1. Literature review
1.1. Modern migrations: between voluntary and forced migration
Migration is certainly not a new phenomenon, despite being a key social issue in current European politics on a local, national and transnational level and one that is currently attracting greater attention from researchers (Korkut, Bucken-Knapp & McGarry, 2013). Migration is a changeless feature of the entire history of human beings. However, as suggested by Korkut, et al (2013), the circular influence between the various parts composing the migration conundrum – political discourses, states’ immigration policies, public institutions and organizations working with immigrants – is far from being clarified. Williams and Graham (2014) explain that modern migratory movements produced social transformations that are changing the conception of migration itself. The new technological developments make movements easier extending people possibilities beyond the physical edges of their countries (Williams & Graham, 2014). The recent flow reflects also a world marked by strong imbalances of power and one of the reasons pushing people to leave their home is the effort to escape from disadvantaged condition: poverty, armed conflicts, racism and intolerance, group discrimination, persecution, lack of democracy and violations of civil and political rights. Migrants such as refugees and all those that are “forced” to leave their birthplaces are vulnerable to all sorts of human rights violations (Williams & Graham, 2014). Following the Second World War, in 1950, in order to assist these particularly disadvantaged categories of migrants, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been founded (Reed, Ludwig & Braslow, 2016). On 28 July 1951, the Refugee Convention (RC) has been approved. Based on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it recognizes the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. Article 1A define who can be considered a refugee (Behrman, 2014):
[A refugee is a person who] owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country (UNHCR, 1951).
Hailbronner & Thym (2016) states that nowadays many asylum seekers are fleeing from indiscriminate violence or civil wars while others try to access to the asylum system for economic reasons. Migration flows are now characterized by a complexity of factors, mostly not considered by the 1951 RC making more problematic to discriminate between those avoiding direct persecution and those departing from economies destroyed by centuries of exploitation (Hailbronner & Thym, 2016). The European law tried to overcome this problem instituting a status of “subsidiary protection”, a different typology of international protection for those seeking asylum without the requirements of pure refugees (Hailbronner & Thym, 2016)..
It is important to refer to two terms referring to two intrinsically connected phenomena: voluntary migration (usually economically motivated) and forced migration (FMO, 2012). These categories are not sharply divided by clear boundaries, but rather by dim ones (Reed, Ludwig & Braslow, 2016), and recently the two phenomena are gradually fusing into each other. This conceptual overlap determines a space of uncertainty to both theoretical and political level of analysis (Reed, Ludwig & Braslow, 2016; see also Koser & Martin 2011). The term “Forced migration”, generally denote the directly coerced movement of people from their home region but, as UNHCR states in its website , it is not a concept with legal validity. Furthermore, even what is believed to be a voluntary migration could be the consequence of indirect coercion when structural inequalities, between poor and rich countries, “force” some groups to abandon their homelands (Zetter, 2007).
According to Alden Speare (1974), migration should be considered “forced” exclusively when a person is physically transported from a place to another without any chance to escape, suggesting that every form of migration contains an element of voluntariness. However, this statement is easily questionable arguing that in most cases the movements are connected to unbalanced social structures and people have any power to counteract. One of the differences between voluntary and forced migration is the presence or absence of direct violence causing the displacement of individuals and populations. This distinction, commonly related with the definition of a refugee, tends to put emphasis on a narrow conception of violence. However, if we consider Galtung’s definition, the element of violence can further obfuscate the boundaries between the two categories of migration. For Galtung (1969), in fact, violence exists in every situation where “human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations” (p.168). Hence, violence is basically a violation to human needs of survival, welfare, identity and freedom (Galtung, 1996) and it can be exerted structurally, directly and culturally. If we accept this broader conception of violence almost every form of migration is, even with different grades, “forced”, reversing Speare’s definition. Recently, the concept of forced migration has been extended to include a larger range of push factors, resulting in the production of countless labels (Reed, Ludwig & Braslow, 2016). It is possible to distinguish between at least four different forms of forced migration that sometimes can be combined between them (FMO 2012): conflict-inducted displacement; environmental- or disaster-induced displacement; development-induced displacement; human trafficking. To these typologies of forced migration, it could be added the “population transfer”, a type of forced migration caused by a clear project to move undesirable large groups of people, for example as an attempt of “ethnic cleansing” (see the Palestinian case: Pappè, 2007; Reed, Ludwig & Braslow, 2016).
As stated by Richmond (1988),the actual situation is so intricate that drawing clear distinctions between economic and forced migration is almost impossible. However, it is important to stress the idea that, while every refugee is a forced migrant, not every forced migrant is a refugee. As Zetter (2007) suggest, the term “refugee” is now used to label almost every forced migrant: “environmental refugees”, “tsunami refugees” and “development refugees” are just a few examples of this trend (Zetter, 2007). From a sociological perspective (Stepputat & Nyberg Sorensen, 2014; see also Wood 1985), labelling can be seen as: (i) an instrumental process used to construct the world in convenient images (Zetter, 2007) that, reflecting specific power relations, affect identity formation and individuals’ life (Zetter 2007; Polzer 2008); and (ii) a device of state performance handled by bureaucracies (Stepputat & Nyberg Sorensen, 2014). As Polzer (2008) argues, grouping individuals through categories is a basic process to give order to the social world and act within it. Although the literature has highlighted how individuals can resist and move from one label to another, the labelling process has the force to objectify people, detach them from their individual stories, converting them “into standardized ‘cases’, and ‘re-linking’ them to the institutions that administer the labelling and the actions that depend on this process” (Stepputat & Nyberg Sorensen, 2014; p.89). These authors suggest that the modern transformation of refugee label is motivated by governments’ effort of protecting the north-south status quo. Consequently, the label become politicized “by the process of bureaucratic fractioning which reproduces itself in populist and largely pejorative labels” and “by legitimizing and presenting a wider political discourse of resistance to refugees and migrants as merely an apolitical set of bureaucratic categories” (Zetter, 2007; p.174). Zetter’s theory (2007) about bureaucratical labelling, argue that the nature of the label “refugee” reflects a pattern of forced migration that is “fractioned” by institutions to manage the modern migration flows.
