Active immigrants: civic participation factors in the European Union

Natalija Valavičienė

Abstract


The number of immigrants in Europe is growing. It is thought that the immigrant population has a high potential for active civic participation. Active immigrants – the people who migrated to the country of the European Union and devote much energy to achieve goals that are beyond their personal and professional interests. Can these immigrants be considered as an important resource for Europe, may they contribute to the creation of today’s society? These issues are raised actively both in academic and public discourse. Nationals of “third countries” have different values and attitudes, and therefore they have different perception of democracy. However, the legal and political conditions of immigrant life impede their civic activity. Information about the European Union’s immigrants’ civic participation is not very thorough. Most of the research on immigration phenomenon in the EU generally focuses on the integration of immigrants into the host country’s society and on their legal status issues, but very little attention is paid to the active immigrants’ participation in civic society. The article seeks to identify the factors that may promote or inhibit active civic participation of immigrants in the social life of the country.
Civic participation of immigrants is one of the most effective ways to integrate them into society in the host country. Social capital is closely linked to civic participation: the higher is the social capital of immigrants, the more they tend to participate in the public life of the host country. Fundamental factors of immigrants’ civic participation can be divided into two groups: the determinants of a decision to start participate in civic activities and factors, supporting participation.
Education, language skills, previous experience in the country of origin, social environment, personal characteristics, empathy and altruism are the factors that influence immigrants’ decidion to become active in civil society. Education is one of the most important factors, because the higher education of immigrants, the more they participate in the active civic life.
Social networks, power, prestige, socialization of children and ethnic identity of immigrants promote to continue their civic activities. Very important motivation for immigrant activity is their public identification and recognition as representatives of certain immigrant groups.

Keywords


immigration; active immigrants; civic participation; social capital

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236