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Introductory Chapter: People's Movements in the 21st Century

Written By

Ingrid Muenstermann

Published: 15 February 2017

DOI: 10.5772/67209

From the Edited Volume

People's Movements in the 21st Century - Risks, Challenges and Benefits

Edited by Ingrid Muenstermann

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This book is edited by a social scientist, a humanist, cosmopolitan, who has the privilege to live in a so called civil society.1 I emigrated from Germany to Australia for the second time in 1973, a divorcee with two teenage daughters. Of course, the beginnings were not easy. Having been assured the position of secretary for the newly established Goethe Society in Melbourne, we had to come to Adelaide because a Lutheran Minister, Pastor Zinnbauer, was our guarantor. Things went from bad to worse: The person who was meant to establish the Goethe Society in Melbourne was killed in an airplane crash, while we were on our way to Australia on board of the Flaminia. Not a good beginning in a new country—a time of self‐inflicted injury and great uncertainty. I decided to stay in Adelaide and make the most of the situation. Looking back now, memories persist, but bringing things into perspective and considering the circumstances faced by millions of people who flee today war torn Syria, try to escape persecution, or are forcibly displaced and reside in camps in the Middle East or in Europe, I consider myself very fortunate! I made it to and in Australia—professionally. Bob Holton [2] looks at his pursuit of academic employment in three different countries and reveals a similar attitude, pointing out that

This [moving from one country to another] represents only one of a range of global trajectories that individuals and families make in the contemporary world, one located within wealthier and more powerful settings. There are many far riskier and often tragic global trajectories for those who seek asylum, or for whom mobility in the search for employment and security is a day‐to‐day struggle for survival in the face of exploitation and danger. (p. viii)

The book is an attempt to provide a critical view of the present immigration and refugee situation. Today's globalized world has created winners and losers: Billions of dollars shift daily across invisible borders, welcomed by developed as well as by developing societies, and import and export influence the gross domestic product, but the movement of people is challenged, creating emotive debates. Migration is a contesting policy area in most countries, and there is widespread public resistance to immigration that reaches large numbers. People are afraid, usually without justification, that migrants will take their jobs. There are also fears of terrorism, of Islamization, of the destruction of social norms, and of the loss of familiar customs and common laws. While peoples movements in the twenty-first century—Risks, challenges and benefits deal directly with only some of these issues, the book should set the scene for further discussion. The chapters were written by authors in Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, The Netherlands, Turkey, UK, and USA; however, the writings do not always reflect problems of the countries they were written in. Scholars are flexible in today's world at risk [3] as chapters 2, 4, 13 show.

The book is divided into five parts, all of them capturing the objectives of risks, challenges, and benefits. Part 1, Colonial history in a post‐colonial world, consists of only one chapter, but The immigrant experience is the fascinating sociological analysis of two articles, The Enigma of Arrival by V. S. Naipaul, and White Teeth by Z. Smith. Chapter 2 addresses the challenges immigrants face in the country of their destination. It looks at their expectations, disappointments, and struggles to integrate without losing their identity; it highlights power relations between the previously colonized and the previous colonizer in a post‐colonial era. The author uses the theories of hybridity, mimicry, orientalism, otherness, ambivalence, and cultural differentiation to explain the actions of the main characters. The author also looks at intergenerational challenges: The parents, being the first generation of immigrants, want to maintain old customs and values, while their children aim to be accepted by their friends in the host society, wanting to fit in, acculturate, which causes disquiet in the older and frustration in the younger generation.

Part 2, Settlement of Immigrants—Health Care Challenges—contains five chapters. Chapter 3 looks at Immigration and food insecurity: The Canadian experience. In 2011, the immigrant population of Canada was 6.8 million (20.6% of the total population). This fact implies the challenges for a government to anticipate risks, that is, how to keep new settlers healthy and prevent diseases. At arrival, migrants are generally healthier than the host population, and they display fewer chronic illnesses and lower levels of disability; however, this changes over time. There are several reasons for this: Migrants usually experience low socio‐economic status, indicating that their food choices are limited, and their lifestyle and diets change. They are often socially excluded which can lead to the consumption of unhealthy ‘comfort’ food which, in turn, leads to being overweight. The authors argue that the medical system is inept to deal with the diverse dietary needs of immigrants. They explain in some detail the meaning of food security and provide statistical evidence: The prevalence of food insecurity is higher among recent immigrants compared with non‐recent immigrants. They suggest that the cultural perspective of food be recognized as the fifth pillar for food security and that measurement tools be developed to capture availability, accessibility, utilization, stability as well as the cultural dimension of food. The authors also argue that addressing food security is critical for the integration of healthy Canadian immigrants.

