Better integration for a stronger Europe
Diversity is a sign of a healthy, democratic society, but ensuring that minorities are integrated into society is a challenge for policymakers. The EU-funded INTEGRIM programme has built a solid research foundation to develop evidence-based policies for social cohesion as people migrate and mix across Europe.
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The story of Europe is one of migration and diversity, with groups of people moving within and between nation states and geographical regions for centuries, forming minorities within existing societies. The reasons for migration are equally diverse, ranging from personal relationships, work or family to safety from conflict and freedom from persecution.
Diversity in society is an inevitable product of the freedom to migrate and mix across borders. But this poses a challenge for traditional ideas of nation states and national identities, and also risks turning migrants into second-class citizens, reducing the chances of effective social integration.
Working out how best to integrate migrants into the wider population is an important challenge for governments wishing to create stable and healthy societies. The EU-funded INTEGRIM project has built a strong research base to provide evidence to support the development policies that encourage genuine integration at all levels.
We are living in a world of nation states with dominant cultures, languages and philosophies, and it is all entrenched in our legislation, says project coordinator Eduardo Ruiz Vieytez of the Universidad de Deusto in Spain.
However, democracy cannot be the tyranny of the majority the quality of democracy has to be measured in how we treat minorities, considering them as part of the society when we decide on common spaces and policies. The more flexible and inclusive we are, the more integration we will get, and there will be more people living more comfortably in stable and peaceful societies.
An influence on policy
Building on an existing network of excellence within a number of European universities studying migration and social cohesion, INTEGRIM funded a coordinated programme of 23 doctoral fellowships aimed at producing high-quality research to support policymaking.
The projects focused on four angles: cultural integration, including religion and language; political integration (citizenship and voting rights); labour issues such as pay and working conditions; and geographical integration for example, do migrants from one country or culture all tend to live in the same area in their new home?
The fellowships were based at eight institutions across Europe, including universities in Turkey and Hungary as well as western European countries, building a strong network of support and excellence across the continent. Their findings have generated many high-quality outputs, such as research papers, and are already influencing policy in some areas.
Building better societies
Integration doesnt just mean you have a residency permit, citizenship, the right to vote or a salary, says Ruiz Vieytez. We live in diverse societies, and we have a long way to go to develop real cultural integration identity, culture, religion and language tend to be overlooked when it comes to policies, and this is an obstacle for real integration. Some minorities have always been there, others are new or not so new but they are all de facto citizens and taxpayers, even if they are not always citizens according to the legal order, so they must participate in how society is designed in order to make it more peaceful and productive.
Several of the researchers involved in the project have now gone on to postdoctoral fellowships, continuing to build expertise and capacity in the field of migration and integration research.
The lasting result of INTEGRIM is the fostering of a cohesive network of excellent young researchers who are passionate about social equality and migration issues, collaborate with each other across geographic and disciplinary distances, and will most likely continue to do so in the future, says Ruiz Vieytez.