Ethnic event 1: the immigration of refugees During the first few months of 1985, large groups of Tamil refugees appeared at the borders of several countries in western Europe, soon followed by other Third World refugees. The governments of these countries reacted in a remarkably homogeneous way to this arrival of people whom they often subtly defined as ‘economic’ refugees: they either sent them back or grudgingly admitted them to await decisions by the bureaucracies and the courts about their requests for political asylum. It soon appeared that these decisions were largely unfavourable for most of the newcomers: many were sent back to where they came from, and sometimes risked harassment, if not imprisonment or death upon their return.