The epistemological starting point of this work, founded in socio-constructionism, assumes that people create their understanding of the world discursively and language shape meanings and actions (Gergen 1985). The recent migratory flows in Europe have been defined as a “refugee crisis” where governments and institutions, having power to design and apply immigration policies, turn discourses into political actions. Media, groups of interests and world leaders have constantly referred to this situation as a “crisis”, contributing to the shaping and sharing of this idea (Smith, 2016). Individuals have changed their perception about the arrival of refugees in Europe, perceived as a threat to security and national cultures, intensifying the competition within a weak EU labour market (Hatton, 2016a). According to Gjerde (2004), societies are structured upon a set of discourses sited in public domains or institutions (i.e. science, religion, education, governments and the media). The ontological instability of these discourses consents the strongest groups to promote their own meanings and representations to pursue their political agenda (Gjerde, 2004). This influence can be used to protect social divisions and status quo through political activity. As Louis Althusser (1970, 2004; see also Smith, 2016) has argued, ideas and concepts within capitalist societies are constructed by joint intervention of governments and non-governmental organizations. These organizations, contribute to the construction of social discourses, in this case concerning the “refugee/immigration crisis”, driving the construction of policies and social representations and labels (Smith, 2016). Hereafter, as Smith (2016) proposes, it is possible to argue that the solutions offered to migrants and refugees and the way they have been represented and treated in the EU, can be connected to the construction of a “refugee crisis” discourse.
1.2. The “refugee crisis” in Europe
Throughout the last 10 years, the growing migration flows issue have become increasingly salient within the political agendas of governments and in public discourse of most Western European countries. The wave of migrants and refugees increased gradually, due to events such civil wars in Africa and Syria, or the fight against IS and terrorism (Mulack, 2016). Pictures and videos of people walking in post-apocalyptic landscapes, overcrowded ships transporting hundreds of individuals, dead bodies lying on the shores of Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy have been used by political parties to ignite racism or fears, or to seek support in attempting to alleviate cruelty or end the exodus (Achilli, 2016). Constant and Zimmermann (2016), suggest that these events triggered a series of consequences compromising European Union’s agreements: closing of borders, inhuman treatment in detention camps, Brexit, resentment and opposition. The European Commission called the recent migration movement to the EU the “largest global humanitarian crisis” of our time (ECHO 2015, 1; cit. in Holmes & Castaneda, 2016) and Angela Merkel (the German chancellor) asserted that “the contemporary crisis will define this decade” (UK Guardian, August 15, 2015 ; cit. in Holmes & Castaneda 2016) and in 2015 called for mutual help by all European countries proposing a quota system which would see refugees fairly distributed among all 28 EU states. (UK Guardian, September 2, 2015 ). In 2016, Germany has changed its position and moved on to harden its asylum policies, following Finland and Sweden’s plan to expel 80,000 immigrants (UK Guardian, January 28, 2016 ).
This is considered the largest refugee crisis of modern times, with more than 4 million Syrians leaving their country and 6 million of internally displaced persons (IDPs). From the beginning of the Syria’s civil war in 2011, a number of people between 450,000 and 700,000 have requested protection in Europe (Achilli, 2016; Holmes & Castaneda, 2016; UNCHR, 2015). Only in 2015, as Holmes and Castaneda (2016) point out, more than 500,000 migrants from Africa have landed on Mediterranean’s states and numbers are expected to grow. The attention of the media remains focused on the European situation, while this crisis is triggering a chain reaction in those countries adjoining Syria, already hosting around 4.5 million refugees (Mulack, 2016): Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and Jordan are responding by periodically closing borders or introducing tougher policies towards refugees limiting their rights to access to employment, health and educational services and opportunities in general (Achilli, 2016; Al-Qdah & Lacroix, 2011). As Holmes and Castaneda (2016) state, the incoming flows to Europe are going to increase and, according to some estimations, over 1 million more migrants are yet to reach European countries. While a concrete strategy to solve this situation seems far from being reached, the reaction from European Union States, as argued by Zizek (2016), is taking the form of a double-sided narrative dilemma expressing two polarized positions: the left liberals side suggest that we should help refugees as much as possible; the anti-immigration populist side propose to close the borders and protect our way of life (Zizek, 2016). According to Zizek, both suggestions are not feasible and, if European states will continue to consider and treat refugees as objects of humanitarian help the situation will get worse quickly in both refugees’ homelands and Europe (Zizek, 2016).
1.3. The Common European Asylum System
One of the biggest debates amongst European governments revived by the arrivals of refugees, is around the problem of “burden-sharing” (Hatton, 2016c). The origin of the term is to be found inside the 1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention, which states that granting asylum may place a load of responsibilities (burdens) on certain countries, suggesting that, for a good management of the situation, international co-operation should be the answer (Reed, Ludwig & Braslow, 2016). While academic and political debate focused mainly on the financial and physical features of the burden sharing (Betts, 2010; Hatton 2016c; Reed, Ludwig & Braslow, 2016; Thielemann, 2003; Zetter, 2007), the uneven distribution of responsibilities for the reception and hospitality of migrants raises concerns about the increasing cultural diversity and the integration of migrant communities within the European states (Bauböck & Scholten, 2016). Some shortages within the current Common European Asylum System (CEAS) have stimulated the debate. The CEAS, encouraging migrants’ odyssey to reach Europe and seek for protection, caused an irregular distribution of asylum applications across EU Countries (see Hatton, 2016b, 2016c; Constant & Zimmermann, 2016). A strong weakness of both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the CEAS is one of their sustaining concepts that postulate that refugee protection should be a provisional status though it has often become permanent (Hilpold, 2017).
