-skill industries and professions that are more hazardous to health and less well-paid than other jobs, a situation that is justified by racist stereotypes and assumptions.

The goal of the HesaMag editorial team in compiling this report was to introduce readers to a number of real-life examples drawn from a variety of EU Member States. The migrant workers in all of these examples are caught in a metaphorical stranglehold that gradually squeezes the life out of them, and sometimes extinguishes it completely. One side of this is the status of being a non-national in one of the EU Member States, which can mean a denial of rights or even in some cases expulsion to a country where they are likely to fall victim to violence or discrimination. The other is the upswell of xenophobia confronting them, which is being stoked by far-right groups but tolerated with varying degrees of willingness by a much broader spectrum of political parties.

Fortress Europe may be erecting barricades to shut out the rest of the world, but these barricades are encountering resistance in the form of numerous new initiatives launched not only by groups of migrants who have banded together to fight for their rights, but also by other organisations acting in solidarity and out of a desire to build a fairer future. Trade unions – which from their very inception have striven to overcome the divisions and hatred that do nothing but harm workers – have also lent their support to these developments.

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Special report - Migrant workers in Fortress Europe

ETUI, ISSN 2077-6799 (pdf)