Kim Yi Dionne: The following guest post is the first in a series this week on immigrant integration in Europe. Upcoming posts will continue the conversation started this summer on The Monkey Cage about what “immigrant integration” means and some will explore in particular the challenges facing Muslim immigrants in Europe.
The 7/7 London bombings, the French scooter shooter Mohammed Merah and, more recently, the prospect of young Muslims traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS have sharpened the debate about the relationship between immigrant integration and Muslim extremism in Europe. As Muslims have become more defined as a group, rather than as part of their respective nationalities, ethnicities or skin colors, they have become the focus of restrictive immigration policies, punitive integration measures and citizenship tests designed to find “anti-liberal” values. Looking across the European Union, the pattern suggests that integration policy failure is not sufficient to generate terrorist attacks but that, perhaps, they may be triggered by the combination of failed integration policy with militaristic foreign policy commitments in the Middle East.
The “failure” of integration policy itself has become an important component of the integration policy debate, particularly for the Netherlands and Sweden, which were considered fairly successful in their multicultural approach to immigrants. Only part of this has to do with the rise in Islamic radicalism and violence in Europe; it also has to do with the divide between left and right parties. Pro-immigrant discourses on the left tend to emphasize the rights of immigrants (to work, to be free from discrimination, to family reunification, to participation in politics and so on), while anti-immigrant discourses found on the right tend to emphasize their responsibilities (to enter legally, to learn the local language and customs, to be exclusively loyal to the host country). In European policy circles, there is an emphasis on “integration” as opposed to “assimilation” because the former is meant to connote a two-way process, whereby bothnatives and immigrants adapt to one another. The policy gridlock occurs when actors on the left and the right each demand a one-way street, just not the same one.
Among the many projects that look at integration policy toward immigrants, the Migrant Integration Policy Index is one of the most ambitious. The index breaks integration policy into six “strands.” The map shows an overall metric of the extent to which countries guarantee access to the labor market, secure residence status, ensure family reunion, enable political participation (which in some European countries includes the right to vote in local elections even before citizenship is attained), encourage acquisition of nationality, and prohibit discrimination. Based on the types of policy coded, MIPEX scores emphasizes the positive side of integration. Overall, Sweden has the highest score while Austria is an example of an older E.U. member state that scores poorly.”