Assimilation or integration: migrants in Europe

Author: Joanne Appleton, Redcliffe College, Gloucester


Migration is defined by UNESCO as „the crossing of the boundary of a political or
administrative unit for a certain minimum period of time. It includes the movement of
refugees, displaced persons, uprooted people as well as economic migrants…International
migration is a territorial relocation across nation states.‟ (
Migration into, from and within Europe has had a profound affect on the continent‟s culture
and history from its earliest days (Hall, 2000; Guerinna, 2002,p15). A migrant in Europe
could be a wealthy Asian, American or Russian businessman; a Pilipino au pair or Polish
construction worker, an African or Burmese asylum seeker or a trafficked teenager. They
may be coming to find work or a better quality of life, to be reunited with family members, or
to escape persecution or environmental disaster (Jackson and Passarelli, 2008,p5).
Some countries, for example, the UK, have a history of migration into, as well as from, the
country. Others, such as Italy, Spain and Greece who typically experienced emigration, now
find themselves challenged by the presence of European and non-European migrants in
their midst (Itano, 2010).
For the purposes of this paper, migrants are immigrants to or between European countries.
We reflect on how the relationship of a migrant to their host country is described
theologically, particularly relating to integration or assimilation. In addition, we explore the
idea of integration from a theological perspective and the implications for Christians –
migrant and non-migrant – living and working in a European context.

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