Chapter 4 compares health-related quality of life of elderly Turkish and Polish migrants with that of German natives: The role of age, gender, income, discrimination, and social support. This chapter presents original research and contains a great deal of statistical data. Germany accommodates 15 million migrants (almost 19% of the population), and 1.4 million are aged 65 and above. Questionnaires (Sf‐36, plus queries regarding socio‐economic status, discrimination, social support) were distributed in Hamburg, Germany, to 100 Turkish, 103 Polish migrants and 101 native Germans. The authors were testing their hypotheses that age and gender influence health‐related quality of life, especially that of immigrants, that when income decreases and discrimination intensifies, quality of life decreases, and that social support improves the quality of life. The findings were analyzed for each group, and the groups were compared. Most of their assumptions were confirmed; however, interestingly their notion that migrants (here Turkish and Polish) inevitably suffer poorer health‐related quality of life than natives (in this case Germans) could not be substantiated.

Chapter 5 looks at Suicidal behaviors in patients admitted to emergency department for psychiatric consultation: A comparison of the migrant and native Italian populations between 2008 and 2015. It is a long‐term (2006/2008 to 2015), qualitative and quantitative study carried out in a public hospital in the north of Italy (Novara, Piedmont). Eight authors have contributed to this chapter, and comparison is made between the Italian natives and the migrant population. In 2014, 5 million migrants (8.2% of the total population) lived in Italy. The authors observed that socio‐economic status and physiology of the two groups were different. They found that the immigrants were younger than the native Italian population, that they used the emergency department (rather than psychiatric outpatient services), and mainly attended because of self‐injury, substance abuse, and alcohol‐related disorders. The Italian natives were older, often retired, invalid, or disabled and were more commonly treated by psychiatric outpatient services and presented with a more diverse range of psychiatric symptoms than the migrants. The authors argue that migrants may experience a condition similar to bereavement: They usually lose the connection with their home country, experience exclusion, lose social status, feel inadequate because of language barriers, and are often unemployed. All of these issues lead to stress and can result in mental illness (i.e., substance abuse and self‐harm).

Chapter 6 is also written by an Italian author, dealing with Migration and health from a public health perspective. The author is especially interested in migration medicine and looks at Italy's public health policies. He argues that consideration of the social determinants of health (education, job, income, and accommodation) would be beneficial. He also finds that the health of migrants is of importance and that in order to establish their needs, qualitative and quantitative research is necessary, involving a multi‐disciplinary team approach. An unhealthy population is costly, not only financially but also socially and publically. The author advocates that sanitary systems be more actively promoted—not all migrant women are familiar with the prevention of an oncological disease. Health services in industrialized countries are well established but are also expensive. Therefore, he promotes the creation of more reliable databases, the introduction and maintenance of dependable sources of sanitary information, record linkages between different systems (personal background as well as health care information), and international identification of important indicators so that they can be used transnationally. The author is a supporter of the unconditional human rights of migrants (whether they are regular, legal, documented or irregular, illegal, undocumented) and argues that (a) more economic resources are needed to prevent rather than cure ill health in migrants, that (b) cultural barriers ought to be contested, and that (c) the training of staff incorporates a transcultural approach.

Chapter 7 is, again, written in Italy by a considerable group of authors. It is a review of the literature and statistical data and deals with the important issue of the impact of tuberculosis among immigrants. The authors find that according to official statistics, tuberculosis shows no signs of disappearing despite its decreased prevalence in high‐income countries. The group presents an overview of tuberculosis among immigrants in low‐TB burden countries and different screening practices. They also look the risks of latent TB infection (LTBI) and argue that screening is important since early diagnosis and treatment prevent a prolonged disease. Different screening practices are discussed in relation to different countries. Other important issues in this chapter are the diagnosis and management of tuberculosis, including drug‐resistant TB among immigrants: The sputum smear microscopy is still effective, but today more advanced technologies are often used, including radiographic imaging, nucleic acid amplification techniques, and new generation assays. In their concluding paragraphs, the authors look at the worldwide burden of tuberculosis. They consider the push and pull factors that influence people to migrant and argue that the health of immigrants is important, because ill health of the migrant population is costly to the host society. Overall, the authors find that TB transmission between immigrants and native populations is rare, but TB control is important. They recommend more resources be allocated so that “Global Action Framework for Research towards TB Elimination” for the period 2016–2015 can be achieved.

