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How migration continues to shape South Tyrol. Eurac Research presents its first interdisciplinary report
Until the mid-nineties talking about diversity in South Tyrol meant referring to its three historical language groups. Since then, the number of people with foreign citizenship who have chosen the province of South Tyrol as their new home, has been increasing steadily. Even in the face of the pandemic, there are no indications the trend is likely to abate. Over the last twenty years, the number has almost tripled - from 16,000 in 2002 to over 50,000 in 2017. This population with a migratory background not only adds new diversity to the region, but also presents new questions and challenges. In Eurac Research’s " Migration Report South Tyrol 2020", 30 researchers in the fields of sociology, geography, law, history, biology, anthropology, political science and linguistics analysed who the people migrating to South Tyrol are as well as their integration in the region’s schools, employment and political systems. The 100-page report contains testimonies, infographics and images and has been designed as an instrument for supporting local policies and as informative reading and educational material.

Lorenzo from Rome worked in France, Morocco and Sri Lanka before coming to Bolzano. Hanaa came to Italy from Iraq thirty years ago and is now a councillor for the Lega Nord. Gertrud moved from Curon Venosta to Kirchdorf in Austria in 1952, when the village was deliberately flooded to build a dam. These three stories from Eurac Research's " Migration Report South Tyrol 2020" show just how varied the migration phenomenon in our province is. In fact, there are more people on the move than one might think, although their motivations for migrating and their resources to do so differ significantly.
"Much of the media and many politicians present a misleading image by focusing on migrants from low-income and culturally distant countries", points out Roberta Medda-Windischer, legal scientist at Eurac Research and co-curator of the Report. "Although in the general perception certain groups may indeed arouse distrust, the reality is often strikingly different from what we imagine, or how fearmongers want us to imagine it. The data and results from our research give us a far more articulated picture".
The principal country of origin of the province’s foreign population is Albania followed by Germany and then Pakistan. In total, over 60 per cent of South Tyrol’s foreign population are of European origin, while citizens from African countries represent only 14 per cent of the total number of immigrants. Contrary to common perception, the prevailing religion amongst South Tyrol’s foreign population is Christianity. Moreover, 50 per cent of South Tyrol’s pupils defined as "foreigners" (because of their passport) were in fact born and raised in Italy. With regards to the labour market, the Report analyses, on the one hand, the immigration of workers both from other Italian regions as well as from abroad. In 2017, South Tyrol, with its very high demand for workers and an overall unemployment rate below three per cent, was the third most attractive Italian province after Bologna and Monza Brianza. On the other hand, the Report also mentions those who left South Tyrol: 1,500 people emigrated in 2017 alone, the majority of whom were highly qualified.

Migration flows are often accompanied by fundamental ambiguity. This is true also for South Tyrol. Inevitable, and in some cases indispensable for economic reasons, they also increase the risk of social tensions if not governed adequately. "In South Tyrol, where many people are deeply rooted in the territory, it is neither possible nor desirable to escape from global migration dynamics", specifies sociologist Andrea Membretti, the other co-curator of the Report. "On the contrary, it is precisely here, where a balance of coexistence between different linguistic groups has laboriously been achieved, that migration launches new challenges, starting from the role that new communities have -  together with those historically present - in the development of this province".
For example, one interesting insight is that migrants no longer settle only in urban areas: the number who migrated from towns to rural areas increased by 30 per cent between 2000 and 2018, against a 23 per cent increase in movement to the cities. Another aspect covered by the report is the effect migration has on South Tyrol’s autonomy: what impact does demographic change have on the proportional system and how can local politicians  consider migration not as a threat, but  a way to  strengthen the autonomy, as can be seen in regions similar to ours, such as Catalonia or Scotland.

"For the report, Eurac Research has brought together a large interdisciplinary team, consulted various public and private bodies as well as individual experts and worked intensively for almost two years with the creative support of our communications team," emphasises project manager and anthropologist Johanna Mitterhofer. The topics explored in the Migration report include the governance of linguistic, cultural and religious diversity, the labour market, school and politics, as well as issues related to housing, healthcare and discrimination.
"With this report we want to make a concrete contribution to building the future of our region by providing scientific insights and recommendations to policy makers, public administrators, private individuals and the third sector operators who work in the field of migration and migration governance in South Tyrol," underlines Stephan Ortner, Director of Eurac Research.

Contact: Johanna Mitterhofer, johanna.mitterhofer@eurac.edu

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