Migration dynamics in the European islands of the Mediterranean: impact, differentiation and challenges to governance

David Abril Hervás, Marta Barros González & Josep Valero González

Papers / 31.1.24
Migration dynamics in  the European islands  of the Mediterranean:  impact, differentiation and  challenges to governance

In the Euro-Mediterranean islands, as in any island society, demography is one of the balancing factors.

We are talking about islands where beyond the population processes accompanying each
historical invasion or conquest and the superimposition of civilizations and cultural substrates, the migratory balance has been in essence negative in impact up until a few decades ago. That is, emigration to the islands was due to scarcity of resources, especially in the contexts of war or food shortages. This is the case with the Balearic migrations to Algeria, the Maltese migration to Australia or that from Cyprus to the United Kingdom, at different moments of the 20th century.

However, in a framework of global deregulation, the development of tourism, globalization and the increase in air connectivity among other factors, this balance has reversed and the Euro-Mediterranean islands have become recipients of new migrant populations, both from third countries and from the European Union (EU) itself. We will refer to extra-EU immigration as that which occurs from countries outside the European Union and to internal immigration as that which occurs between EU countries.

The purpose of this study is to analyse how such changes have affected the Euro Mediterranean islands, especially the effects of population growth at a social, environmental, and cultural level.

These islands represent an area of interest precisely because of their insularity and their geopolitical location halfway between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, which implies a transfer of inequalities within island societies. One of the inequalities we want to address critically in this study is the process of differentiation and social stratification that affects the new citizens of these Euro-Mediterranean islands based on their origins, which represents a threat to social cohesion and coexistence in the territories.

First, we present conceptual definitions of the elements constituting the focus of this study. Subsequently, we explain our methodology and objectives. The European framework applicable to the islands at both political and regulatory levels provides an extra degree of complexity. Finally, we discuss the data from three case studies (the Balearic Islands, Malta, and Cyprus as a representative sample of all Euro-Mediterranean islands). Our study concludes with a section of recommendations and guidelines in the management of demographic changes, immigration, and policies of coexistence.


This paper is a joint initiative of  Fundacions Darder-Mascaró & Coppieters Foundation.

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This paper is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for its content or the opinions of the authors.

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