Part 3 Settlement of Immigrants—Some Cultural Aspects—consists of four chapters. Challenges faced by the newcomers as well as by researchers and policy makers are addressed. The most important issue for immigrants is to be able to communicate in their country of destination, which very often requires the learning of a new language. Chapter 8, Socio-cultural models of second language learning of young immigrants in Canada, addresses the problem. The authors find that both sociolinguistic and cognitive‐linguistic approaches are needed in order to understand second language teaching, learning and why many people maintain an accent. Acculturation, the distance from mother tongue to English, previous experience with other cultures, and the age of second language learning influence cognitive‐linguistic second language learning; the social context of the language learner affects the level of proficiency. The chapter contains an important discussion on the methodological challenges when searching for a consistent definition of acculturation, when conducting research on acculturation and language learning, and when determining the link between acculturation and language learning. The authors sum it up like this: The more confident the immigrant is in speaking the language of the host society, the more positive interactions will occur which “in turn lead to a reinforcement of the immigrant to acculturate into the mainstream cultural group”.

Chapter 9, entitled Acculturation, adaptation, and loneliness among Brazilian migrants living in Portugal, addresses the risks individuals face when deciding to emigrate and the challenges for policy makers to provide some strategies to make the life of these people acceptable when losing their jobs or growing old. This is a mixed‐method study, involving 258 participates. In 2014, Portugal's population of 10,402,000 included 22% of immigrants (228,844), of these 87,493 (almost 8.5%) were of Brazilian origin. These people worked mainly in low‐skilled jobs, which made them vulnerable during the economic recession. This research is of importance, it establishes how Brazilian immigrants to Portugal fit into the overall structure of society and what challenges are needed to be addressed. The authors tested five hypotheses relating to loneliness of Brazilian migrants and concentrated on issues such as integration strategies, the influence of the immigrants’ cultural identity, the effects of perceived discrimination, the importance of self‐worth, and the perception of others. They used W. J. Berry's explanation of acculturation as benchmark and utilized the ULS‐6 scale (revised UCLA Loneliness Scale) to establish loneliness and several other measures to determine acculturation strategies, cultural identity, prejudices, self‐esteem, and attitudes toward ethno‐cultural groups. The results supported three of their hypotheses, but two were only partially supported. The most important finding was that Brazilians in Portugal choose to be integrated into society. This means that they would like to maintain their own cultural heritage but would like to develop close ties with the host society.

Chapter 10, Asians as model minorities: A myth or reality among scientist and engineers in academia takes a critical look at how Asians are perceived by society and analyzes this general sentiment by looking at their personal experiences. The term ‘model minority’ emerged because Asians are high academic achievers and hold high socio‐economic status compared with African Americans and Hispanics. But, as the author points out, this group confronts inequity in income and job opportunities when compared with their Caucasian counterparts. The first point the author makes is that ‘Asians’ are not a heterogeneous group but are made up of people from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, The Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The author argues that most race/ethnicity research does not present a true picture because ‘Asians’ have been merged into one category. People of different ethnic backgrounds seem to follow certain career trajectories and are drawn to certain jobs in academia. For the purpose of this research, the author divides ‘Asians’ into (and here it gets a little complicated): ‘Asian‐non‐US‐citizens’ and ‘Asian‐US‐citizens’ to compare their experiences with those of ‘other‐non‐US‐citizens’ and ‘other‐US‐citizens'. These differentiations are important in order to determine academic achievements, job satisfaction, and job productivity between groups. The author presents empirical evidence that these issues are influenced by citizenship and argues that high achievers need to have the possibility of progress. If the US does not provide this sense, these people may return to their home countries creating not only a vacuum within the scientific community but also producing increasing costs for the government when retraining new academics. More research into and greater appreciation of ‘Asian‐non‐US‐citizen’ scientists is advocated.

