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Migration and Integration: Facing the Problems

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Migration and Integration: Facing the Problems Prof Ian Linden reports on a timely discussion at European level, involving the Las Casas Institute, of a great contemporary social problem.

Pope Francis has called for policies 'that place the human person at the heart of Europe'. In reflecting on what that means, the Las Casas Institute and St. Mary's University invited Dame Louise Casey to speak on May 16th this year to EU officials, MEPs and representatives of NGOs at an event co-sponsored with COMECE at their offices in Brussels – COMECE being the vehicle through which the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union officially engage with the European Parliament and Commission.

Behind the invitation lay a major review by Dame Louise Casey (pictured) of 'opportunity and integration' in the UK originally commissioned by David Cameron in 2015. Dame Louise was then a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, who had recently completed a report on the role of the Rotherham Council in dealing with sexual abuse. Published on 16 December 2016, the Louise Casey Review showed its author to be a one-woman antidote to the Sir Humphrey stereotype in Yes Minister! Her review powerfully deployed statistical data to give insights into inequalities and chart the impact of immigration on host communities. It revealed a disturbing failure to confront acute problems concealed beneath the official rhetoric of multiculturalism.

The Review drew criticism from both Left and Right. Muslim communities expressed concern at what they saw as excessive focus on them. In many instances there was little evidence that critics had read the Review in full. It was as if, in a world of 'fake news', public opinion had ceased to care about facts and ducked straight-talking. David Cameron supported it, but was soon to depart after the Brexit referendum.

In this climate the Review was put in the 'too-difficult-to-handle-at-the-moment' file by the government of Teresa May, though Dame Louise was asked by the Foreign Office to visit France, Spain, Italy and Germany to discuss her approach with government officials. Finally the Review partially re-emerged in March this year within an Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper. Only one or two policy recommendations from the Casey Review were taken up: there was a strong emphasis on the integrative role of sport; and on the importance of English language teaching. Yet there appears to be little new money. Spending on English language teaching for immigrants, for example, has been cut by half since 2009, so a promised £50 million would only return provision to where it was a decade ago.

In Brussels, COMECE Secretary General, Fr Olivier Poquillon OP, welcomed a topic central to EU preoccupations for some time. Dame Louise stressed that immigration and integration should not be conflated. She described how a young Muslim woman had casually introduced herself as 'third-generation Pakistani' and reflected how it would never have occurred to her to introduce herself as third-generation Irish. Her emphasis on gender discrimination came from solid and startling statistical data. For example 61% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are economically inactive compared with a national average of 26% and are twice as likely to as their husbands to speak poor English.

Economic inequalities are revealed by employment figures. People from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black ethnic groups are three times more likely to be unemployed than people from white groups. 35% of young black men growing up in UK are unemployed. Disadvantage is not limited to the UK's ethnic minorities. Only a third of children from poor white British families (as indicated by receiving free school meals) achieved 5 GCSEs or more compared to two thirds from better-off families.

Incoming communities during the last half century have settled in a segregated way to form discrete clusters in particular cities and in particular parts of those cities. Some boroughs and wards have experienced considerable changes within a short space of time. For example, in one ward in Sheffield there are some 6,000 Roma residents, though the school attendance rate of their children was only 21%. Given the age profiles of immigrant populations, schools are first to experience changing demographic trends with sometimes sudden increases in children entering with negligible English and considerable impact on host communities. A further issue when considering social integration has been the widespread practice in Muslim communities of arranged marriages where young women are brought in from the Asian sub-continent, so that there is 'first-generation [migration] in every generation'.

Dame Louise emphasised that there is nothing new about immigration, and net immigration figures are not very helpful for gauging the likely impact of immigration, as there is a 'churn', a coming and going of people (a million of them in 2015, giving a net figure of 333,000). This tells you nothing about how many arrive, where they come from, or where they settle. To allay alarm in host communities requires creative policies for integration, flexible enough to cater for the diversity of groups and locations involved and their different needs.

As Dame Louise said, 'Integration is not a two-way street, but a slip road onto the motorway'. The reciprocal obligation between immigrant and host community that Pope Francis talks about is for the host community, as it were, to welcome and allow immigrants into the inside lane on the motorway. The obligation on the immigrant community is to join the traffic flow and direction of travel. Not a perfect metaphor, not one that all will agree with, but one that clearly defines, for debate about policy making, the nature of the reciprocity at play in what is a major ethical and political question facing Europe.

The Las Casas Institute will return to this issue in the autumn when it welcomes to Blackfriars, Oxford, Prof Alison Phipps OBE. Prof Phipps holds the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at Glasgow University.

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