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The Local Turn in Migrant Integration Policies

Local governments, especially those in Europe's larger cities, have become increasingly active in developing their own integration philosophies. From a sociological perspective, this development makes sense as it is at the local level that migrants meet others, find a job, have children, et cetera. It is also at this level that negative as well as positive aspects of diversity are experienced most concretely. Also, we know from research that migrants identify much more with the city they live in than with the nation. Hyperdiverse cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, and London embrace diversity as part of the city's identity and as a positive anchoring point for local policies, sometimes in spite of their respective national models. Industrial cities like Manchester and Rotterdam have linked their traditional emphasis on work and housing to the new challenge of diversity. This supports sociologist Benjamin Barber's suggestion that it is precisely the inability of national democracies to develop effective responses to migration and diversity that prompts cities to develop their own strategies with a much greater emphasis on pragmatism, trust, and participation.

Various scholars, including Alexander (2007) and Penninx et al. (2004), illustrate how cities in particular started developing their own integration philosophies, often in response to the specific local situation. For instance, various successive mayors of the Greater London Authority were particularly proactive on migrant integration. Similarly, the City of Berlin had an integration strategy in place long before Germany developed a national strategy. Penninx (2009) demonstrates that in many countries policies evolved in large and diverse cities before national integration policies were developed, as attested to by Birmingham and Bradford in the UK, Berlin and Frankfurt in Germany, Vienna in Austria, and the Swiss cities of Zurich, Bern, and Basel. In our typology, this fits best with the localist or decoupled models, depending on whether these local philosophies are in line with national policy contours (as in Germany) or contrast and possibly even conflict with national policies (as in various cases in the Netherlands). As we will read below, only in some cases has it led to what we describe as multilevel governance.

The local turn in migrant integration policies has several implications in terms of vertical relations between national and local governments. Under the centralist model, local governments would play a role but this would be confined primarily to policy implementation. Indeed, in many countries we find top-down structures for policy coordination. In France policy coordination is strongly state-centric, and countries including Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands have long had strong national policy coordination frameworks. Often, the way funds are distributed and allocated is indicative of the division of labour between the national and the local level. Even in the UK, a country with relatively active local actors, significant funds are allocated from the national level (including funding for courses in English for speakers of other languages). However, many studies suggest that the top-down or centralist model has become much less applicable to the practice of migrant integration policymaking in many European countries (see also Entzinger and Scholten 2014). Local integration policies tend to differ from national policies in various respects. Caponio and Borkert (2010: 9) even speak of a distinctly “local dimension of migrant integration polices”. Some scholars argue that local policies are more likely than national policies to be accommodative of ethnic diversity and work together with migrant organizations, due in part to the practical need to manage ethnic differences in a city (Borkert and Bosswick 2007; Vermeulen and Stotijn 2010). Thus, in contrast to the often symbolic tendencies of national policies, local policies are driven by pragmatic problem-solving (Poppelaars and Scholten 2008). For instance, cities might work more closely with migration representatives and organizations than a national government would (see also Bousetta 2000). Cities may also be more inclined to accommodate and support cultural and religious activities of minorities in response to migrants' needs and demands.

Others contend that, rather than being characteristically more accommodative, local policies are driven by specifically local factors in very different directions. Significant variation in local policies can therefore be expected. Mahnig (2004) concludes that local integration policies in Paris, Berlin, and Zurich have very much responded to local political circumstances, often in ad hoc ways and leading to accommodation in some instances and exclusion in others. According to Alexander (2003, 2007), differences in local social situations have triggered different policy responses, with some cities adopting a more culturalist and others a more socioeconomic approach. A recent study of integration policies in Amsterdam and Rotterdam found that these two cities within the same country and with similar migrant populations produced very different policy outcomes in terms of migrant integration. Rotterdam stressed work and housing, whereas Amsterdam was much more oriented towards promoting intercultural relations (Scholten 2013). In other studies (e.g., Garbaye 2005; Bousetta 2000), a key factor identified as a trigger of specifically local responses is the political mobilization of migrants at the local level. Garbaye (ibid.), for example, found more significant political mobilization and ethnic elite formation in Birmingham than in Lille. This could not be explained only by differences between the groups involved (mainly South Asians in Britain and North Africans in Lille). Another factor was the difference between the liberal British citizenship regime and openness of the local labour party towards ethnic elite formation compared to the French citizenship regime, which had barred access to many Maghrébins, and the local socialist party, which had remained very restrictive in admitting migrants to local political elites.

The local turn of integration policy has a number of implications for governance. In some cities, it has led to what can be described as a decoupling of national and local policies. Thus, policies at these levels were not mutually coordinated and sometimes sent very different policy messages to the same policy target groups. Poppelaars and Scholten (2008) speak, in this respect, of national and local policies being “two worlds apart” in the Netherlands, because of their divergent logics of policy formulation (politicization at the national level and pragmatic problemsolving at the local level). Similarly, Jørgensen (2012) observes a growing disconnect between national and local integration policies. Collett and Gidley (2013) find that in several countries local governments feel they have to repair some of the centripetal forces unleashed by national political and policy discourses. As such, politicized debates at the national level can have a performative effect at the local level as well.

In other situations, more localist types of relations have emerged. Local governments have become increasingly active in what has been described as “vertical venue shopping” (Guiraudon 1997). This refers to efforts by local governments to lobby for policy measures at the national (and increasingly also European) level. Scholten (2013) cites the example of the City of Rotterdam, which managed to get a special law passed at the national level allowing it to adopt stricter policies aimed at spatial dispersal of migrants in the city. The city has also been active at the European level, lobbying for integration measures for intra-EU labour migrants. Establishment of networks among European cities has become a particularly powerful strategy for vertical venue shopping in the field of migrant integration. We will look at this in more detail later.

In contrast to the examples above, which fit the localist or decoupled types of relations, institutionalized relations between national and local governments have evolved in several countries over the past decade towards our definition of multilevel governance. Germany, in particular, has established multilevel venues for coordination of integration policies, with a key role for national integration conferences. These conferences bring together actors from various government levels as well as nongovernmental actors to align efforts to promote integration. The UK's tradition of coordinated vertical relations includes its delegation of policy coordination at the national level to the Department of Communities and Local Government. Even France, a country known for its state-centric approach, has developed dedicated structures for organizing relations with local governments. Although often not framed explicitly in terms of coordinating migrant integration policies (still reflecting the French colour-blind Republicanist approach), integration clearly plays a role in France's so-called Urban Social Cohesion Contracts and Educational Priority Zones. These allow the Parisian government to adopt tailored, localized approaches within the context of national policy. The Netherlands' government has established a “common integration agenda” for national and local governments, though it appears to have been rendered hollow by a lack of central funding.

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