The next contribution to this book, Chapter 11, asks the question: Why do immigrants to Norway leave the country or move internally? Important facts (empirical evidence) are provided by a group of scholars from the Research Department, Statistics Norway. The authors use statistical data of 2012 and 2013. They establish eight different groups of people, four different locations (they call it levels of centrality), and consider the two genders to determine the movement of migrants. In order to find answers to their question of why immigrants leave Norway or move within the country, they use variables such as age, duration of residence in Norway, labor market status, reasons for immigration, level of education, and family size and composition. Their main findings are that (a) the probability of emigration or internal migration decreases with increased length of residence (integration effect over time) and that (b) labor force participation strengthens the relationship to the host country (decreasing the probability of moving). Interestingly, reasons provided to immigrate to Norway, such as ‘work', ‘family', and ‘escape’ are high indicators for staying at the same locality. This study also created some contradictions: On the one hand, it shows that those immigrants who are well integrated into the workforce are inclined to remain while those not in the work force have the highest rates of emigration. On the other hand, those with the highest rates of education are showing high rates of emigration. Overall, the four main reasons for return migration are weak integration into the host country, close attachment to the country of origin, return after accumulation of financial resources, and improved or new employment opportunities in the country of origin. The authors advocate further research in order to keep the population (workforce) steady.

Part 4, The New Wave of Immigration—Foreign Students—considers the present but also takes a look into the future. Risks? Challenges? Yes, of course, but the chapter The new actors of international migration demonstrates the benefits of foreign students to the host society, to native students, and to the foreign students themselves. The move of young people to complete their education in a different country offers countless opportunities to all involved. The title itself is of significance, that is, ‘the new actors’—implying change, anticipation, and enthusiasm. The OECD reports that in 2012/13 5.4 million students were registered at an educational institution outside their home country [4]. This quantitative study was undertaken at a university in Turkey. Previously, Turkey had sent students to other countries to complete their education; however, today increasing numbers of foreign students are attracted to Turkey. The author wanted to find out whether international students in Turkey experience prejudices, discrimination, and racism. The author also wanted to determine the levels of adaptation to and satisfaction with their lives in Turkey, would they be prepared to promote Turkey to prospective visitors and/or students in their home countries, and what would be the avenues of promotion. Promoting university education in Turkey is an important issue to increase the foreign student population. One hundred and eighty‐two undergraduates, aged between 17 and 27, were researched using a survey that established demographic details as well as asked questions relating to the issues mentioned above. The students are from Africa and Asia, from regions of Europe/Balkan, Europe/Other, South Caucasus, and from the Middle East. The results of this study are interesting: prejudices and discrimination were faced (to a minor degree) by all students, but mainly off campus than on campus; and students from Africa and the Middle East experienced racism to a larger degree than students from other regions. The author provides some important explanations of why certain groups of students experience more prejudices than other groups. Overall, the results show that the biases experienced by the undergraduates did not affect their impressions of Turkey; there is evidence that they will promote university education in Turkey. And the means to do that? Positive social networking will encourage people to migrate, and this will boost the number of international students. The internationalization of education, growth of mass communication and transportation, and the relationship between present and potential immigrant students will have an encouraging effect on relocating for educational purposes. Foreign students will be the new actors of immigration.

Part 5, Emigration and Gender, consists of a very important chapter, dealing with an issue that has so far lacked research: The voice of trailing women in the decision to relocate. Is it really a choice? Research suggests that trailing spouses play an important part during expatriation: a successful outcome of the private and professional life of all involved depends on the willingness of the spouse to move, on assignment completion, expatriate adjustment, and expatriate performance. Between 2015 and 2016, the author undertook a phenomenological study interviewing 12 wives and mothers (27–42 years of age) in the Netherlands and in the United States regarding their experiences of being a ‘relationship partner’ of a ‘highly skilled spouse'. The author wanted to determine their degree of agency. All women were academically educated and employed prior to relocation. The emerging themes included support of the husband's career, economic considerations, the well‐being of the children, and solving a problem at their place of work. Most women placed their husband's professional progress as the main reason to relocate; however, it was often the only conceivable path, precluding an open discussion on the decision to relocate. The author concludes that for most women, relocation is not a real choice but that sacrifices are required in order for their partner to practice a real choice. Analyzing the situation from a sociological point of view, the author looks at powerlessness and gender‐role ideologies that depict women as the primary care giver and men as the primary provider. Therefore, trailing women in this study made the choice to relocate based on the viewpoint that their role in the family, that is, in the reproductive realm, is subordinate to their husband's role in the working world, the productive realm. There are some very interesting arguments presented during the interviews with the researcher.