Shared by almost every country in the world, the 1951 Refugee Convention (RC) and the 1967 Protocol, state that everybody has the right to seek for asylum and protection in another country (Constant & Zimmermann, 2016). Moreover, outlining the rights of refugees and displaced people, these agreements set the responsibilities that host countries must entail to protect them (Hatton, 2016b). The claims for protection must be judged individually and asylum applicants must not be sent back where their basic rights would be threatened: this point is called the “non-refoulement” principle (Article 33) (Constant & Zimmermann, 2016). Moreover, illegal access into a state should not impact on the outcome of an asylum claim so there is no limit to the number of individuals that a destination country can receive (Hatton, 2016c).
These treaties have favoured an irregular distribution of asylum applications and an overload of arrivals to some countries (Constant & Zimmermann, 2016). These asymmetries are determined by various pull factors: the presence of fellow communities of refugees in the territory; cultural and linguistic affinity; the easiness of access for geographic reasons; the presence of advantageous rules for admission; the economic attractiveness of specific countries (Neumayer 2004; Hatton, 2016c; Rossi & Vitali, 2014). As highlighted by Hatton (2016c), the RC grants a great freedom to national governments to apply immigration policies that may discourage asylum claimants, further worsening an imbalanced burden distribution.
At a European level, the CEAS ensure a certain degree of homogeneity among all member states concerning the rules and procedures for the management of asylum seekers. With the establishment of minimum reception standards, the EU wanted to reduce the effect of pull factors affecting those EU countries that had to cope with the mass arrival of asylum claimants and control the successive patterns of secondary migration (Sigona, 2005). The CEAS is currently divided into three main areas : The Asylum Procedures Directive, the Reception Conditions Directive and the Qualification Directive (EU, 2014). The first area disciplines the entire iter of the application for Asylum. The directive on Reception Condition concerns the access to reception services for asylum seekers. Finally, the Qualification directive establish a common ground for granting international protection and the common standards of living conditions for its beneficiaries: it assures the residence permits, travel documents, access to housing, food, employment, education, social welfare and healthcare in every Member State (EU, 2014). The CEAS also comprise the Dublin Regulation and the fingerprint database called EURODAC (EU, 2014). The Dublin Regulation affirms that the first Member Country in which the asylum-seeker enters is the responsible for the examination of asylum applications and should foster integration after an international protection has been granted (Rossi & Vitali, 2014). Moreover, it states that the residency permit applies only within the State that acknowledged the asylum claim: this should prevent the “asylum shopping” occurring when asylum-seekers, searching for advantageous reception conditions, move from one country to another (Rossi & Vitali, 2014).
Despite efforts and progress, the process of harmonization of policies and procedures is still in progress: as happens with the RC, there is an agreement at the general policy level, but large discrepancies between countries exists in relation to their implementation (Bordignon & Moriconi, 2017; Hatton, 2016c). As we have seen, the CEAS focuses and determines a sharing of general policies and practices only in relation to the “first reception ” conditions for asylum applicants and around matters of security and border control. However, it doesn’t provide any guideline concerning the integration of refugees within the new hosting countries. Currently integration policies are designed and implemented by national governments that are increasingly worried about migration flows. It is only within the Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy, adopted in 2004 and confirmed in 2014 by the Justice and Home Affairs Council , that the EU offers generic guidelines establishing the basics of EU initiatives in the field of migrants’ integration. Here, the expectations and responsibilities regarding what each EU states should provide for migrants and what migrants need to do to integrate are presented. Yet, all the hype around the care and the special treatment ensured to “forced migrants” seem to disappear after the grant of the refugee status or other form of protection. National legislation often does not distinguish between the specific situation of refugees and migrants and they are treated in the same way as if they were all voluntary/economic migrants causing problem to their settlement (Sigona, 2005).
1.3. Public opinion and immigration policies in time of crisis
The management of mass influx of people involves the joint participation of various actors from any level of the society, with heavy implications for national economic and political stability and cultural identity (Nash, Wong & Trlin, 2016). As stated by Abou-Chadi (2016), several studies over the past decades showed that immigration policies have gone through a process of liberalization following the impact of globalization and transnationalism (Sassen 2008; Soysal 1994), although they undervalue the presence of contrasting trends that can be observed within European States. The idea that globalization and transnationalism fostered a liberalization of immigration policies has been challenged by studies that considered the impact of internal political factors such as political parties and public opinion (Abou-Chadi, 2016; Howard, 2010).
During the economic crisis of the last decade the arrival of migrants has caused general discontent contributing to the rebirth of racism and intolerance (Hatton, 2016a) in many European countries. Furthermore new immigration policies have been introduced in UK, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Scandinavian Countries (Hatton, 2016a). Hatton (see 2016a, 2016b), offers a detailed overview of the general feeling that EU citizens have on migration, suggesting that this influences the work of national governments and the EU. Analyzing the results of the European Social Survey (ESS) from 2002 to 2014 in 18 European Countries, Hatton (2016a) reports a growth of anti-immigrant attitudes towards migrants from poor countries outside Europe. Another interesting data is about anti-refugee sentiment that, low in every country, diverge from general opinion towards immigrants from poor countries (Hatton, 2016b).
