Posts tagged ‘migrants’

May, 2014

Superdiversity: innovative policy and practice for a new era

Professor Jenny Phillimore


Throughout this week I have outlined some of the challenges and opportunities associated with superdiversity. In my last blog I want to think a bit about how we might adapt to address some of these. The scale of the challenges we face is unprecedented and requires adaptation of almost every aspect of society to recognise that the emergence of superdiversity brings a whole new reality.

The first step is to publicly acknowledge the arrival of this new era at the same time accepting that it is a global phenomenon of which British born people are a part. We benefit from mobility and migration in a number of ways. We increasingly live, work and retire overseas: IPPR estimate that 10% of British born live outside of the UK. We are also more likely than ever before to form relationships with people from overseas. We must also acknowledge that the many of the services and goods we enjoy depend on flexible migrant labour. Migrants’ contribution goes above and beyond increasing GDP to impact upon us all in our ability to purchase cheap food, access specialist healthcare in the NHS, provide care for the vulnerable and much more. We depend on migrant labour to do the jobs we do not want or for which we lack skills. We need to change the rhetoric around migration making the debate and discussion more balanced and constructive. I’m not suggesting that we abandon our borders but that we completely separate out the issue of borders from the discussion of the role and contribution of migrants who are already resident.

We need to educate everyone to understand superdiversity in both national and global contexts. From primary schools to professional and university courses we must help people to understand the changes underway and to aid them to develop the intercultural communication skills they will need in order to build connections and provide services to diverse people. As discussed earlier in the week integration is a two way process which requires adaptation from everybody and all institutions [1]. Learning about each other and how to communicate is a major step forward but we also need to realise that the way that we provide welfare services such as health and education has not really changed since the time of Beveridge and certainly does not take into account our 24/7 superdiverse society. Services need to be more flexible to meet the needs of all with GP surgeries open longer hours and based in convenient locations such as supermarkets and A&E departments.

With superdiversity comes super-mobility. We all move more than we used to and migrants in particular move frequently following employment and housing opportunities – this after all is what the Coalition government suggest we do in order to avoid unemployment or costly housing. But our housing stock is static and our renewal programmes focus on stabilising populations. We need new housing solutions. Good quality, self-contained, affordable, well-maintained and temporary housing solutions where people can live for days, weeks or months might be built on brown-field inner city sites to house the increasing population of single people many of who are migrants.

We also need to acknowledge that there are costs associated with migration. And these generally arise because migrants are concentrated in deprived areas that already lack resources. Again we need to accept that migrants are there through necessity – because they cannot afford to live elsewhere. The poor quality of the housing in which they reside in not the fault of migrants but of those landlords who do not maintain their properties.   Regulation and enforcement of employment and housing legislation is essential if migrants are not to be subject to the super-exclusion that places so much pressure on some local areas. Giving migrants (and others) full employment rights so that poor-paid, insecure agency work is less attractive to employers will improve housing choices and perhaps make those jobs more attractive to local people. Where employers depend heavily upon migrant labour there might be some kind of levy, which cannot be deducted from wages, which helps contribute to the local costs associated with migration. Government too could contribute by investing part of visa fees into migration hot-spots.

Language is important. We need to share a common language in order to communicate. The good news is that only just over 0.2% of the population of England and Wales do not speak English. Despite the rhetoric that they “do not want to speak our language” the evidence suggests that almost all migrants do want to speak English. The problem is that our language training is of poor quality, expensive and inflexible failing to reach those working long-hours or women with caring responsibilities. We must improve our language offer and look at the approaches utilised in Germany and Scandinavia where migrants can access 450 hours tailored language training each year utilising a range of methods such as language mentors and volunteer placements that embed migrants in English speaking environments. This will have cost implications but these maybe offset with reduced translation and interpretation costs in the longer term.

We cannot return to a pre-superdiverse era. The changes I have suggested are just a starting point. We also need to consider how we can benefit further from superdiversity for example by utilising the global connections associated with superdiversity and the entrepreneurial skills of migrants to develop new economic opportunities [2]. Actions are urgently required to support individuals and institutions to adapt to the new reality and ensure that integration and inclusion are possible for all – migrants and the communities they live in.

Professor Jenny Phillimore is Professor of Migration and Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham.

