Desktop version

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

Immigrant integration in the South

Although South-South migrants face much of the same resentment from the locally born over jobs and wages as their South-North counterparts, the issues in South-South flows need to be analysed from a quite different standpoint. Whereas Northern receiving countries tend to be relatively homogenous in terms of language, culture and ethnicity, this is often not the case in the fractionalised and multi-ethnic countries of the South where borders are porous and immigration controls lax. An examination of immigrant experience in West Africa and in particular Ghana shows that governments do not give priority to integration, and Northern models of assimilation and multiculturalism are not necessarily applicable. Lack of integration can lead to the formation of ghettos with associated acute poverty and disease. The problems of refugees and stranded migrants add an extra dimension to the issues of social cohesion and integration.

The changing geography of economic growth has been accompanied by a marked shift in global wealth (OECD, 2010). The world's economic centre of gravity has moved both eastwards and southwards, and developing countries are playing an increasing role in international governance. Channels of interaction between developing countries have become busier, especially in respect of South-South trade and factor mobility. Migration between developing countries1 has also significantly increased and diversified over the last two decades. South-South migration stocks currently outnumber the stocks between South and North, and they are likely to keep rising in the future, not only because migration policies in developed economies are increasingly restrictive, but also because fast-growing economies in the South represent new magnets for potential migrants.

As the number of immigrants in developing countries has risen, problems related to discrimination and integration have surfaced in tandem. As in the relatively richer countries of the North where there is a longer tradition of immigration policy, local populations seldom perceive the arrival and settlement of foreign workers favourably. Low-skilled immigrants, in particular, are often blamed for taking jobs away from locals and applying downward pressure on their wages and bargaining power (see Chapter 4). Foreigners then serve as scapegoats for the economic problems of the country - above all when there is not much of a social safety net in place. They are held responsible for the rise of unemployment and insecurity, and in extreme cases can be victims of antiimmigrant riots, such as those occurring in South Africa in 2008.

However, integration issues in the South need to be analysed from a different angle from that in the South-North context, especially if the many other challenges that governments have on their agendas are considered. First, socioeconomic characteristics, of both countries of destination and (self-selected) immigrants, are different, as are the problems faced by the latter. Second, the notion itself of integration is challenged in most countries of immigration, whatever the "model" in place - assimilation or multiculturalism (Simon, 2011). But this does not mean that developing countries should not tackle integration issues. In fact, the non-integration of immigrants may be more costly than in the North when tensions spiral out of control.

This chapter relies heavily on the experience of West Africa and primarily on the results of two workshops (one in Dakar, the other in Accra) and interviews with experts, immigrants, non-governmental and international organisations, policy makers and private businesses in Ghana in 20102 to analyse how the experience of immigrants in the South is different from that of those in the North. West Africa is an interesting region in which to study immigrant integration as it boasts the highest levels of (growing) intra-regional migration in the world. These labour movements present an economic opportunity for the region but also a potential threat to social cohesion. In one of the most extreme cases of non-integration, Cote d'Ivoire erupted into civil war. Finally, the wide diversity of economies in the region makes migration a natural part of the regional economic process.

This chapter argues that although most migrants from the South are found in the South, immigrant integration is not a current priority for many policy makers in developing countries. However, discrimination and the tendency of immigrants to live in makeshift communities help breed divisions in society and generate economic and social costs. Because migration is highly circular, labour activities are mostly informal, and relative deprivation between locals and immigrants may appear negligible. Analysing immigrant integration in the South therefore requires a different approach from analysis in the North.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >

Related topics