The salience of immigration as a policy issue can influence the attitudes towards immigrants: “Salience is important because of the link to policy. The preferences of voters for more or less immigration will not gain political traction unless salience is sufficiently high to make it a political priority” (Hatton, 2016b, p.17; see also Ford et al, 2015). Following the Syrian crisis, the results of 2015 Eurobarometer suggest that the salience of the immigration topic is increasing (Hatton, 2016b). The European Commission, concerning the Autumn 2016 Standard Eurobarometer , stated that immigration is still the most important issue in many EU Member States alongside issues of terrorism. At a national level, the main concerns are unemployment (31%) and immigration (26%). As Hatton argued (2016b), political debate is triggered especially when high salient topics are related to negative sentiments. His analysis of the Transatlantic Trends survey from 2009 to 2013, shows that feelings are strongly negative for what concern illegal immigration, a relevant data for asylum policy since many asylum seekers enters illegally in destination countries: illegal immigration worries are more than double compared to legal immigration and the highest fears were registered in the UK, Italy and Spain. This can be used to legitimate restrictive immigration policies. In fact, results from the 2015 Autumn Standard Eurobarometer suggest that nine out of ten Europeans have declared that additional measures to fight illegal immigration are strongly needed (89%, +4 % since spring 2015) and more than two-thirds of Europeans affirmed that these measures should be taken at EU level (68%, +2%).
In democratic settings, political likelihood is important for decision-makers and policies that ignore public opinion gain less approval. (Ford et al, 2015; Hatton, 2016b). The need to comfort electorate about the control of migration flows, in conjunction with various internal pressures, have driven European countries’ policy makers towards the implementation of stricter immigration policies (Ford et al, 2015; Stewart & Mulvey, 2014). As Afonso (2013) suggests, immigration policies can be conceived as a set of rules that, entailing consequences for various socio-economic groups, represent a challenging field for political actors in their effort to promote a satisfying program for followers and citizens. The design and application of these policies is guided by cultural values and economic interests, has different implications for different economic groups and is strongly “influenced by the power balance between different socio-economic interests” (Afonso, 2013: p. 22; see also Freeman 1995; Tichenor 2002). For Lehman et al (2016), the wide and divisive field of immigration policies should be considered as a major social and political issue. The policies concerning the treatment of migrants and refugees are strictly related to the economic development of the states, intensified by the growing social issue of immigrant communities and their integration that can potentially contribute to the rise of social conflicts and marginalization (Esses, Medianu & Lawson, 2013; Lehman, Annisette & Agyemang, 2016). As Ambrosini and Van der Leun (2015) point out, some states are trying to regulate this widespread phenomenon and many of them are putting restrictions on migratory flows either voluntary or forced. During the last years, many European governments have designed new policy measures to protect the labour market, cutting publicly funded social provisions and putting in place tighter mechanisms to expel undesired subjects and control selectively the increasing movements of people (Leerkes, Engbersen, & Van der Leun, 2012). Some major concerns, as discussed by Esses et al (2013), are related to: (a)the estimation of costs and benefits of allowing to migrants access the country and aspire to the residential or citizenship status; (b) the responsibilities about assistance that any host nations must provide to refugees and asylum; (c) the quota of immigrants that should be accepted each year; (d) the evaluation of the potential threats that immigrants and refugees entail; and (e) whether asylum seekers are legitimately in need of protection (Esses, Medianu & Lawson, 2013).
These changes on policies have contributed to the construction of asylum as a main issue for politics and security and the pursuit of international protection is considered the preferential route to enter the “Fortress Europe” (Sales, 2002). Therefore, increasingly concerned about the maintenance of stability and security within national borders, many governments across Europe are employing restrictive policies and asylum regimes to stop illegal immigration, unmask fake applicants and assign the refugee status only to those who really deserve it (Stewart & Mulvey, 2014). As Zatter (2007) argues, the grant of the refugee label has slowly taken the form a “price”. Strongly worried about the international protection claimants, refugees and migrants have been considered by governments as undesirable and unreliable foreigners and a potential threat for social order, destabilizing national and cultural borders as well (Finney & Robinson 2008; Sales, 2002; Stewart & Mulvey, 2014). Alongside these worries, as suggested by Kymlicka (2003), states are keen to promote social cohesion of the different communities within the states, and learning to live with diversity demand a revaluation of concepts such as citizenship and nationhood and a new definition of what is meant by the term “us” (Sigona, 2005a).
A good example of this trend is that of the UK Government that in the last years introduced various reforms related to immigration and citizenship (see Ford et al, 2015; Stewart & Mulvey, 2014). Such policies, aiming to turn “outsiders” into “insiders” and foster social cohesion, represent migrants and refugees as problematic, defective and in need of aid (McPherson, 2010 Rivedere). Measures like those implemented by the UK government, that have reformed citizenship policy on the likes of the Canadian model, fit perfectly into a project of a revaluation of nationhood in line with the effort of many states to sustain stronger feelings of solidarity and communal values among citizens (Kymlicka, 2003; Stewart & Mulvey, 2014). Consequently, dominant national values define who can be considered a good or a bad migrant and “forms of belonging, such as citizenship, are shaped in relation to these norms.” (McPherson, 2010; p.2); citizenship tests, language education classes and oaths are tools to impart national values and correct problematic migrant subjectivities: “Here, the policy solution frames the policy problem” (McPherson, 2010: p.1; Marston, 2004). Many critics have been moved against these policies; as Kymlicka pointed out (2003), some accused governments of abandoning their commitment towards multiculturalism (see Cantle 2005; McGhee 2008; Stewart & Mulvey, 2014), replacing it with a form of integrationism that echoes a covert assimilationism (McPherson, 2010). Others have criticized the propensity to treat the “refugee crisis” and the arrivals of voluntary and economic migrants simplistically, as if they were the same thing although they represent different phenomena, with dissimilar socio-economic dynamics and social and cultural problems to be addressed (UK Guardian, September 2, 2015 ).