Other useful links:

  1. Phillimore, J. (2012) Implementing integration in the UK: lessons for integration theory, policy and practice Policy & Politics 40(4) 5250545
  2. New Migrant Enterprise: Novelty or Historical Continuity? Trevor Jones, Monder Ram, Paul Edwards, Alexander Kiselinchev and Lovemore Muchenje0042-0980 Print/1360-063X
  3. The potential of temporary migration programmes in future international migration policy
  4. The future of migration: Irresistible forces meet immovable ideas
  5. Evaluating Migrant Integration: Political Attitudes Across Generations in Europe
  6. Migrant balancing acts: understanding the interactions between integration and transnationalism
  7. Image
May, 2014

Migrant integration in an era of superdiversity

Professor Jenny Phillimore


The advent of superdiversity has in the past few years been juxtaposed with several other trends. Perhaps most importantly there is the global recession and associated austerity cuts introduced in many of the world’s leading countries of immigration. These global developments occur in an environment already unfavourable to immigration and integration. Developments including the re- politicisation of migration, the rise of new right-wing and xenophobic movements, growing use of welfare rationing, and increasing levels of negative media and public opinion, all of which impact on migrants’ ability to integrate. Claims have been made that the increase in diversity has reduced levels of social solidarity in society, and with it support for the welfare state, as the general population are prepared only to contribute to welfare measures for people with whom they share an affinity.   In the combined eras of superdiversity and austerity the successful integration of migrants is more important and more challenging than ever.

Today’s article focuses on the findings of a large scale review of local and experiential aspects of integration undertaken as part of the European funded KING project which is working to help shape the Common Basic Principles on migrant integration for the European Commission. Gary Craig, Rachel Humphris and Marta Kindler were collaborators on this project.

Academics have long outlined the two-way nature of the integration process . True integration can only occur when majority and minority communities adapt to a new reality. This is barely if ever acknowledged by politicians and thus rarely translates into policy and practice. The need for mutual adapation is reinforced by the evidence that shows the extent to which both individual and institutional racism impacts upon migrant and minority communities. Racism prevents minorities from achieving their potential, impacts on social mobility and reduces social confidence restricting social networks. The current anti-migrant, anti-multiculturalism ideology perpetuated by politicians and the media prevents migrants and minorities accessing all integration domains, impacts upon mental and physical health and social mobility. Such ideology legitimises racism while supporting moves to restrict migrants’ access to welfare which then enhances their vulnerability and exclusion.

The KING review provided clear evidence that migrants experienced poor outcomes in the arenas of health, housing, education and employment. Whilst many of these outcomes improve over generations some long-established minority groups have yet to reach parity with the general population. The review also demonstrated that social mixing with non-migrant communities was difficult to achieve because migrants lacked the opportunity to mix or were fearful of racist harassment. Instead migrants relied heavily on peer groups and civil society for support.

Lack of knowledge about institutional structures and systems and local behavioural norms prevents migrants accessing services and interaction with local people. Superdiversity brings challenges associated with newness and novelty of cultures, experiences and problems both for providers and migrants. A key gap in integration initiatives is developing the skills that professionals need to adapt services in an ever-changing, fast diversifying, environment.

Ability to speak the host community language emerges from many research projects as being essential to enable migrant/minority access to services, support the development of social relations with others and to enable participation in networks and forums. Language enables conversations with ‘others’ that have the potential to resist racist sterotyping, at least at individual and local community level. Language enables access to education about how to engage with the system and better quality employment that can help support social mobility and thus reduce exclusion.

Austerity measures have led to a reduction in support for migrant focused initiatives to the point that many EU countries are able to provide little support with integration and adaptation. Scandinavian countries standout in stark contrast to much of the rest of Europe in providing extensive integration programmes that support migrants to access language and citizenship classes which have been demonstrated to impact positively on migrants’ access to employment.

Exclusion and deprivation have enormous impact upon the ability of new migrants and existing minorities to integrate and meet their potential. Furthermore given the economic imperative used as the main justification for migration, migrant down-skilling, poor education outcomes and economic activity levels have an economic, as well as social, opportunity cost. If we continue our laissez-faire approach to integration placing the onus on migrants to integrate without considering the role of the state and its citizens it is likely that we will see the super-exclusion discussed yesterday given that it is predicted that by 2050 around 30% of the UK’s population will have a migrant background.

