Immigrant integration in European Cities

This paper has been written by the EUKN on behalf of the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union (The Ministry of Interior, Department of Town Planning and Housing). Today, migration and integration are key issues on local, national and EU agendas. Migrants tend to settle in urban areas. Authorities responsible for urban policies have to address the opportunities and challenges of migration and integration at local level. EU cooperation and co-ordination within the fields of migration, integration and urban development may support national and local authorities in dealing with issues of migration and integration.

How to respond timely to the changing and diverse migration flows and settlement patterns in cities?

Cities face many challenges in relation to migration; three of them are discussed in this paper. One of the main challenges for cities is: How to respond timely to the changing and diverse migration flows and settlement patterns in cities? A second issue is: are generic policies sufficient to support migrant integration, or are specific migrant policies required and justified? A third topic pertains to the role of urban planning and development strategies in supporting the migrant settlement and integration in cities and neighbourhoods.

Anticipatihng the diversity and dynamics of migration

Cities have to anticipate the diversity and dynamics of migration, settlement and integration. This is a challenge for both new and ‘old’ migration countries, because of changing migration patterns. To move from reactive to proactive policy development requires first of all reliable and up-to date knowledge and data on migration and settlement. Policymakers need relevant research and adequate data for a timely and appropriate policy response. There is considerable agreement on essential instruments to support integration of newly arrived migrants, but new migration patterns may require new measures and policies. Cities face the challenge to combine the instruments in an integrated package, adapted to the local context and to meet the variety of needs of migrants.

Mainstreaming migrant integration in policy development

The variety in policies regarding immigrant integration is partly due to different conceptions of equality and diversity. Any approach aiming at equal opportunities for migrants faces the dilemma: Is it allowed to categorise immigrants (and their descendants) as a separate category to promote equality? A distinction should be made between ethnic categorisation for monitoring and for policy development and implementation. The last one is most controversial and implies specific policies for migrants. One approach to overcome this dilemma is by mainstreaming migrant integration in policy development, implementation and planning processes. However, mainstreaming does not preclude the need for targeted measures. An alternative approach is the one of intercultural cities: to exploit the opportunities offered by urban diversity and to facilitate interactions.

Urban planning to migrant integration

Settlement and integration of migrants in cities also have a spatial dimension and impact. One of the contributions of urban planning to migrant integration relates to realising equal access to affordable and decent housing. Some types of migration, such as temporary migration, provide for new challenges. Secondly, urban planning and development can make a significant contribution to improving disadvantaged neighbourhoods where many migrants settle. Although deprived neighbourhoods appear to have some effect on opportunities for social mobility, it is often more effective to tackle obstacles to social mobility directly with socio-economic measures. However, integration is more than social mobility. Finally, urban planning and development should take into account the impact of migration and diversity on cities and neighbourhoods. Urban development strategies have the potential to contribute to the improvement of the liveability, community relations and opportunities for ethnic entrepreneurship in cities and neighbourhoods.