While the distinction between various groups of migrants seem to slowly disappear, refugees remain a distinctive group; they have specific political rights, cannot return to their country of origin and have lost the permanent legal status (Stewart & Mulvey, 2014;). As Sigona (2005) states, three factors discriminate economic and forced migrants for what concern integration: (i) economic migrants normally have a project and resources to support settlement, while refugees fled from their country without planning the travel, often leaving behind traumatic experiences (Kulhman, 1991); (ii) a different legal and institutional regime for the two groups; (iii) the length of the asylum procedure can influence refugees’ expectations about settlement causing psychological and health problems (on this topic see Diaconu, Racovita-Szilagyi, & Bryan, 2016 and George, 2012).
But why is so important for states to reinforce feelings of nationhood? For Kymlicka (1995), these feelings bond together the members of the democratic governance in which decisions will be taken. Nationhood is the key to sustain the basic principles of every liberal democracy and save the pluralism of views, connecting its members under a shared national spirit (Kimlicka, 2015). This feeling of nationhood help to secure the solidarity and provides the basis for an ethic of social membership, a sense of community membership that, fostering mutual obligation between members of a shared society, involves the commitment to the creation and maintenance of strong and just institutions such as a redistributive welfare state (Bauböck & Scholten 2016; Kimlicka, 2015). For Canovan, nationhood’s power can be explained through the metaphor of a battery: an energy accumulator for politics that, depending on the amount of charge stored, can be adopted to supply energy to different political projects that can be either progressive or regressive (Canovan, 1996; Kimlicka, 2015). The more the nationhood battery is charged, the more energy can be used to fuel regressive purposes of immigrants’ exclusion (Kimlicka, 2015). But while Kimclika is positive about the progressive potential of nationhood, the image of a highly-charged battery seems to well summarize the regression of the actual political situation. The immigration policies concerning matters of citizenship and nationhood are strictly connected to the problem of allowing immigrants to access the welfare state services and stimulating the debate around the expansion of civil rights for foreigners once arrived in the country (Borevi et al, 2017). As affirmed by Kimlicka (2015), the extension of justice and civil rights to newcomers can be perceived as a threat for the less-wealthy members of the native working class. The aspect of diversity, both cultural and ethnic that large-scale immigration brings, rather than being considered a resource, can be perceived as an obstacle for the maintenance of those feelings of belonging and solidarity that strong welfare states require (Kimlicka, 2015; Bauböck & Scholten 2016).
1.4. The integration of migrants
But what is meant with the term integration? Castles et al, suggest that “There is no single, generally accepted definition, theory or model of immigrant and refugee integration. The concept continues to be controversial and hotly debated” (2001: p. 12; cit in Ager & Strang, 2008). As Joppke argued (2007), the problem of Integration started to become relevant in Europe when, after the post-World War II migrations, a feeling that the policies implemented to accommodate displaced Europeans were a failure even in those countries, such as Netherland and France, that were historically considered forerunners of immigrants’ integration. In the aftermath of 11/9 and other incidents associated with specific ethnic groups, McPherson (2010) noticed that the salience of the topic of integration has grown constantly and western countries have shown increasing concerns about terrorism and radicalization (on this topic, see Moghaddam, 2009). The intensification of the income flows of migrants to Europe registered in the last decades represents, according to Sigona (2005), the “driving force behind the contemporary political and policy-making discourse at both EU and member state levels” (p.117) and, referring to the work of Zetter (2005), the author argued how three shared predispositions are operating internationally:
• European states’ agenda convergence about restrictionism underpins a shared eeling of chauvinism;
• the convergence on refugees and asylum policy contrast with a divergence on national interests;
• the discussion at the policy level reflects a degradation of the categorical boundaries between refugees and migrants in general.
These complex and opposing dynamics, characterizing the debate around refugees and migrants’ integration, are linked to a general agreement about the lack of a univocal definition of integration (Sigona, 2005). As Joppke states (2007), the polarization between multiculturalist and assimilationist models is an enduring feature of the academic literature on the topic (see also Ambrosini & Boccagni, 2015; Brubaker 2001; Goodman, 2010). These two models can be positioned at the opposite poles of an ideal continuum:
• The assimilationist paradigm considers integration as a harmonious process of cultural absorption of a group into another taking place at an intergenerational level (Carbone, 2007; SPRAR 2010). The most classical model is the French one, that follows a nation-oriented concept of equality deriving from a universalistic, and rather ethnocentric, epistemological perspective (Noviello, 2010; Rossi, 2011). This approach suggest that all differences can be brought back to a single and universal human structure; the meeting with the other is resolved by conforming progressively to the dominant cultural model, where values and norms of migrants are replaced by the values and beliefs of the hosting society (Ambrosini, 2008).
• The multicultural model is on the opposite pole of the continuum. To overcome the normative character of assimilationism, the multicultural paradigm proposes an acceptance of pluralism that “hypostasize differences, categorizing individuals within predetermined ethnic or cultural categories” causing self-segregation (Carbone, 2007: p.17; see also Colombo & Semi, 2007). Multiculturalism has been accused of encouraging “unhealthy” ethnic groups to undertake terrorism, anti-social and criminal behaviours (McPherson, 2010). Therefore, a widespread mistrust towards the possibility of migrants’ integration determined the adoption of alternative terms such as “inclusion” and “incorporation” shifting the responsibility for the success of integration to the openness of the hosting society (Carbone, 2007).
