Politics of (Dis)integration
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Public policies have always been concerned with the integration of specific migrant and non-migrant others, as well as with that of society as a whole. What is meant by integration has clearly changed over time and, with it, the precise nature of the policies designed to enact it, at both the individual and the societal level. Despite this shifting conceptual foundation, something called ‘integration’ has been an official policy goal for the last 50 years or more, at least in liberal democracies. As far as the integration of newcomers is concerned, this liberal consensus has begun to change in the last few years. Integration is used much more instrumentally, today, as a fixed and measurable set of requirements for the attainment of certain rights, including citizenship. While some migrants have always been excluded from integration policies, we can now also see a significant rise in the creation of barriers to their equal participation in social systems. In some cases, this even affects citizens who are either identified with specifically targeted migrant others – including black and minority-ethnic groups and national minorities – or who returned to their own country of origin after having lived abroad. The widespread anti-immigrant populism that provoked these developments started before 2014 but has become more pronounced since 2015 and 2016. The tensions that these changes create are exacerbated by the progressive withdrawal of government from practical support for integration over the last decade or so, and the corresponding increase in the role of market forces and the voluntary sector.
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