Minorities and migrations

Feb 16 2017

The conference entitled Migrations and Cultural and Linguistic Minorities in Europe was held in the Bizkaia Hall in Bilbao on 26 May 2016. It was organised by the Ezkerraberri foundation, EHUgune and Centre Maurits Coppieters. This paper gathers the most relevant contributions, thoughts and best practices to integrate a growing influx of migrants into diverse societies with 2 or more local languages.

The large numbers of migrants reaching Europe not only poses great challenges in terms of reception, settlements and social integration, it may also have unforeseen consequences for specific communities. Specially traditional minorities.

Europe has great linguistic and cultural diversity. There are over 80 autochthonous languages inside the European Union’s borders. Many of them are unprotected and lack any official status.

It is evident that if a large number of migrants arrive in a territory where two languages coexist and where one is the dominant one socially, this can pose a risk for the minority language. The newcomers may opt for the dominant language as a means of social integration, leaving the minority on the side. That situation can weaken the minority language even further.

Failure to properly manage migration flows and their impact on minority languages could result in minority languages suffering a clear, negative impact. Another potential consequence is the spreading of xenophobia and negative attitudes in society. It is clear that suitable, sensible policies have to be implemented if these risks are to be avoided.


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