These two approaches are based on a notion of integration conceived as a one-way process: for assimilationism the migrant is pushed to become part of the hosting society, while for multiculturalism is the host society that is committed to promote migrants’ integration. Actually, the attempt is to move beyond a “one-way adaptation process” toward a reciprocal process of a “two-way encounter” between migrants and the host communities. The Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the EU, states that: “Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States ”. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) has stated that mutual integration is more fruitful: migrants receive the tools to adapt to the host society that should provide training, home, health and work while promoting cultural diversity so migrants can become a constituent part of the society itself. The integration process is conceived as a long-term operation that permit migrant and local communities to live in harmony (SPRAR, 2010).
As highlighted earlier, the growth of migrant groups, the fear of terrorism and violence, commonly considered a consequence of multiculturalism convinced Western Countries to promote policies of “integrationism”, a middle way between assimilationism and multiculturalism (Jakubowicz, 2008; Ager and Strang, 2008; McPherson, 2010). According to McPherson (2010), integrationism is commonly used as a synonym of successful settlement, that recognizes the benefits of cultural differences (Lopez, 2000) and refugees and migrants’ rights (O’Neill, 2001) favouring a “two-way” approach (Ager & Strang, 2008). However, the author suggests that this passage from multiculturalism to integrationism, reflects a shared belief according to which the best way to promote social cohesion is that foreigners conform to a “normative, universal and static” view of the national citizen subject (McPherson, 2010: p. 12). Basically, the idea behind this belief is that “they” should become more like “us”, but in a reciprocal exchange with the hosting society. This view of integrationism can be slightly placed towards the assimilation extreme and some author termed it “neo-assimlationism” (Ambrosini & Boccagni, 2015; Carboni, 2007).
Signa (2005) argued that integration cannot be reduced to a two-way process between host societies and migrants since it involves various actors having different motivations. This process involves state policies, laws, local and societal dispositions influenced by any actor at any level (Sigona, 2005b). Moreover, despite the general definition advised by EU institutions, there is no “integration” between the various definition and views of integration process among EU States, a problem that could direct to a “disintegration” of policies and practices: national cultural and historical differences impact on the idea of integration and on the practices and policies that any EU member state can implement (Bordignon & Moriconi, 2017). For example (see Bordignon & Moriconi, 2017; SPRAR, 2010):
• in Norway asylum seekers are offered with 250 hours of language lessons when they are still in the first reception centres to reduce the time to find the first occupation;
• in Denmark refugees are interviewed to define a personal integration plan. If the commitment to pursue this plan is rejected the refugee goes to sanctions. They are introduced into employment via language training, familiarization to workplaces and an initial sponsored employment that can be integrated with further skills and language training;
• Swedish Immigrants are surveyed to create a personal profile including individual characteristics, education levels and work experience that will be matched with local communities’ needs;
• Germany created a scheme to assess the skills of asylum seekers starting from their declared work history. Integration is not defined by any specific law. Ministry of the Interior’s website has an expression that suggest that it is a two-way process. Immigrants should have the chance to participate in many areas of society in a fully and egalitarian way, as far as possible. They are obliged to learn German, to know the German constitution and laws respecting them both.
• France does not have an official definition of integration. Once arrived, refugees sign an integration contract that defines immigrant and government’s reciprocal expectations. Whether it is a two-way process is deductible within this contract. Expectations can be related to the type of individual support required by the plan. This support usually involves language learning, social autonomy, and cultural awareness.
• England has no legal definition of integration. The document titled “Our shared future ” defines integration as “the process that ensures new residents and existing residents adapt to one another” (p.38). Migrants are expected to demonstrate knowledge about English language and life in the UK before their settlement is approved. This can be done through an ESOL course or taking the ‘Life in the UK’ test (Voicu, 2009).
1.4. The Italian case
The situation is even more intricate in Mediterranean European countries where, due to specificity regarding historical and cultural traditions, there is also a strong internal “de-integration” of policies for what concern the support to settlement of migrants and refugees (Bordignon & Moriconi, 2017). Italy for example, compared to other European nations has always been marked by outbound flows of emigration (Noviello, 2010; SPRAR, 2010). It slowly became a country of immigration during the 70s, and in the ‘80s, the economic crisis and the restrictions imposed by other European countries on legal and illegal migration, determined a growth of immigration flows (Noviello, 2010). Italian government, had to face this situation without a suitable political and social project. Nowadays, while facing mass arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa, the Italian case is characterized by a disjointed political framework, a continuous and incomplete elaboration of the integration policies and the delegation of the refugees management to local authorities, third sector organizations and religious institutions (SPRAR, 2010). This model is defined “molecular integration”, where the implementation of integration policies is left to local communities which are free to develop integration projects by themselves with the supervision of the SPRAR (Bordignon & Moriconi, 2017).
The SPRAR is the System for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees (Articles 9-14 Italian Legislative Decree 142/2015) established in 2002 by LD 189/2002. It consists of a publicly funded network of local authorities and NGOs working along organizations from the third sector present in the territory. The activities monitored by the Central Service of the SPRAR are controlled by the Ministry of Interior and supported by local Prefectures concerning the structures based in their jurisdiction. This network, born from an action of advocacy from the civil society that institutionalized the need of integration services of migrants, is composed by small reception structures that, by accessing the National Fund for Asylum Policies and Services (FNPSA), carry out integrated reception projects offering accommodation assistance and integration services to beneficiaries of international protection, refugees and holders of subsidiary or humanitarian protection. Their activities comprise: medical and psychological assistance, financial allowances, social guidance, legal support, education and linguistic support in order to facilitate the integration process. The task of every SPRAR project is to take charge of immigrants and refugees for a period of six months and provide the tools to be autonomous and integrate within the local communities (SPRAR, 2016).
