Europe has long been a continent of emigration rather than immigration. Large-scale immigration into Europe began after the Second World War as a consequence of decolonisation and of economic reconstruction. Although several north-west European countries, such as Germany and France, put specific immigration programmes in place to attract the desired workforce, most post-war immigration into Europe was spontaneous and unregulated. The general expectation in the receiving countries was that immigration was temporary and that immigrants would return to their countries when their labour was no longer needed. However, this expectation proved to be misguided. Although restrictions to immigration were imposed in the 1970s, following the economic stagnation caused by the oil crisis, the number of immigrants continued to rise. A new wave of immigration occurred after 1990, following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the launching of eastern EU enlargement.
As the experience of traditional countries of immigration (such as the USA and Canada) shows, jus soli citizenship plays an important integrative function because it ensures the automatic inclusion of children of immigrants into the body of citizens. However, despite the fact that many countries in Europe host significant numbers of immigrants, none of them has unconditional jus soli citizenship. In fact, several European countries with strong jus soli traditions, such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, have adopted more conditional rules of jus soli in response to post-colonial immigration and to the extension of the EU freedom of movement.