In a 2012 poll, 80-95% of immigrants surveyed from 15 EU cities said they were (or wanted to become) long-term residents. They said they highly valued opportunities to learn the native language (in fact, immigrants generally speak more languages than the average person in their country of residence). A vast majority said they were interested in civic and political participation.
Despite this, the segregation and social exclusion of migrant communities can be a serious problem. In France, for example, there are 717 ‘sensitive urban zones’, mostly in the suburbs of large cities (known as ‘banlieuses‘). These neighbourhoods have twice the national rate of unemployment, over 35% of the inhabitants are below the national poverty line, and over 50% are of foreign origin. Ten years ago, in 2005, tensions boiled over into a series of riots in the banlieuses of Paris and other French cities.
Are efforts to integrate immigrant communities into European society failing? How can immigrants be better supported in their desires to integrate and be involved in their local community? And how can the concerns of European citizens about immigration and integration be addressed?
Curious to learn more about the integration of migrants across Europe? We’ve put together some facts and figures about discrimination, segregation, and integration in the EU in an infographic below (click for a larger image).
We had a comment sent in by Berings, arguing that attempts to integrate immigrant communities in Europe would inevitably be unsuccessful and would lead to rising xenophobia. He believed immigration was having a negative on European society and culture:
Many people I know do not support the far-right because of economic troubles, they support them because these politicians are the only politicians in touch with reality. No one ever signed up to this horrible ‘diversity’ project.
To get a response, we spoke to Karl-Heinz Florenz, a German Member of the European Parliament who sits with the Christian Democrats. What would he say to Berings?
We also had a comment sent in by Paulo, arguing that it’s fair to expect that immigrants, when they come to countries like France, should adopt French culture, French laws and become French people.
How would Karl-Heinz Florenz respond?
To get another perspective, we also put Paulo’s comment to Dr. Robin Wilson, a leading European policy analyst and expert on intercultural dialogue. What would he say to Paulo?
Well, this is a very French debate, and I would really encourage Paulo to think more widely on this one. There is still a residual idea in France that the way to deal with diversity is simply not to recognise its existence, and just to say everyone is a ‘citoyen’ the same as any other, and everyone must subscribe to the values of the république, period.
A better way to approach the question of diversity than assimilation has been the notion of interculturalism, which the Council of Europe has developed over the last decade or so. I’ve been one of the people working with the Council of Europe on this paradigm, and the emphasis is on managing diversity in a way that recognises it as a two-way street.
A better way to describe it than Paulo is the way Jürgen Habermas does; that is to say that it is perfectly reasonable for members of minority communities to make special claims, but they must do so in universal language that anybody else can understand and argue with or debate. In that context, I think it is possible to deal with France’s problems of diversity within society, and obviously you’ll be aware of those problems expressed in the banlieues and the riots ten years ago. So, I think that there is a need to go beyond the narrow French debate and to draw language from elsewhere in Europe to find better solutions.
How can Europe better integrate immigrants? How can European countries avoid the segregation and social exclusion of minorities? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – anw