In absence of a well-defined and coordinated national strategy, third sector organizations, such as NGOs and religious groups, have historically played a proactive role supporting migrants and refugees throughout their resettlement process (Sigona, 2005b). Civil society organizations have generally responded welcoming, supporting and fulfilling the needs of the migrant population (e.g. providing medical care or psychological support) and balancing immigration policy system’s faults (Biondi Dal Monte & Vrenna, 2013). The work of third sector organizations in Italy, has been formally recognized through the Legislative Decree no. 286 of 1998, which foresees their involvement in various areas related to the management of migratory flows, especially for what concern education, access to housing and social integration (Biondi Dal Monte & Vrenna, 2013).
2. Aims, objectives and research questions.
What my analysis proposes so far, is that the integration of migrants is the last part of a complex system of national and international institutions in which labelling constraint (Zetter, 2007), fear and intolerance of public opinion (Hatton, 2016) and the stricter immigration policies at a national level frame refugees as problematic, unreliable, in need of control and assistance (McPherson, 2010). These factors influence the work of those organizations providing support to migrants and refugees during their settlement in the host countries, affecting the outcomes of the entire integration process and the lived experiences of migrants. The aim of this research is to shed some light on the work of the Refugees reception/integration centres and their relationship with migrants/refugees they work with, to better understand what kind of integration they promote. The research objectives are: (a) review literature and offer a synthesis of the current knowledge about the topic of integration of migrants; (b) investigate perceptions and discourses about migrants within SPRAR Refugee Reception Centres; (c) compare the discourses and the practices of two different SPRAR Refugee Reception Centres; (d) identify the weakness of these centres to improve the quality of SPRAR Refugee Reception Centres activities.
By exploring the link between how the organizations talk about integration (discourse level) of migrants and refugees and how they act upon it (practice level), the research addresses the following research questions:
• Which discourses about the integration of migrants/refugees, are constructed within the organizations?
• Which practices are implemented by the organizations to foster the settlement of the migrants/refugees?
• To what extent national culture and institutions influence the discourses about integration and the activities carried out within the Refugees reception centres?
The focus of the study will be on the Italian context. Here, in 2015, the arrival of migrants reached its maximum peak with 83,245 requests for asylum (7% of the total European) and the number of new permits for asylum and humanitarian protection has increased considerably, from 3.7% in 2007 to 28.2%. During the same period, the number of work permits granted has reduced significantly from 56.1% to 9.1%. Over the last two years, travels for asylum and humanitarian reasons (mainly from Africa) have assumed a dimension never reached in the last nine years, ranging from 9,971 people in 2007 to 67,271 in 2015 . This growing numbers have raised concerns about the integration of migrants and refugees in the Italian territory. As stated earlier, in Italy the integration of migrants is carried out by the SPRAR system, tackling a growth in the number of reception places that increased exponentially in the last six years. From 430 decentralized projects registered in May 2015, the SPRAR 2016 annual report now records 652 projects (SPRAR, 2016). The numbers are expected to grow in the coming years, on the 30th of June, 2017, the Minister of Interior has provided funds to 34 local communities for the opening of new reception centres within the SPRAR network . The plan is to open a SPRAR centre in every municipality. The Italian approach is emerging in Europe, overcoming the divergence between indiscriminate reception and intolerant opposition to migrants, pushing local communities to a commitment towards hospitality. However, its particular genesis, from civil society activism to government control, led to an institutionalization of the integration of migrants that seems to take the form of a “forced integration”.
To address my research questions and understand critically the work of the organizations supporting immigrants and refugees’ integration, I found useful to refer to a critical framework that takes inspiration from forms of knowledge alternative to the Western tradition: The Postcolonial Studies. The term Postcolonial studies refers to an interdisciplinary theoretical approach that studies the inheritances of colonization through culture, literature, identity, and consciousness; the forms of knowledge creation, control and distribution; the power relations underpinning the binary representations of colonizer and colonized; the enduring consequence of the colonialism affecting people’s lives (Moane & Sonn, 2014; Prasad, 2003). As Prasad (2015) states, “postcolonialism may be understood as a theoretical and ethico-political response to the past and the continuing present of modern Western colonialism/imperialism and anticolonial resistance” (p.163). On the same fashion, Young (2012) states that postcolonialism goes beyond the mere theoretical contribution: as a “wide-ranging political project” wants to “reconstruct Western knowledge formations, reorient ethical norms, turn the power structures of the world upside down, refashion the world from below” (p.9). Various scholars, declared the death of postcolonial studies (see Young, 2012). However, a new movement arising from countries not canonically considered imperial or colonial powers, such as Germany, Switzerland and Italy, is showing that the discipline is still alive and kicking (Lombardi-Diop & Romeo, 2014). As Lombardi-Diop and Romeo (2014) argue, the postcolonial may be dead in Great Britain and India but it is undoubtedly alive in Italy, where the consequences of the fall of the European Empire in the 50’s and 60’s
Said’s (1978) notion of “Orientalism” refers to the concept, arose during European Enlightenment, according to which Eastern World was inherently primitive and needed to be saved and modernized by Western World (Young, 2001; Prasad, 2003). Orientalism identify the process of construction of the Eastern World, made by European thinkers, reifying a binaristic social structure constituted by the Orient and the Occident (Ashcroft, Griffiths & Tiffin, 2000; Prasad, 2003). As a critical approach, starting from the works of non-western authors such as Fanon, Said and Memmi just to name a few, it presents, explains, and illustrates the ideology and practices of Neo-colonialism (Seremani & Clegg, 2016). The word Neo-colonialism, introduced by Nkrumah (1965), identifies the modern form of Western colonialism (Ashcroft, Griffiths & Tiffin, 2000). As stated by Prasad (2003), various academics (see Loomba, 1998; Young, 2001) argued that modern Western colonialism produced the economic imbalances that promoted the development of Modern capitalism (Loomba, 1998), and attempt to conquer colonies’ mind establishing Western hegemony culturally, ideologically and psychologically (Prasad, 2003; Fanon, 1967). Assuming that colonialism never actually ended but have just changed its methods, the intention of postcolonial studies is to expose and subvert this long-lasting relationship of domination between Western and non-Western World (Prasad, 2003; Young, 2001; Seremani & Clegg, 2016).
