`Integration is personal experience, which cannot be generalised’: report

Integration cannot be defined merely by policy indicators. It is truly a personal experience, which cannot be generalised.

The new multimedia report released by The Migrant & Refugee Communities Forum – 'Operation Integration: The Making of New Citizens,' explores the experience of integration in real life, proposing different methods of evaluation.

Over the past 18 years the Forum has worked with thousands of people from over 90 different countries—refugees, fleeing recent conflicts and repression to economic migrants and British people alike, many of them longstanding community leaders.

A cross between a grass-roots community self-help organisation and a hub that provides support and services to numerous individuals and groups, The Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum has decided to share what they learned about making integration happen in the real
world, away from the headlines, the political rhetoric and the complicated bureaucracy.

The aim of Operation Integration is to answer basic questions: When is our work done?  When is a migrant or a refugee integrated?  How do we best measure integration?  Who decides when a migrant or refugee is integrated?

Operation Integration presents experiences of migrants and refugees and tells the story of their integration in London. It charts challenges and success of the Forum and other grassroots organisations that deliver integration support. It provides policy context and it gives users’ perspectives on the impact on migrants and the rest of the country.

Integration is currently measured 148 'MIPEX' policy indicators based on seven key policy areas which shape a legally resident third-country national’s journey to full citizenship — labour market mobility, family reunion, education, political participation, long-term residence, access to nationality and anti-discrimination.

Those are very useful measurements to judge the integration of immigrants into host societies. Yet, the end goal of integration should not be to satisfy those criteria.

In human experience, integration translates into how safe people feel in a place, whether they are able to meet their basic needs for food and shelter, and perhaps how many options they have in terms of education and employment.  Integration is about whether people can live with dignity and respect, on an equal footing with other members of their community.  Integration is also about adjusting to a new environment, new rules, and new codes of behaviour.

In the lives of migrants, integration means to feel at home in their new countries. If rigid policy areas took into account the feelings of migrants, integration policy would work much better and would become a truly two-way process.

The multimedia report includes the full report (PDF), integration profiles of 8 migrants, over 20 video interviews on integration tipping points, and blog posts exploring international and local perspectives on integration.




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