The report draws a general picture of Chinese immigration into the European Union over the past decade, examines the new trends and characteristics of Chinese immigration since 2000 in terms of type, status and distribution by major destination and highlights the key issues, factors and dynamics related to Chinese immigration and integration into the European Union. The report also highlights a number of policy issues for scholars and policy makers.
The report addressed research questions through a review of official information, an interpretation of data from fieldwork conducted by one of the authors in Italy, China, the United Kingdom and Italy and through a review of the latest research studies of other scholars, both in the European Union and China. Additional fieldwork was conducted by the authors in China and Italy in 2011 to collect updated information and to verify their research findings. This fieldwork principally consisted of structured and semi-structured interviews with Chinese association representatives, EU and European government officials or representatives, Chinese officials at the local and national levels and scholars from Europe and China working on Chinese international migration and immigration into Europe. A number of experts and research centres in Guangdong, Wenzhou, Shanghai and Beijing were also contacted. The authors also undertook a systematic collection of secondary data, including the latest relevant publications in English, Chinese and Italian. To compile the statistical data presented in the report, the authors used European Union and European Commission reports and statistical data sets publicly available online or in published documents; the annual reports of the European Migration Network; statistical reports and data published by EU national governments and by China; published statistical data in academic works in Chinese, English and Italian on Chinese migration and immigration into Europe; and data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, as the report explains, the development of irregular immigration routes and structures of operation facilitated the irregular immigration of Chinese nationals into many European countries. Illegal operations run by ‘snakeheads’ (migrant smugglers) from Fujian and Zhejiang provinces in south-eastern China smuggled immigrants via a number of routes through the Middle East, Eastern Europe and, in some cases, via Africa and South America. These operations often offered work and accommodation in the destination country in exchange for large sums of money, either paid up front in China or contracted as debts to be paid off through labour on arrival. The report finds that irregular immigration was not an easy way into Europe and could involve many dangers and risks for the smuggled migrants, including exploitation by the snakehead gangs, treacherous sea and land journeys that could end in death and the risk of discovery and deportation by European or other authorities. However, the authors argue that for many poor Chinese, smuggling groups, which were able to circumvent legal requirements and processes, offered a possibility of immigration that previously did not exist. Since the late 2000s, irregular Chinese immigration, particularly people smuggling, has been in decline, and the authors credit this to the increasing number of alternative, safer ways for Chinese immigrants to reach Europe legally.
The report concludes that various important trends and issues in Chinese immigration into the European Union have emerged since 2000 that have important implications for the future of Chinese communities, for relations between Chinese immigrants and local populations and for relations between China and the European Union and its member countries. The issues cited for consideration include the mixed impacts of the global and European economic crises on Chinese immigration into Europe; the importance of changes in immigration and other policies in different member countries; the continuing transformation of the Chinese business landscape and the nature of Chinese communities in many member countries; working conditions and forced labour in some Chinese businesses; and high degrees of mobility and transnationality among Chinese communities in Europe and beyond. Chinese immigration into the European Union will continue to rise; however, its rate of growth is slowing down, and this trend will continue, owing to the worsening economic environment and the decreasing economic opportunities in some of the countries hit hardest by the financial crises.
The report recommends that EU and Member State policies related to Chinese immigration into Europe need to pay careful attention to the specific local circumstances and constitution of each Chinese community there. The authors also suggest that the European Union should encourage and support Member States in the empowerment of Chinese immigrant workers and other vulnerable groups through the establishment of various voluntary support networks and mechanisms.
The report contributes to the body of knowledge on irregular migration through the EU Member State profiles, which provide statistics on irregular migration flows and information on the routes and methods of irregular migration from China to individual European countries.