This paper suggests that European migration policy needs to be reconsidered to reflect the opportunities that work and education present for the civic inclusion of migrants. Traditionally, the left has led the way in finding progressive solutions to the political issues arising as a result of migratory movements. The right to opportunities, such as access to decent work and education for migrants, were at the heart of these solutions. Currently, not all migrant children have access to education at the point of arrival, and adult migrants are often excluded from education and employment for long periods. Furthermore, the increasing casualization of work creates new patterns of social exclusion that is detrimental to basic living conditions for migrants, and fuels anti-immigrant sentiments. Progressive immigration policy should recognise the dangers stemming from the deregulation of labour markets and migrants’ lack of access to education, and see the current debate as an opportunity to advance a coordinated approach to education and work as the route to the civic integration and inclusion of migrant populations.
Our paper draws on the historical context of migration in modern Europe, beginning with an exploration of a case study, the Polish Resettlement Act of 1947. This Act was introduced at a time when half a million Polish war refugees had landed on British shores, wildly exceeding the estimate of 60,000 that the UK government expected to receive. The social democrat administration of Clement Attlee focused on how to resettle them so that they were included in the civic life of post-war Britain. The resulting Polish Resettlement Bill focused on refugee’s access to education and employment, and enabled their lasting contribution to Britain’s life, but also to Poland’s, as London hosted a democratic government in exile and other groups that campaigned for democratisation behind the iron curtain. From this case study we develop our argument to show how current policy has departed from being able to effectively include migrant populations in civic life, particularly those who seek safety in Europe for humanitarian reasons; and why we therefore need to reinvigorate support for opportunities to live, learn and work in the EU. Finally, we apply the lessons of history to the contemporary context in order to identify a set of policy recommendations, and practical ways that these recommendations can be implemented.
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