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A world in stable motion

Migrations and societies
Forfatter: Francois Héran
Forlag: Fayard (Frankrike)

In 2018, the Collège de France established its own professorship in migration studies. Francois Héran was chosen to fill it, and the book Migrations et sociétés is an extended version of his accession lecture.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

Since its establishment in 1530, the Collège de France has employed scientists – and eventually women – who are at the forefront of their respective disciplines, research areas or scientific methods. The professors get the opportunity to dedicate almost all of their time for the rest of their careers to exactly what they themselves believe is most important. Every year they present their research. Previously, the presentations were reserved for the royal and the noble elite, but today the lectures are free and open to everyone. Here you can follow a single presentation, or you can regularly follow lectures by some of the world's most pioneering researchers, regardless of field. Among some of the well-known social scientists who have previously had lifelong professorships at the Collège de France are Roland Barthes, Fernand Braudel, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault. In other words, Francois Héran follows in good footsteps. And if any of New Age's readers are in Paris on a Thursday this February, just line up well before two o'clock at the Amphitheater Marguerite de Navarre at Marcellin Berthelot Square in the 6th arrondissement of Paris to hear Francois Here lecture on migration.

Demanding field

Here he has many and long ethnographic field trips behind him in both Bolivia and Spain, but is also trained in demographics and statistics. At the age of 65, he has published a number of significant works on migration in the intersection of these subjects. The reason why few have heard of him in Norway is probably that he publishes almost exclusively in French and Spanish.

In Migrations et sociétés, Héran explains that migration studies are a difficult field of research because it is so politicized – everyone thinks something about migration. At the same time, the vocabulary used when talking about migration is very unclear; different meanings are put into identical words. In this way, the public debate is characterized by seemingly completely contradictory facts, which in turn creates steep attitudes. For example, the French population consists of about 11 percent of immigrants. However, in the daily speech on immigrants, children of immigrants are often included, thus representing those who are termed "immigrants", a total of about 23 percent of the population in France. That is about as many as in the US (26 percent), Germany (23 percent) and the Netherlands (22 percent).

The proportion of migrants in the world is strikingly stable over time.

In Norway, immigrants, including children of immigrants, make up about 17 per cent of the population. If we had not included children who are Norwegian citizens born in Norway of foreign-born parents, the proportion would have dropped to 14 per cent. With us, there are about four times more immigrants from Europe (390) than from Africa (000). In France, it's different – almost half of all new immigrants come from France's former colonies in Africa.

Francois Héran
Francois Héran

Here, the percentage of migrants in the world is remarkably stable over time: Over the last 30 years, between 2,8 percent and 3,4 percent of the world's population have officially been migrants. However, if we add a few million illegal migrants, it is true that more than 95 percent of the world's population never moves from their home country. Particularly stable are the 2,5 billion Chinese and Indians: 99 percent of Chinese and Indians never migrate.

False crisis

Although 2015–2016 represented a preliminary exception in the number of international migrants, it is wrong to call this a "migration crisis". Europe received 2,4 million migrants in one year, increasing the European population by slightly less than 0,5 per cent. Over the past 30 years, immigration has led the European population to increase by about 0,3 per cent annually. The increase in 2015 and 2016 thus represented a marginal change, although politicians and the mass media made it sound like a crisis, Héran claims.

Many people think that people are migrating from poor countries to rich, but they are not.

However, some countries received a disproportionate share of migrants in 2016. Sweden accepted the majority of asylum seekers in relation to their own population size – in excess of 7000 asylum seekers per one million inhabitants. Germany received about 5500, and Norway about 2500. France gave about 500 asylum per one million inhabitants, while the corresponding figure in Poland, which took the fewest in Europe, was 10 (!). In a global world, a better and more equitable system for processing asylum applications must be established. Without this, we get an uneven distribution that will create major conflicts, says Héran.

Many people think that people primarily migrate from poor countries to rich, but they are not. Here, this explains that the laws of rich countries are too rigid and the personal economy of the poor too strained to enable migration. People who migrate usually move briefly. The vast majority of African migrants settle in other African countries. They always did. It is both cheaper and easier in terms of family, language, food and culture.

Here, too, points out the paradox of how easy it is to emigrate versus immigrate. Human rights allow everyone to leave their own country, but no country is obliged to accept them. Economic and / or knowledge capital is often crucial to whether another country will welcome you. Thus, today's migration legislation helps to maintain inequality and thus goes towards the UN's Sustainability Goal number 10. “We are the ones who have ruled the world so that many see themselves having to migrate. It is we who are responsible for people emigrating, so we also have to take the consequences of immigration, ”concludes Francois Héran. It's not easy not to get political, even for someone who starts the book by claiming that one of the weaknesses of the migration study is that the field is so politicized ...

Ketil Fred Hansen
Hansen is a professor of social sciences at UiS and a regular reviewer at Ny Tid.

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