Migrant Integration: Inventing Multicultural Citizenship at City Level

Community led childcare centre in Stockwell, London (funded under URBAN)

Sally Kneeshaw

By Sally Kneeshaw, on October 15th, 2013

> Read Sally Kneeshaw's articles

Migration in Europe today presents a complex picture.The previous trends of predominantly Mediterranean migration to the industrial north, and post-colonial migration from third countries have been replaced by more diverse patterns, with many cities now playing host to a mix of migrants from different ethnic groups, including new immigrants, for example from Latin America, people fleeing conflict in the Middle East as well as migrants from within the EU.

This was the context set by Professor Marco Martiniello at the Integrating Cities IV Conference held in Tampere on 9-10 September 2013, hosted by Eurocities, and part funded by the European Integration Fund. The current challenge, it seems, is to invent a multicultural citizenship at city level that recognises the heterogeneity of migrant populations.

Key to this challenge, and one of the central planks of the Integrating Cities Charter (now signed by 30 cities) is the symbolic recognition of diversity as an asset. The Charter outlines actions to support migrant integration within four areas of city responsibility:

  • • Policy making
  • • Service provision
  • • Employment
  • • Procurement of goods and services

It also includes 11 commitments on diversity and non–discrimination. City leaders at the conference gave examples of ways in which they are addressing migrant integration inspired by the Charter and the associated ImpleMentoring initiative.

Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council (Lead Partner of the URBACT Project CSI Europe) reported that Manchester is growing at three times the national rate. She argued that education and the labour market are vital integration tools. “The greatest contribution the city can make to community cohesion is to grow jobs.” Even in times of austerity the local authority is protecting its work around equality. Celebrating diversity in Manchester also means hosting festivals led by migrant communities that are open to everyone, such as the Indian Mela, St Patricks Day, and Carnival, Korrie Louwes, Deputy Mayor of Rotterdam, (Lead Partner of the URBACT Project My Generation at Work), described a trend away from top down approaches to smaller local initiatives, such as Femme Fabrique- building a community of creative women- and a community garden and restaurant run by migrant kids. Rotterdam is focusing on young people and missing voices. “The young people from migrant communities often don’t trust the city. There is no follow up on their priorities. The city equals the police and the police are a problem.” The first step is to regain trust, to start up the conversation.

From Genoa Councillor Elena Fiorini and social worker Oriano Pianezza, described some exciting developments using co-production methods to create a two-way dialogue with migrant communities. “We do not assume that the migrants will ‘become like us’. These initiatives are about listening, learning and benefiting. Cllr Fiorini added ‘The public sector is beginning to look like it is irrelevant to the lives of citizens. We need more elasticity, to break the rules. The old ways are failing. Migrants are vital to political life in my city because they raise their voices and say they won’t accept things. They are not used to the Italian way. The bureaucracy finds this disturbing.” One of the challenges for the administration is to coordinate and channel all the different activities going on in migrant communities, that can at times feel rather like anarchy.

The conference concluded with a speech from Stefano Manservisi, Director General of Directorate-General Home Affairs, and appeal to the European Commission that the European Union needs to support metropolitan areas more to achieve the shared vision of open cities. It is clear that local policies and politics matter. There are positive signs that migrant integration is becoming a core element of city strategy, not just about social inclusion. What is more, as evidenced by a recent review of the Charter, the most successful cities are those already harnessing the energy, creativity and enterprise of diaspora communities.

By Sally Kneeshaw,URBACT Expert

2 Responses to “Migrant Integration: Inventing Multicultural Citizenship at City Level”

  1. Pamela Shinn says:

    We would like to invite you to contribute an article to our magazine. We are a global publication.

    Our Vision is to share a full range of interdisciplinary, professional knowledge with community leaders, professional planners, businesses and interested citizens having a commitment to operational excellence in the public and private sectors in a multi media format. Contributions from our constituency will assist in facilitating sound decisions in community development and promote continued commitments to create quality places to live, work and play.

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  2. Fernando Barreiro Fernando Barreiro says:

    A multicultural citizenship is a sort of contradiction in itself. The right to become a ctizien in a new cultural and social context has no link with the cultural or ethnic origin of people. Citizenship is the core component of a democratic society. Exercizing real civil rights and duties can’t be challenged or surpassed by ethnic or cultural values of different groups. It is so when some of them overpowers the common citizenship with their traditions and cultural-religious values. I can understand that the article message is on integeration and avoiding civil discrimination. But calling it “multicultural citizenship” can be risky.

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