Integration leads to equality, but only if embraced by everyone

November 6, 2015

Integration is vital for social solidarity, Professor Jenny Phillimore FAcSS, Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) and Professor of Migration and Superdiversity said at an Academy and Campaign event yesterday.

Speaking at the Academy and its Campaign’s housewarming event inaugurating their new offices at 33 Finsbury Square, Professor Phillimore told an audience of more than 40 people that change is the norm as migration flows have become more intricate over the last three decades.

In a talk entitled ‘Integration in an era of superdiversity’, Professor Phillimore explained that, as the scale, speed and spread of “super mobility” across the world intensifies, it is no longer possible to categorize peoples according to convenient labels.

“In the past we could point to a particular community that is connected to a specific village. Now it’s much more difficult to do that.”

As more people come from more places, institutional responses have compounded existing integrational difficulties. “We’ve increased the complexity of migrant groups by increasing the number of migration statuses, introducing all these complex rules and regulations about who is entitled to what.” This has created an “us versus them” culture that actively hinders social solidarity.

She stressed that the rhetoric by politicians and the media surrounding migration has become notably “anti-integrative” and is subject to politicisation for electoral gain. “This is the ultimate political game of tennis: who can be harsher, who can be more difficult, who can make it tougher for migrants.”

“There has been a lot of focus on the numbers, the borders, how we’re going to keep people out. It is about how we can do the minimum, and not what we’re going to do to support people to become a part of our society.”

Noting a distinct neglect of their views among policy makers, Professor Phillimore pointed to her own research surveying 5,000 refugees and migrants. She highlighted terminology such as “acceptance”, “adaptation” and “contribution used by respondents as evidence of the overwhelming desire to acquire the language and cultural skills necessary to integrate and participate in society. These skills cannot simply be “absorbed by walking up and down the street” but must be actively encouraged, she said.

“Integration is the goal. There is an understanding that it is necessary to make adjustments, that these are the things you need to get on, to be happy, to have a good life. Many seem to be wanting to do the things that politicians say they don’t want to do”, such as learning English, seeking stable employment and establishing support networks. She cautioned, however, that “integration is a two way street. Acceptance is necessary for contribution.”

While recognising that there are no easy answers, Professor Phillimore said, “we need to educate everybody in every place about the reality of superdiversity. Mobility is part of this global world that we live in.” She called for a reclaiming of integration “as a concept that means building a diverse society through encompassing equality and inclusion for all.”

Professor Phillimore’s talk comes as hundreds of thousands of migrants continue to flee war and extreme deprivation across the globe.

The housewarming marked the official move of the Academy and its Campaign to their new offices at 33 Finsbury Square.

During the event, Professor Roger Goodman, Chair of the Academy, welcomed guests and expressed gratitude to the many people who assisted in the move, including Howard Newby, Patrick Hackett, and the law offices of Irwin Mitchell, who provided pro bono legal services.

Stephen Anderson, Executive Director of the Academy, said:

“This is a coming of age of the Academy and says something about our maturity, our own self understanding of who we are as a national academy, and the bigger part we play in the life of the social sciences in the UK. This new location will help us build a corporate presence, and has the added benefit of allowing us to host events on site at no additional cost.

“We remain grateful to the British Psychological Society for allowing us to be in Tabernacle Street these past six years.”

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