Integration is elusive and difficult for governments to control

Warda Belabas

Integration of migrants is an elusive process that does not allow linear planning or influencing. The idea that integration can be completely controlled by governments must therefore be put into perspective. This is the idea put forward by Warda Belabas in her thesis ‘The Elusiveness of Governing Migrant Integration. Why putting complexity in boxes does not work’, which she will be defending at Erasmus University Rotterdam on Thursday 20 February.

Both national governments and local authorities try to push for the integration of migrants, but in practice this has not always proved easy. In the political debate about integration, there is the idea that it can be directly influenced by using more stringent measures. Blame for 'failing integration' is often placed on unwilling migrants or policy that is too soft. However, Warda Belabas' thesis shows that this type of ‘A leads to B’ reasoning doesn't work at all. She studied the empirical reality behind the promotion of integration by local players.

Integration is a dynamic system

Integration of migrants is elusive, because integration is a dynamic system consisting of a sum of interactions between government authorities and migrants. The process does not allow linear planning or influencing by governments. This does not mean that governments cannot push for integration, but it does underline the importance of policy that is based on a deeper understanding of the systematic reality in which integration develops.

Discomfort for street level workers

The thesis also shows that government officers who are directly or indirectly confronted with migration-related diversity experience deep discomfort from decisions they need to take. In some cases, it appeared that the ‘street level workers’ avoided more intensive contact with migrants to make it easier for them to comply with the 'rules' or 'boxes' resulting from policy. In other cases, they sought ways to do justice to the complexity of specific cases. In both cases, there was a sense of discomfort. Policy makers would do well to use the local knowledge and experience of this professional group in making policy that does justice to the context in which integration takes place.

PhD defence

Warda Belabas is defending her thesis on Thursday 20 February: ‘The Elusiveness of Governing Migrant Integration. Why putting complexity in boxes does not work’.

PhD student
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