Migrations of decolonization, welfare, and the unevenness of citizenship in the UK, France, and Portugal

Claire Eldridge (Lead Author), Christoph Kalter, Becky Taylor

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Among its many global impacts, decolonization triggered the migration of several million ‘repatriates’ - white settlers or others associated with the imperial power - who left Asia and Africa and ‘returned’ to their European ‘motherlands’. This article explores the arrival of several thousand Anglo-Egyptians into Britain in 1957 following the Suez crisis, the one million pieds-noirs who left Algeria for France in 1962, and the 500,000 retornados who entered Portugal amidst the 1975 Carnation Revolution. Offering an integrated comparison of these three key moments of decolonization via the migrations they triggered, it underscores the importance of citizenship, understood here as both a ‘hard’ legal category and a set of ‘soft’ social practices. The comparison equally demonstrates how, across different national contexts, citizenship was unevenly applied. Despite holding the same rights, returnee-citizens faced discrimination from resident-citizens in subtle (and sometimes less subtle) ways. Moreover, subgroups of returnee-citizens were treated differently by the state, in a process that amounted at times to their physical and social segregation and a racialization of welfare. This uneven treatment illuminates how the British, French, and Portuguese national communities were reimagined in the era of decolonization, and the crucial role ‘repatriated’ citizens played in that process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155–193
Number of pages39
JournalPast and Present
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

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