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The Challenge of Integration - Migrants and the Host Society

Bimal Ghosh

In broad terms, integration refers to arrangements which enable immigrants (and their children and grandchildren, or second and third generation migrants) to actively participate in a host society through equality of opportunity and absence of discrimination on grounds of ethnicity

or national origin. There is however no standard definition or universal strategy of integration. This is for the simple reason that countries adopt integration strategies in keeping with the societal models they set for themselves in relation to foreigners.The integration strategies that accompany these societal models can be divided into three broad categories1: multiculturalism, assimilation and segregation.

Countries wedded to the model of multiculturalism (e.g. Australia, Canada and the US) seek to base their national identity on, and derive their strength and dynamism from, different cultures of immigrant groups which are formally recognised and permanently accommodated. The strategy of assimilation (as traditionally followed in France, for example), on the other hand, is based on the republican model of society under which foreigners adhere to the customs, characteristics and cultural moor of the host country under a common constitution and political rules. In a general way, these differences can be discerned in the attitudes of Europe and the US towards integration. Most European nations seek to maintain their deep-seated culture, while America constantly transforms itself by willingly embracing new cultures, while maintaining certain common ideals or values.

Opposed to these two approaches, there is a third one which is attuned to the societal model of ethnic and cultural homogeneity of the host nation. The strategy that these countries (e.g. Japan, the Gulf States and various central and eastern European countries under the communist regime) seek to follow is one of segregation . or least possible integration . of foreigners. Each of the three broad approaches mentioned above can of course have a litany of variations. The strategy of assimilation, for example, could be pushed further towards acculturation, under which foreigners take on the customs, values and attitudes of the host society, and identify themselves with it. Here, the emphasis is on a one-way process of cultural adjustment, with the burden of adjustment falling on the immigrants. Likewise, the multicultural model can take different forms, depending on the degrees of cultural diversity the host society is prepared to accept and the methods it uses for the purpose. Does the host society perceive itself as a »salad bowl« or as a veritable »melting pot?« Is it wedded to shallow multiculturalism, limited to its mere tolerance of different cultures and attitudes? Or is it deep enough to actively encourage and assist the immigrant groups to

preserve their traits and moors, leading to cultural enrichment of the host society as a whole.

A country.s integration strategy, like its societal model, closely interacts with its immigration and citizenship policies. For example, a country wedded to multiculturalism is normally more open (albeit within the limits of existing social tolerance) to immigrants and their subsequent inclusion as citizens. A country that relies on assimilation perceives citizenship as the ultimate test and reward of the foreigner.s integration into the host society. In contrast, a country which steadfastly adheres to its cultural/racial homogeneity is cautious about admitting foreigners and tends to impose all kinds of restrictions on those admitted; it also encourages return and is reluctant to extend citizenship to foreigners.

 

What then is the best or most successful integration strategy? Since, as argued above, the integration strategy is closely linked to a nation.s societal model, crossnational analysis or the measurement of success of different integration strategies becomes highly problematic. Nor is it realistic to prescribe a single integration strategy for all countries or for all types of migrants.

The start is though clear – get to know each other and not to build new walls.

 

 

Four traditional models are used to conceptualise the nation state.s attitude towards integration of non-citizens: first, the imperial model (e.g. the British, and the Austro-Hungarian) based on the integration of peoples of multi-ethnic empires under the hegemony of a dominant group; second, the ethnic model (e.g. the German), based on common ethnicity, descent, language  and culture; third, the republican model (the French) based on a constitution and political rules, with newcomers adhering to them; and the fourth, multiculturalism, based on recognition of different cultures, with a common ideal.                  

                                                                  

 

Bimal Ghosh The challenge of integration: A global perspective

[in:] Rita Süssmuth / Werner Weidenfeld (eds.)Managing Integration.The European Union.s responsibilities towards immigrants, Bertelsmann Stiftung MPI, Washington, 2005, s.19 -21

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