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Home arrow Political science arrow Development Centre Studies Tackling the Policy Challenges of Migration : Regulation, Integration, Development.

Local populations perceive immigration as a threat to social cohesion

No matter the level of development, new migration flows have produced social tension in countries of transit and destination. By exacerbating antiimmigrant sentiment, the global crisis and the Arab revolts have served as an additional pretext for political exploitation of migration and integration issues. This is particularly striking in several OECD countries, where political debates on multiculturalism and national identity have resurfaced. If xenophobia is indicative of low levels of social cohesion (Ruedin and D'Amato, 2011), many countries still have some way to go before they reach acceptable levels.

Figure 1.6. Attitudes towards immigration in the UK, 2009-10

Source:, based on the Citizenship Survey, 2009-10.

Figure 1.6 displays answers to the question "Do you think the number of immigrants to Britain nowadays should be .... ?", from the British Citizenship Survey in 2009-10. According to 81% of respondents born in the UK, this number should be reduced. This response to the crisis is representative of many OECD countries. In light of fears for the security of their jobs as well as their safety, anti-immigrant sentiment rose among the locally born in almost every OECD country, including historically tolerant societies such as Norway. Citing a study conducted by TNS Gallup, Aftenposten, a major newspaper in Norway, claimed that the number of Norwegians who want a stop to immigration has never been so high.5 The rise has triggered a domino effect with many countries declaring that their integration policies over the last 20 to 30 years have all but failed.

In developing countries too, anti-immigrant riots and mass deportations have been on the rise. In 2008, violent attacks against immigrants were reported in several parts of South Africa. Similarly in Gabon and Malaysia, for instance, locals have been vocal and physical in their intolerance of the idea of importing foreign labour. Deportations of immigrants back and forth between Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have continued. In 2011, dozens of Bangladeshi immigrants in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were deported from the country for striking for better wages. Conflict between immigrants and the locally born is at the core of the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire. Anti-immigrant attitudes help establish the basis for violations of immigrants' rights by authorities in Mexico and Morocco, for instance, eager to win popularity from voters. In many Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and in Malaysia, locals are growing intolerant about the preference employers give to hiring immigrants.

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