Thursday, March 27, 2014
Amid ongoing, sometimes fraught, debate over the presumed failure of targeted policies to integrate immigrants linguistically, educationally and professionally into communities across western Europe, a quiet policy transformation is taking place. Governments gradually are realising that while immigrant integration policy is essential, particularly for recent arrivals, it is insufficient in the long run to achieve the full educational and economic potential and societal participation of immigrants and citizens with an immigrant background.
As a result, policymakers increasingly are turning to the strategy of 'mainstreaming' integration—seeking to reach people with a migration background through needs-based social programming and policies that also target the general population. Increasingly, immigrant integration is embedded in a range of mainstream policy areas such as education, employment, housing and social cohesion, with the focus on addressing overall socio-economic needs rather than targeting individuals and groups based on national origin.
A new Migration Policy Institute Europe report, The future of immigrant integration in Europe: Mainstreaming approaches for inclusion, assesses the degree to which four countries—Denmark, France, Germany and the United Kingdom—have mainstreamed immigrant integration priorities across the whole of government. The report also offers principles of good practice in the design of mainstreaming strategies and initiatives.
In Denmark, mainstreaming integration priorities has been part of a deliberate, coordinated effort at local, and increasingly, central government levels. Germany’s process of mainstreaming immigrant priorities involves ever more institutionalised governance coordination efforts across departments and levels of government. By contrast, France's approach can be described as more 'de facto' mainstreaming by virtue of its constitutional commitment not to distinguish ethnic groups in the public sphere. And in the United Kingdom, integration policy in the traditional sense has essentially been absent because of the country's focus on ethnic minorities, race relations and social cohesion—an outcome that is the legacy of postcolonial immigration flows in which many of the immigrants were already British citizens or subjects.
'As Europe’s immigrant and immigrant-origin population continues to grow, the broader society itself is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion, language and culture—and that diversity at times leads to stubbornly inferior educational outcomes and socio-economic status. Addressing these issues is best understood and approached with respect to need, rather than origin or background alone’, said MPI Europe President Demetrios G. Papademetriou. ‘Public institutions and the services they offer must constantly adapt to meet the needs of Europe’s ever more diverse population and improve outcomes and opportunities for everyone. Failure to do so will not only result in the continuing marginalisation of some immigrant and 'immigrant-background' groups but in a less competitive, less successful Europe’.
Mainstreaming immigrant integration policy presents a high-potential opportunity for policymakers to address increasingly diverse needs, the report's authors, Elizabeth Collett and Milica Petrovic of MPI Europe, note. They caution, however, that mainstreamed approaches also carry the risk that by dispersing responsibility to a multitude of actors, policies may become fragmented, poorly coordinated and unevenly implemented. 'The mainstreaming approach is a logical one in an era of public budget constraints and scepticism about immigration', said Collett, who directs MPI Europe. 'The recent economic crisis and tough political debate regarding immigrants has pushed governments to pursue policies that can integrate immigrant groups efficiently, and without prioritising their needs over other similarly marginalised native groups'.