Immigration : il faut une nouvelle politique

La polémique sur l'immigration tend à se focaliser sur ses conséquences quant à la cohésion sociale. Les partisans d'une politique plus ouverte soulignent le vieillissement de la population et la diminution du nombre d'actifs en son sein, et en conséquence l'utilité de l'immigration pour maintenir le niveau de vie des pays riches. Leurs détracteurs dénoncent les effets destructurants de l'immigration, particulièrement sur la partie la plus vulnérable de la population dans les pays qui ont un taux de chômage élevé. Mais cette question doit être examinée dans une perspective bien plus large qui fait défaut dans les deux camps.

En un siècle et demi, entre 1800 et 1950, la population européenne a augmenté de 269%, passant de 203 à 547 millions, alors que le continent était secoué par des bouleversements économiques, sociaux et politiques considérables. L'émigration hors de l'Europe a servi de soupape de sécurité au continent, sans quoi la pression qui s'exerçait sur les populations et sur les Etats aurait été insupportable.

Pendant ce siècle et demi, les Européens ont émigré en masse vers l'Amérique latine, l'Amérique du Nord et l'Océanie dont les populations ont augmenté respectivement de 50 millions, 75 millions et 11 millions d'habitants. Les paysans en quête de travail ont pu trouver des terres arables dans l'immensité du Nouveau Monde ou un emploi industriel dans les villes en pleine croissance. Les plus aventureux et les plus ambitieux se sont lancés à la recherche de la gloire et de la fortune dans les colonies d'Afrique et d'Asie.

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