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Integration from the Perspective of Origin Countries

The fact that it was primarily a policymaking logic that guided the redefinition of integration from a two-way to a three-way process does not necessarily mean that there is no scientific basis in support of such a shift. Chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10 sought empirical answers to a number of questions relevant in this regard: How is integration viewed by actors in the countries of origin? To what extent and how do countries of origin contribute to immigrants' integration? Can integration in the country of destination be expected to contribute to development in the country of origin?

Migrants' Transnational Activities

A first way of answering such questions is to look systematically from the perspective of migrants themselves. Transnational studies decouple the concept of integration from its unique immigrant and society of settlement frame, looking at it instead as a process that takes place simultaneously in the country of settlement, (still) in the country of origin, and possibly even within a transnational community that is located in neither of the two.

Actors and policymakers within migrant receiving countries may not always accept such a frame shift (and in the politicized contexts of Europe it may increasingly be rejected). The double or triple orientation is also seen as problematic in national(istic) thinking, which deems it “disloyal” to the nation and an “abuse” of the welfare state. Moreover, energy spent in transnational activities may be perceived and defined—based on a zero-sum assumption—as being at the expense of integration efforts in the country of settlement. Nonetheless, from the perspective of migrants, simultaneous integration and participation in these different worlds is not problematic. Indeed, it is unavoidable, as Mügge's inventory of transnational activities in Chap. 7 indicates. The assumption that a transnational orientation and activities may come at the expense of integration (efforts) in the country of settlement has no basis in empirical research. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that transnational orientations and activities may co-exist with integration in the country of settlement without negative effects on one another. Though conclusions are based on a still limited number of case studies, for certain migrants transnational activities and integration may even reinforce each other.

Mügge (in this volume) points out that the same capital that equips immigrants for transnationalism may facilitate their structural integration in the receiving society too. She observes that (i) economic integration of migrants in the settlement country is an important condition for remittances; (ii) the more financial, social, and political capital immigrants have (acquired), the more capable they may be of developing transnational activities; and (iii) political transnational activities are very much shaped by the political opportunity structure of the country of settlement. Alternatively, feelings of exclusion in the homeland may foster integration in the host country while factual exclusion of migrants from politics in the homeland may trigger more radical forms of transnationalism to change the situation in the homeland. Either way, homeland developments seem to be decisive for the form and direction of both integration and transnationalism.

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