Professor Jenny Phillimore is Professor of Migration and Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham.

Other useful links:

October, 2013

Human rights, like Ronseal, are exactly what they say on the tin…


On 3rd October this year a boat caught fire and capsized. On board were more than 500 Eritrean men, women and children. 155 people survived. While this disaster has grabbed media attention across the world, it is only one of many such stories over recent years. Lampedusa has become the landing point for thousands of migrants seeking to enter Europe. The Italians islanders stand out as compassionate and caring towards the boatloads of new arrivals. They seem to understand that these people arrive on the shores seeking a better life than the ones they left behind. That approach stands in stark contrast with the rhetoric across much of the Global North.

The issue of migrants, particularly irregular migrants, increasingly dominates our newspapers and politics. No one knows whether irregular migration is increasing or decreasing. Unsurprisingly, we have no statistics on the actual numbers of people who cross borders in irregular ways. Yet the prominence of the topic in daily life might make one think that a tidal wave of irregular migrants has arrived in Europe. And that rhetoric increasingly dehumanises irregular migrants. This increased and increasingly-negative attention might be owing to financial pressures – history shows us that with recessions and depressions comes the rise of nationalism and xenophobia. It may be based on security concerns and the global threat of terrorism. Regardless of its basis, the result is a general failure to acknowledge let alone uphold the human rights of migrants.

Human rights, like Ronseal, are exactly what they say on the tin. The rights are held by all individuals by virtue of them being human. A person does not lose his status as a human simply because s/he is an irregular migrant. Crossing a border in contravention of a law does not dehumanise an individual. Yet the total disregard that Global North countries have for the rights of irregular migrants undermines the central notion of human rights.

If we examine the resources devoted to securitising the issue of migration, we can see that significant time and money is used for activities that abuse the human rights of migrants. Detention without charge; lack of access to justice; failure to ensure adequate housing, food and healthcare; failure to ensure that children receive education are just some of the systematic violations that occur across Europe, Australia, and North America. Headline news is made where a migrant dies during deportation, as occurred with Mr Jimmy Mubenga in 2010. Occasionally investigative journalism focuses on Yarls Wood, or other similar detention centres abroad. But the daily systematic violations are swept under the carpet.

Efforts are being made at the international level to protect and promote the human rights of migrants.

In 1990, the General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The central feature of the Convention on Human Rights of Migrants is to protect all migrant workers and their families irrespective of their legal status. 46 countries have ratified the Convention. This falls far below the 120 states ‘for which migration is an important feature, either as origin, transit or destination countries’. None of the states from the West or from the rising global power of BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India and China – have signed or ratified the Convention. Without those heavyweights, politically and economically, the treaty largely has failed to get off the ground. Over 20 years after its creation, the Convention is spluttering along. The countries that most need to be bound to protect the rights of migrants are the ones that are studiously avoiding signing up to its provisions.

States from the Global North are the leaders in the human rights game. They control the money and resources, and therefore hold the power. Typically, they have been at the fore of developing, promoting and protecting human rights. It seems strange, to say the least, that those same countries refuse to ratify the Convention on human rights of migrants. But remember that those countries are the most affected by migration, not just in terms of the numbers of people seeking to enter their territories but also by the political implications of being seen to be ‘soft’ on that issue.

There is a structural deficit of electoral democracies where it comes to migration. Irregular migrants do not have a vote. Politicians in electoral democracies require votes to be re-elected. Focusing efforts on a vulnerable group that do not have the right to vote, and who cannot mobilise to form pressure groups or to place pressure on the government, is political suicide. Politicians know that by speaking out on behalf of migrants, let alone seeking to change the laws on migration, they will place their own careers on the line.

But it is not all doom and gloom. At least these issues are now being discussed. Great efforts have been made by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. Mr Francois Crepeau has sought to focus global attention on Europe and migrants’ rights. He reported on that region last year, with a particular focus on Italy and Greece as the first port of call for many migrants entering Europe from North Africa. Crepeau’s recommendations have been discussed widely at the highest levels. Media attention on Lampedusa and other horrific tragedies helps increase the pressure on Global North countries. It is only when those states start seeing irregular migrants as humans rather than security concerns, protecting their rights will always be the lowest priority and tragedies will continue to occur. 

Dr Rosa Freedman, Birmingham Law School

More useful links:

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