Integration of migrants has been a much-contested concept that has received vigorous political and academic interest (Korkut et. al. ed, 2013; Schinkel, 2018). Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic is prone to pose further challenges to the relationship between the member of the host society and newcomers. The societal situation at the face of the pandemic itself requires much compassion, solidarity and responsibility to protect each other and public welfare. This proposes new challenges not only to established norms and relationships within our societies but also to the reception of newcomers in host societies. In this policy brief we are foregrounding the importance of compassion for and intimacy with the newcomer and “the other” to maintain social inclusion amidst crises. We then reconceptualise the term “integration” in order to mitigate the challenges that the Covid-19 crisis may also pose to solidarity with “the other” in our societies. In this respect, this policy brief reflects on the importance of intimacy between migrants as newcomers and their hosts in order to generate inclusive societies.
We propose a criticism against the established integration policy mechanisms in Scotland and the rest of the UK, which promotes integration almost akin to a box ticking exercise. The wider literature on migration (c.f. Meissner, 2019; Penninx, 2019) as well as policy documents embrace all aspects of the integration, including employment, housing, language, education and social, and define them as processes of a migrant’s journey from arrival to gaining residency and finally citizenship. We recognise that all these processes play an important role for migrants as newcomers while they fulfil themselves as members of their respective new societies. However, there is a need to foreground social integration among these processes, considering its importance for the newcomers and their hosts to cultivate intimacies with each other so that they can develop common narratives that would define the future of their respective communities in a future society. Yet, the social aspect of integration remains the most blurred in the integration process of newcomers.
In order to understand the social aspect of immigrant experiences as also discussed in the UK country report on integration (Atto et.al, 2020), the Glasgow Caledonian (GCU) and University of Cambridge Respond teams analysed the migrant interviews carried out in Glasgow and in different locations in England in 2018 and 2019 to study their experiences in the most mundane situations. Our findings are as follows:
· Newly developed policies should avoid assumptions in the field of social integration. Policies should not be written according to an idealised image of society in policy makers’ heads but should be deliberatively developed at local level, and address the whole of society. This would give the policy maker a more realistic and comprehensive picture of the newcomers and the wider society.
· For more sustainable solutions, both at the local and national level, integration strategies should be mainstreamed in public policy making.
· Social integration is a matter of experience, if people can create good experiences at local level in everyday life, we can expect more positive outcomes from such policies. The first welcome, interactions and experiences with society play a central role in the future integration of newcomers in their new host societies.
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