The UK is now one of the most diverse countries in the developed world. There is compelling positive evidence to show that racial prejudice is declining and that segregation is decreasing. Nevertheless, many British people feel unsettled by the flux and change brought on by immigration. Public attitudes towards immigration are hardening and showing no signs of abating. Politicians and policymakers are faced with the formidable challenge of reconciling the effects of globalisation with an intangible sense of loss of identity across many communities in the UK. Integration should be a major focus for policymaking: immigration has changed the UK irreversibly and will continue to do so in the future. But governments have repeatedly struggled to formulate effective policy in this area.
In a time of austerity it is unrealistic to expect central government to invest heavily in migrant integration. Instead, our vision is for policymakers at the national and local level to build a society that promotes collective responsibility and mutual respect for the 'public things' that we all cherish. We call this 'shared ground', and it is based on three key principles:
- managing the impacts of flux and churn from immigration
- building inclusivity in institutions and services
- instilling responsibility among all citizens.
This report is based on qualitative research in two case-study areas: Normanton, in Derby, and Forest Gate, in Newham, east London. One of the crucial lessons is the importance of understanding the particular life circumstances of individuals and households, which are usually complex and difficult to fit into simple categories like 'ethnic group' or 'migrant/citizen'. We believe a more appropriate and useful framework for understanding people and their interactions can be built around notions of establishment and transience: effective integration policy should mitigate the risks and challenges faced by more transient residents, such as short-term migrants, as well as helping more established residents to accommodate and adapt to change in their community. See our short graphic novel, Be here now, which tells six stories about what it means to feel more or less settled in your community, inspired by our time in Normanton and Forest Gate.
In policy terms, we make eight specific recommendations, focussed on:
- improving data on diversity at the local level
- steps to combat exploitation in housing and employment
- strategies to improve negotiation and compromise within communities
- inclusive preschool provision
- transparent funding for groups and activities that promote inclusivity
- funding for 'exclusive', single-group schemes or organisations provided they are fulfilling a 'public good'
- a new Settlement Support Fund, financed from existing citizenship and visa fees and channelled towards high-immigration areas
- incentivising would-be citizens to volunteer in their community, as part of a more localised citizenship process.
Some of us yearn for adventure: we want to move around and see the world. Others want to feel more settled and put down roots: we are happy staying put.
The stories of Maeve, Ernesto, Andrew, Emilija, Fardous and Ahmed illustrate some of the impacts of migration and change in our communities, for settled residents and newcomers alike, and show why supporting migrants and British people to live well together should be a high priority for us all.
These illustrated stories are snapshots of people's lives in diverse areas. They are based on true accounts, but all names and visual appearances have been changed. Where possible, we have used their own words.
Written and produced by: Alice Sachrajda, Mark Ballinger and Sofie Jenkinson at IPPR
Illustrated by: Ricardo Bessa / Folio Art
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