Lessons for local migrant integration policy across EU cities / Foundation Focus, December 2015

The current refugee and third-country migrant emergency continues to have an impact across the EU and beyond. Europe’s policymakers are seeking to respond in a just and sustainable manner to this humanitarian crisis. Specific Eurofound research may be of real relevance in this context.

Eurofound conducted a study from 2006 to 2010 with a network of over 30 European cities working together to support the social and economic integration of third-country migrants. The European network of cities for local integration policies for migrants (CLIP) encouraged the structured sharing of experiences through the medium of separate city reports and workshops that covered four research modules (see boxed text). The network enabled local authorities to learn from each other and to compose a more effective integration policy. The main recommendations from the project are outlined below.

  • Increased diversity in European cities: Local governments must recognise the changing social structure of European cities. To pave the way for social cohesion, city policies should focus on equal opportunities, civic participation and prevention of discrimination against migrants.
  • Reference to migrant status in the public discourse: Those closely involved in public discourse on the integration of migrants and improved intercultural relations should consider their communication strategies seriously and the way they use concepts, terminology and labels.
  • Cooperation, mainstreaming and governance of integration policy: A balanced intercultural integration policy must be implemented. To do so, a number of factors associated with local government and city administration are required. These include: innovative organisational structures, high intercultural awareness among key decision-makers, strong intercultural competence, professionalism and commitment in the integration department, and visible and sustained political leadership.
  • Innovation within specific domains of integration policy: Cities that are becoming increasingly diverse need a good understanding of intercultural structures and relations. Policymakers need to be aware that their migrant population is equally or even more preoccupied with the same socioeconomic issues as the rest of the population. The migrant population is often more affected by economic downturns, and appropriate policies should be put in place to mitigate the negative consequences of such setbacks.
  • More effective diversity management: Issues of diversity management, non-discrimination and equal opportunities should be given high priority by local authorities. There should be a significant focus on creating employment opportunities for migrants. Access to career opportunities in city administrations and other public utilities is to be encouraged.
  • Greater support for ethnic entrepreneurship: Cities are advised to put more emphasis on the policy area of ethnic entrepreneurship and to combine it systematically with their overall integration policy for migrants. Cities should aim to close communication gaps, recognise ethnic entrepreneurship as an important feature of the overall economic strategy, facilitate links with education and training, support access to finance and provide an effective regulatory framework.
  • Innovation in policy and service provision: A mix of generic and targeted policies for the integration of migrants calls for substantial political, organisational and technical skill in the city council and in the city administration. Good communication skills and the involvement of relevant intermediate organisations of the receiving country and the migrant community are vitally important.
  • Intercultural development of the city administration: Intercultural competence in European cities must be maintained and developed. This will open up the city administration in an intercultural manner. These activities should take place at all levels of city administration.
  • European funding for local migrant integration activities: Rather than provide funding to cities for integration policies via national governments, a new line of finance should be provided and made directly accessible to local authorities within the context of the European Integration Fund for migrants. To finance and support community actions, the European Commission should provide funding for successful city networks.
  • Identity: The CLIP findings suggested the need for a radical change of perception and policy. This would mean a move from traditional ‘asymmetric’ integration policy to ‘balanced intercultural integration’ policy. New forms of identities must be fostered by both the settled population and newcomers in order to deal with the new intercultural reality. If successful, this shift of mind-set could provide the basis for a new concept of an inclusive European identity that would stem from the practical day-to-day experience of citizens. The new perception of such an identity would be accepted and encouraged by non-governmental organisations and other relevant organisations.  
  • Conclusions and lessons learnt: The CLIP studies discovered that in many countries innovative cities were well ahead of national integration policy. In some instances, those cities were also ahead of European policies. Thus, in light of recent events, it is useful to relay such information to national and European policymakers.

Overview of CLIP research modules

Housing and integration of migrants in Europe
The first module researched by CLIP was housing – the segregation, accessibility, quality and affordability of housing for migrants – which was identified as a major issue affecting migrants’ integration into host societies. Research results showed that having satisfactory accommodation was regarded as one of the most important human needs. It was apparent that any policy based on the principle of ‘one size fits all’ would fail, and the report recommended that cities and local communities should develop tailor-made solutions, with the support of the EU and Member States. 
Equality and diversity in jobs and services
The second module examined equality and diversity policies in relation to employment within city administrations and in their provision of services. It was crucial that migrants could access both of these without suffering discrimination. The study found that cities should give greater priority to policy areas concerning these two integration measures. It was suggested cities should emphasise these issues within a broader integration, diversity or equality strategy, reviewing their approaches where necessary.
Intercultural policies in European cities
The focus of the third module was intercultural policies and intergroup relations. Most cities dealt with intergroup and intercultural policies within the framework of integration policies. Others framed their policies in diversity strategies, while the eastern European cities implemented national minority policies. The empowerment and establishment of links between migrant organisations were considered to be crucial. Intercultural events were regarded as a means of countering ethnic and racial stereotypes and promoting social cohesion. All CLIP cities made an effort to raise the intercultural competence of their residents. 
Ethnic entrepreneurship
The final module looked at ethnic entrepreneurship and found that ethnic entrepreneurs contributed to the economic growth of their local areas. They offered a wide range of services and products to immigrants and the host population and created an important bridge to global markets. Ethnic entrepreneurs were also important for the integration of migrants into employment. In addition to job creation, ethnic entrepreneurship could enhance social opportunities for migrants and promote social cohesion. However, at the time of publication (2011), their importance continued to be overlooked, and ethnic entrepreneurship was not an important part of the European integration policy for migrants.

Note: An overview report is available for each of the above four modules, as well as a résumé incorporating key research findings and good practice guidelines for policymakers at European, national and local levels.

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