In contemporary democracies, to speak of immigration means venturing into a quagmire. Humanitarian activists, always ready to invoke principles that they know are unfeasible, and populists, as muscular in their proclamations as they are inept in practice, are fond of simple solutions. But simple solutions work only in talk shows, not in the real world. This book examines the origins of the phenomenon of immigration and explains how it has been an integral part of European history. One need only think of the major population movements that occurred after the First and Second World Wars. From the Peace of Augsburg in the heyday of 16th-century religious wars to the recent Treaties of Schengen and Dublin, it has always been necessary to deal with the inevitable tension between the right to emigrate (a fundamental human right) and the right of receiving states to decide whom to admit within their borders and on what terms. The topic continues to be marked by contradictions and mishaps. Today, above all, we must acknowledge that immigration is a structural feature of our time and that it needs to be addressed with competence and good administration skills, not on the basis of positive (or negative) emotions.
Giuseppe Sciortino teaches Sociology at the University of Trento.