Between 1815 and 1920, hundreds of thousands of Europeans migrated to North Africa and the Middle East. By contrast, migration from the Southern Mediterranean to European countries was unusual.
Most migrants were poor workers from Mediterranean islands (Sicily, Sardinia, Malta, Corsica, the Balearic Islands and Greece). Some middle-class people also migrated, sometimes for political reasons. Many settled in rural areas, but most European migrants settled in towns such as Izmir, Beirut, Alexandria, Cairo, Tunis, Algiers and Tangier.
By and large, European mass migration to Southern Mediterranean countries started before colonialism. For example, when in the early 1880s Tunisia and Egypt fell under respectively French and British control, large European communities were already living there.
Algeria was different: there mass European settlement was triggered by French colonisation, which started in 1830; by 1912, 800,000 Europeans had settled there. In colonial situations, Europeans were privileged over the local population, causing conflicts that at times took a racial character.
General Giuseppe Garibaldi, hero of the Italian national unification, arriving in Tunis in 1834
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State Library of Modern and Contemporary History, Rome, Italy
One of the most prominent 19th-century political exiles was the Italian Giuseppe Garibaldi. Sentenced to death in absentia by the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1834 for his participation in a failed insurrection aimed at national unification, he had to flee his country. He first spent about six months in Tunisia, before going to South America, where he lived until 1848.