Why people migrate

More and more people are leaving their homes, hoping to find a better place to live elsewhere. The increase in global mobility enables an ever-growing number of people to reach distant countries or other continents. Their favourite destinations are countries with a high standard of living and prosperity.

No country is able to cope with an arbitrary number of foreigners. Most states protect the interests of the native population by means of strict immigration legislation. The majority of these nations recognize their obligation to grant protection and asylum to those persecuted.

They all have their own reasons

As a rule, it is not just one single reason that induces someone to leave their home for a faraway place, but a complicated interplay of many causes:

  • The young Italian woman would hardly be living in Aarau if her parents had not been recruited to Aargau as factory workers so many years ago. As she grew up in Switzerland and most of her friends are here, it is hardly surprising that she feels more at home here than in Italy, her former native country.
  • The pensioner from Zurich would hardly have moved to Spain just because the cost of living is lower there. The beneficial effects of a warmer climate on his wife’s rheumatic complaint, the cheerful atmosphere among the senior citizens living there, the jobs that have taken their grown-up children away from home and other changes in their daily lives finally led to the decision to emigrate.
  • The Kurdish asylum seeker would probably have continued to put up with the minor reprisals, harassment and political restrictions in his everyday life if he had been able to make a living in his village or in the surrounding region.

Numerous people are exposed to serious threats by the conditions in their native country: for dissidents the situation may become life threatening when dictatorial powers take over their country. Members of ethnic or religious minorities may be endangered in countries tolerating racist excesses.

Wherever the rule of law and fundamental human rights are no longer respected, people are often defenceless, exposed to repression and persecution by state organs.

Many leave in search of better economic perspectives
The desire for work and an income frequently plays a dominant role in a majority of cases. Reports about the successful emigration of others from their family or village motivates many people to pull up their roots.

Most people seeking work abroad regard this step as only a temporary change in their lives. They leave their country in the hope of returning one day. Many of them dream of earning enough money abroad to enable them to set up their own small business in the old country. Years abroad and life in a world with different values and habits, however, often lead to a loss of ties with their native land.

The emigration of specialists weken their home countries

Well-trained and enterprising people more readily make the decision to migrate. The emigration of specialists weakens their home countries. On the other hand, money transferred by emigrants alleviates the poverty at home. Emigration weakens the native countries of the migrants. As a rule, the emigration or expulsion of large numbers of people exacerbates the economic and political problems in their native countries. Young men with a good education account for a disproportionate share of the migrant population because they are most confident about settling down successfully elsewhere.

Economic aspects shape the immigration provisions in many nations

Most countries, including Switzerland, orientate their immigration requirements to the needs of their labour market. There is a lack of specialists in many sectors of Western economies. Those with the right training and experience find a job abroad more easily. A large number of unskilled workers are also needed by industry, by the health service and agriculture. Most states recruit suitable foreign workers from selected countries and regions to fill this gap.

The majority of foreigners have been actively recruited to support the Swiss economy
Guest workers recruited from the EU or EFTA States and their families make up the largest group of foreigners in Switzerland. This group comprises roughly 80 per cent of the foreign resident population.

The influx of asylum seekers is not easy to influence

The immigration of foreign workers can be steered by the implementation of quotas. This is not possible with asylum seekers. Most adults seeking shelter in EU or EFTA States know that only qualified specialists from understaffed professions are able to obtain residence permits in these countries. They also know that there is not much point claiming asylum at a Swiss border post: being on the territory of a neighbouring state, they are already in a safe third country. For this reason, the majority of asylum seekers enter Switzerland illegally. 

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