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Migration in cities: problems and conflicts

The question of migration in cities is commonly associated with a set of problematic issues and potential conflicts. We have already alluded to some of these issues during this week: strains on services, housing segregation, public perceptions of urban disorder.

One could add others: the tensions that may occur between existing and new residents as a result of social distance, misunderstanding or lack of empathy on both sides; anti-migrant prejudice that might be fuelled by racism or spill over into physical assaults; migrants’ voluntary or involuntary exclusion from mainstream urban life.

Often the question is not exclusively about migration but about broader issues such as the impact of cuts to welfare and social services, the uneven distribution of resources and jobs, the lack of social or affordable housing, or the rising disparities of wealth in global cities. Nevertheless, politicians, the mass media, and members of the public may often identify migration as the primary cause for a problem or see it as simply the problem itself.

Although the city is where problems and conflicts associated with migration can be at their most intense, it also the setting where such issues can be better observed, understood and addressed. The city, in fact, is where anti-migrant rhetoric can be challenged, and where generic claims about the positive or negative contribution of migrants can be squared with the complexity of everyday urban life.

Here we focus on two separate topics.

The following video interview with Jacqui Broadhead will consider the homelessness and destitution among migrants in north London that has arisen as a result of their lack of access to public funds and how the Borough of Islington has intervened to tackle the problem.

We will then look at the question of xenophobia in townships in South African cities and the various explanations for anti-migrant violence that has somewhat tainted the image of the post-apartheid ‘Rainbow Nation’.

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This article is from the free online course:

Migration and Cities

European University Institute (EUI)