Putting the last touches to this book a fortnight before Christmas 2016 and living in a nice, albeit very run‐down house with a lovely garden in South Australia, I cannot help but thinking of my (and all other children's) childhood during World War II, at times of danger and great uncertainty. Today's troubles, Syria and Aleppo, are a constant reminder. CNN news [5] reports that:

Syrian government troops now control most of the neighborhoods in the old city of Aleppo after days of fierce fighting against rebel forces, with only small pockets remaining in opposition hands.

Another news item from Beirut, Lebanon [6], reports:

Hundreds of Syrian men who escaped rebel‐held areas of eastern Aleppo to reach government‐controlled parts of the city are missing, United Nations officials said on Friday [9.12.16], adding that they had received reports of government reprisals, including numerous arrests and several cases of summary killings of suspected supporters of the opposition. At the same time, the officials said, some rebel groups have prevented civilians from leaving and even killed or kidnapped those who demanded that insurgents leave their neighborhoods.

After 5 years of war, will there be peace? How soon will there be some peace? The reports and images provided by the media cast doubt on my hope, so world leaders, governments, policy makers as well as ordinary citizens will have to further consider how to make this world a better place to live in, how to prevent risks and circumvent challenges.

It is believed that this book provides some important insights into the complexities of people's movements in the twenty‐first century. Every chapter looks at the risks involved in leaving one's home country: It is not only the loss of old familiar places, family, and friends but involves uncertainty and often the loss of prestige and status. These are challenges that need to be conquered by the individual migrant; they involve push and pull factors, integration, and acculturation, followed by assimilation. Looking at people's movements from a government perspective, settlement plans, healthcare programs, and language teaching curricula are strategies that need to be in place in order to create a society where people feel safe and have the opportunity to advance. Beck [7] points to the challenges faced by individuals as well as by governments to adjust to present circumstances: “Today's world of global crises and dangers produced by civilization, and the old differentiations between internal and external, national and international, us and them, [need to] lose their validity and a new cosmopolitan realism becomes essential to survival” (p. 14). Easier said than done.

Benefits of people moving or relocating relate to their overall well‐being and to the well‐being of the receiving society: Immigrants are the ‘reserve army of labor', that is, competing for jobs depresses wages. There is also the logic of demand and supply. Giovanni Peri [8] makes the point that “by taking the manual jobs that natives progressively leave, immigrants push a reorganization of production along specialization lines that may increase the effectiveness and efficiency of labor”. He looks at the mobility of migrants and finds that “highly educated immigrants account for about one‐third of US innovations”. He sustains this argument by providing some figures: “In 2006, immigrants founded 25% of new high‐tech companies with more than $1 million in sales, generating income and employment for the whole country”. Mark Wooden [9] argues that “in the longer term, immigration gives rise to government revenues, which more than pay for the expenditure that immigration also gives rise to” (p. 153). Apart from these few economic benefits, migration, moving between countries, has other advantages: It will broaden the outlook of the traveler, change their perspective of other people, of their cultures and countries, and it will provide a better understanding of humanity. Closing this chapter, here is a thought on what it means to be enlightened:

What is enlightenment? To have the courage to make use of one's cosmopolitan vision and to acknowledge one's multiple identities—to combine forms of life founded on language, skin color, nationality, or religion with the awareness that, in a radically insecure world, all are equal and everyone is different. [7]


  1. 1. Cox, Eva (1995). A truly civil society. The 1995 Boyer Lectures. GPO Box 9994, Sydney, NSW 2001: Australian Broadcasting Corporation—A Roadmap for Collingwood?
  2. 2. Holton, Robert J. (2005) Making Globalization. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. 3. Beck, Ulrich (2009). World at Risk. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
  4. 4. OECD (2013). Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing.
  5. 5. CNN, News 9.12.2016, retrieved from
  6. 6. United Nations News, 10.12.2016, retrieved from
  7. 7. Beck, Ulrich (2007). Cosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
  8. 8. Peri, Giovanni (2013). The Economic Benefits of Immigration. Berkeley, California: University of California.
  9. 9. Wooden, Mark (1994). The economic impact of immigration. In M. Wooden, R. Holton, G. Hugo, & J. Sloan (Eds.) Australian Immigration—A Survey of the Issues. Canberra: AGPS, Bureau of Immigration and Population Research.


  • In a civil society, social connections, which include plenty of robust goodwill to sustain difference and debate, are of supreme importance [1].

Written By

Ingrid Muenstermann

Published: 15 February 2017