Headlines: August 11th, 2008

Birmingham, Copenhagen and Rotterdam have successfully met the challenge of migration and research by the thinktank, Institute of Local Government Studies, has identified the critical success factors in their achievements.

The INLOGOV report ‘Governance of Migration: Strategies for European Cities’ describes migration as a major challenge for councils and the situation is aggravated by a poor understanding of the issue across local government. Migration has contributed to economic prosperity, but is also associated with social unrest and the rise of far right political parties.

The report reveals the positive economic effects of migration. It points to research by West Midlands and Rotterdam local councils showing that migrants bring entrepreneurial skills and help fill local labour shortages. The report encourages councils to promote the value of migration as a way of overcoming stereotypes about migrants as a drain on local resources.

Whatever the conditions, migration presents a complex governance challenge. The task facing councils is to manage the tensions between the benefits of migration and the problems of adjustment it causes. Experience gained in the three cities shows that councils must develop new and innovative ways of responding to migration, including participation by migrant communities in decision-making.

The report distils out the critical factors which have allowed the three cities to integrate migrants successfully. The prime requirement is for politicians to set out a vision for the future of the city and all its inhabitants so that integration policy can be connected to other city policies, such as those on improving social cohesion, reducing crime, increasing social cohesion, and strengthening the economy. Vision, goals and targets help to motivate the development and implementation of integration policy.

Communication also has a vital role to play. Effective networking is essential as is the capacity to create forums to bring together all relevant organisations and individuals, regardless of status. Information is also an important tool for successful integration policy. Because they are minority groups, migrants are often the focus of negative stereotypes and myths. These stereotypes often claim that they take from the society and do not give anything.

Councils also must support a wide range of community organisations, enabling them to develop or access resources to compete on equal terms for funding for their projects. In addition, there needs to be an awareness of the politics of migrant communities.