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Integrating migration

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 20 November 2015

integration1What do societies gain from migration? What are the social, political and cultural effects of an increasingly mobile global workforce? What problems could arise from the integration of migrants? And how can those problems be mitigated?

These are some of the questions we are hoping to debate next Monday at a panel discussion hosted by the Goethe Institute, Germany’s non-profit cultural network.

The terrorist attacks on Paris are a ghastly reminder that they are not just of academic interest. Finding the right answers is vital for any country: for its economy, its culture, its security.

As far as we know, the terrorists who brought carnage to the French capital were sons of North African and Middle Eastern migrants to central Europe. Many European countries have done a bad job of integrating their new arrivals into mainstream society, effectively locking them into low socio-economic backgrounds. These then provide a fertile ground for religious radicalisation.

The problems of migrant communities in Europe are well known. A decade ago, violence erupted in the banlieues of Paris, which are the ghettos of a poorly qualified, migrant underclass. They were the home of one of the terrorists who killed five people at a kosher supermarket during January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Parallel societies have also emerged in some German cities, and there are reports of “no go zones” where ordinary police no longer dare to operate.

Is it surprising that the rapid and partially uncontrolled influx of Syrian refugees into Europe is viewed with suspicion and fears by Europe’s autochthonous population? Ironic as it is because the majority of these Syrians are in fact escaping from terrorism.

From an antipodean perspective, it is hard to imagine how fundamental these challenges are to European society. Writing in The Australian newspaper earlier this week, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson went so far to say that what we are witnessing may well be the end of European civilisation. Europe, so Ferguson argued, was too weak to defend the principles of its liberal democracies, suffer the fate of the Roman Empire – and fall.

And yet, migration and cultural exchange have much to offer to both migrants and recipient countries – and no two countries would be better examples of this than New Zealand and Australia. They are the very model of successful multi-ethnic (not to be confused with multi-cultural) societies.

On Monday, we will discuss why that is so – and how we can ensure it will remain this way.

Dr Oliver Hartwich will chair the Goethe Institute’s panel discussion on the changing face of New Zealand with Alex Lee, Martine Udahemuka, Michael Reddell and Rob McLeod. Tickets for this Wellington event on Monday, 23 November are available here.

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