We now go on to demonstrate how migration networks work by examining some selected migration policies, taking the example of Romanian migrants in Spain, whose networks were only recently examined in detail in a research project.
Following the end of the communist era in Romania in 1989 and during the early stages of their country's transformation, increasing numbers of people used their newfound freedom to travel in order to earn or augment their income abroad. Once the first pioneer migrants had gained a foothold in western EU countries (in particular Germany, Italy and Spain), migration networks gradually developed between various Romanian communities and individual towns in the respective destination countries. Due to their language and cultural proximity, Italy and Spain were of special interest and at the same time offered a wealth of job opportunities, especially in the low-pay sectors of agriculture, construction and some domestic services (domestic help and nursing services).
Romania is an important emigration country and yet to date it has adopted only a few specific migration policy measures that might have affected emigration. Until now only one body has been set up to deal with bilateral agreements.
Regularisation campaigns in Spain
After joining the European Community (EC) in 1986, Spain has experienced a sustained economic upswing that makes it increasingly attractive to migrant workers. Since, until then, the country had had very little experience of immigration, the new laws and guidelines on immigration were strongly oriented towards the strict EC accession criteria, which aimed at seeing immigration significantly restricted. Since, however, Spain offered considerable economic incentives to migrant workers, ever-increasing numbers of undocumented job-seekers moved there. Spain's migration politicians were bound by the regulations that they, as junior member of the EC, sought to adhere to without fail. Owing to the experience of emigration that they and the Spanish population had themselves had for decades, however, they looked favourably upon the newcomers.
Workers from Transylvania and Moldavia were among the first migrants from Romania to head for Spain after receiving a passport from 1990. Due to the economic situation in their own regions before the collapse of communism in Romania they had already gathered a great deal of internal migration experience. Especially in communities of origin with strong social cohesion, powerful migration networks were quickly established in which the migrants helped one another to utilise the job opportunities in Spain. Very large numbers of migrants were therefore able to profit from the 1996 regularisation campaign, which did not grant the usual residence visa of just one year, but rather a six-year visa that could later be converted into an unlimited stay.
The regularisation campaign in 2000/01 had a still-greater influence on the number of Romanian migrants in Spain since firstly this offered opportunities for family reunification and secondly it was already being discussed years previously. The latter had the effect that the information about the high probability or a renewed regularisation campaign disseminated via the Romanian migration networks led to increased irregular migration to Spain from origin communities in the years before 2000. Even during this regularisation campaign, the regulations for obtaining a residence permit were tightened up significantly by the newly-elected conservative party (partido popular).
This indicates that the established Romanian migration networks not only supported the policy measures of regularisation that were positive for migrants, but significantly reduced the effectiveness of, if not rendering ineffectual, the measures directed against immigration.
Bilateral Spanish-Romanian agreements
Inter-governmental agreements between Romania and several countries with economic-specific worker shortages (such as Germany, Portugal or indeed Spain)
Migration networks have only limited impact on this policy measure, since international network contacts are not necessary to take up an occupation under the terms of these treaties. On the contrary, it is sufficient to apply for a job in Spain while still residing in Romania. However, this requires copies of certain documents translated into Spanish and attested by a notary, a service that is only offered in major cities in Romania and involving considerable costs for the poorer rural population. This makes labour migration by this route less interesting to people with access to strong migration networks. The conditions of employment in jobs in Spain negotiated through the agreements intensify this effect still further: the work may only be taken up for a limited period of three to nine months; after that the workers must return to Romania. To guarantee this, they have to personally report back to a public body in Romania if they wish to take up employment in Spain again under the terms of the bilateral treaties. Moreover, the fact that the places of work are located far away in the south of Spain, thereby increasing travel costs, is also unattractive.
Nonetheless, under certain circumstances networks help migrants to utilise these somewhat restrictive policy measures to their advantage. While working under the terms of the bilateral treaties, workers can make contact with potential employers via connections from their networks. After returning to Romania and registering with the authorities, they travel back to Spain to work for better wages and under better conditions. Such migrants can then, as pioneer migrants from their places of origin, act as starting points for building new migration networks.
Visa-free Schengen area
Called into being in 1985 by five EU states, the Schengen Agreement
Before 2002, Romanians required a visa in order to enter EU countries or the Schengen area. This was mostly granted only for tourism purposes for a maximum of three months, and even then only if the applicant could provide evidence of being invited to the destination country. For this reason it was necessary either to have good network contacts abroad in order to obtain the relevant invitation or else the considerable financial means to buy a visa on the black market, not to mention the connections necessary in order to ascertain where such a visa could be purchased. The time limits led to circular migration patterns, in other words, movements back and forth between the country of origin and the destination country, with migrants repeatedly obtaining new visas and making maximum use of the time allowed.
The abolition in 2002 of the visa restrictions imposed on Romanian travellers was shown to have a major impact on the intensity of migration between Romania and the Schengen area. The only conditions for entering the Schengen area since then consist of proof of sufficient finances for the stay or evidence of an invitation from one of the participating countries. The traveller was then entitled to stay for up to three months anywhere in the Schengen area, but was forbidden to take up work.
Both before and after the entry requirements were amended for Romanians entering the Schengen area, migrant Romanian workers often used their stay abroad in order to work illegally, and it was usually their migrant networks that helped them find a job. Often they stayed longer than the maximum permitted three months – so-called overstaying. In order to be able to return to Romania unscathed, information was exchanged within the migration network as to which was the best and least controlled route or at which borders the officials were most likely to accept bribes.
Both entering the country and the practice of overstaying were, of course, made considerably easier once the visa requirements were abolished. This led to an increase in migration and, consequently, also to a growth in migration networks, which were then able to support more potential migrants.
EU expansion in 2007
Romania has been a member of the EU since 2007 and its citizens enjoy the freedom to travel to all EU countries. This also dispenses with the need for visas for stays longer than three months. Taking up paid employment, however, is initially prohibited, by restrictive clauses in the EU accession treaty with Romania, in all EU countries apart from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.
Abbildung: Effect of Romanian migration networks on immigration in Spain
The labour markets in Ireland and in the United Kingdom, until recently still booming, appear more interesting. These, however, are not yet open to migrant Romanian workers, but only to citizens of countries that joined the EU in 2004. Individual Romanians, however, have succeeded in acquiring forged residence permits for these countries through network contacts, thereby obtaining access to the labour markets in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The fact that relatively few avail themselves of this option lies firstly in the high risks and costs involved in this route to employment. Above all, though, the migration networks between Romania and Spain are so strong that many migrants are reluctant to exchange the good networking in Spain for one of the as yet weak migration networks in one of the ten accession countries.