The concept of marginalization, an extremely salient issue for migrant communities (see McPherson, 2010), provides us with a good example of the aims of this approach. As Ashcroft et. al (2000) explain, the concept of marginality refers to the verb “marginalization”. Being on the margins means staying on the periphery of a centre, that should represent an “ideal” situation. According to the binary structure, typical of Eurocentric and Colonialist discourses, power lies in the centre and those occupying the marginal positions will have limited access to power, participation to knowledge production and hence resistance. What scholars of postcolonialism seek to do is not to deconstruct this binary structure but promote a form of resistance aimed at replacing the centre with alternative structures and forms of knowledge (Ashcroft, Griffiths & Tiffin, 2000). Accordingly, the contemporary research program of postcolonialism aims to dismantle the status quo founded in colonialism but, as Seremani and Clegg (2016) critically argued, post-colonialist theory is biased by the same power relationships that they contest and much of its work is produced within the western context for the sole use of western academics (Clegg et. al, 2006; Said, 1978). If the aim is to challenge the domination, a good idea could be the construction of a space for the emergence of concepts and theories starting directly from those groups that have been silenced by a long history of subjugation (Seremani & Clegg, 2016). One way to interrupt this silence is, as proposed by Foucault (1980) and Spivak (1988), to listen to the marginal knowledges (McPherson, 2010). An alternative to Said’s Orientalism, founded on a binary epistemology that separate colonizers and colonized, can be achieved thourgh Bhabha’s work (1994) that, starting from a hybrid epistemology, take into consideration the creative effect of a synthesis between the opposites of the colonizers and the colonized (Frenkel & Shenhav, 2006). For this reason, aware of the limitats of this approach and my personal limitations as a white western student, I decided to follow a consolidated tradition within critical enquiry, introducing in my research a series of interviews with refugees and migrants trying to give back voice to the marginalized and less represented groups (Lehman, Annisette & Agyemang, 2016) and capture their understanding and acting upon their political and practical interests (Alvesson & Deetz, 1999). To date, most of my ideas started from those interviews.
During the first phase of my fieldwork I realized the importance given to the learning of the host country’s language by migrants and refugees, seen as a necessary condition for a proper communication with the organization’s members, to enter the labour market and establish social bonds with the local communities. A confirmation of this aspect also comes from literature showing that good mastery of the language spoken by the host community is a central feature of the integration process (Ager & Strang, 2008). Within the UK context, as suggested by Ager & Strang (2008), the lack of English knowledge is considered an obstacle to integration both economically and socially speaking, compromising the chances of a full participation to the public life (Home Office 2006). In addition, the short duration of English courses is seen as an obstacle to language acquisition, one of the most critical aspect to a successful settlement (Sargeant et al. 1999).
Accordingly, within the theoretical framework of integration proposed by Ager & Strang (2008), based on a ‘two-way’ understanding of integration, learning the new language is one of the most important steps for a good integration. Conversely, what many post-colonialist scholars, such Fanon (1967) and wa Thiong’o (1986) argued, is that language is a strong tool for knowledge-transfer, used to convey cultural and historical meanings, replacing native language with the dominant and weakening those forms of indigenous knowledge carried out by migrants and refugees (Seremani & Clegg, 2016). These authors’ contributions suggest that the imposition of the dominant language can be used by the dominant groups as a tool to transmit cultures, values, knowledge, and, hence, control the minds of the subaltern (Seremani & Clegg, 2016; wa Thiong’o, 1986).
As suggested by Jack (2015), post-colonialist studies provide a set of critical instruments and a consistent body of work for organization scholar for two important reasons. The first is that the various manifestations Eurocentrism, Imperialism and Neo-colonialism are historical and cultural phenomena that influence the lived experiences of people living without things that many of us take for granted (Young, 2012). In modern world, as Young (2012) reminds us, poverty, inequality, exploitation and oppression based on ethnicity still exists and must be challenged. The second is that modern societies, shaped by the historical-cultural precipitations of colonialism affecting knowledge production and academic research, can be enriched by ideas arising from the colonial encounter (Jack, 2015). The aim of this approach is to reconfigure both the practical and theoretical basis of organizational research and the socio-economic and cultural realities it studies (Jack, 2015). Postcolonialism opens new perspective to the organizational theory “for denaturalizating, provincializing and critiquing organizational thought” (Jack, 2015: p. 152; see also Prasad, 2003). The idea behind this research is that the notion of a two-way integration process, that some authors addressed as neo-assimilationism (Ambrosini & Boccagni, 2015; Brubaker 2001), the discourses about integration and the practices carried out by Italian reception centers could be influenced by an obsolete historical-cultural tradition imbued with Eurocentrism, Orientalism and Nationalism.
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