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Local policy and migration in European Cities

Marco Martiniello introduces key aspects of local policy for migrants, drawing on the example of his own city, Liege in Belgium
The first thing to say is that initially, cities were not really involved in integration policies, because what mattered was actually integration of migrants on the labour market. And all the rest was sort of abandoned. It’s only in the 80s and 90s, and in some countries, in the 2000s, that the issue of integration emerged in cities. And actually, school became an issue. Employment became an issue. But also health, and also the political participation. Of course, each city, depending on the country, depending on the region, has designed different types of policies. But it’s also important to remember that cities are just one level in integration policies. They are not autonomous.
They are located in a nation state, and what is decided nationally is also important to explain what cities do.
It’s important to say that amongst the changes that affected integration policies at the city level was the economic crisis of 2008. And also, the move towards radicalization that ended up in terrorist attacks. And basically, in many cities, the agenda switched from a kind of respect for cultural diversity, multiculturalism to a more security agenda, based on assimilationist perspectives. So the idea is not that much to tolerate or to encourage difference, but more, to fight against radicalization and to ensure security. Therefore, I would say that in many countries, in many cities, the policies tend to become restrictive, and quite negative, and targeting immigrant-origin populations as a danger for the public order
While, of course, it’s different from one city to another, I would say that in the city of Liege, Liege is a key city in the European cities against racism. And actually, even though the conditions that would make the rise of extreme right-wing politics plausible in the city of Liege, there’s never been an extreme right-wing party. For me, this is a success. And it is also linked to the openness of the city towards migrants. Today, the city of Liege declared itself a sanctuary city. And I think that gives a message which is very important in a country in which, especially in the north of the country, anti-immigrant and extreme right-wing and extreme nationalist parties are sort of taking the lead.
So cities can also resist. And Liege does it.

Interview with Marco Martiniello, University of Liege (Belgium)

We asked Marco the following three questions:

  1. What have been the main priorities of migration policies in European cities in recent decades?

  2. To what extent have municipal migration policies shifted in the last decade as a result of various ‘crises’?

  3. Drawing on example(s) from Belgian cities, what have been some key successes and limits of migration policy at the urban scale?

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Migration and Cities

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