Fundació Catalunya Europa RE-CITY

Nando Sigona

"The process of integration is dynamic and is based on social exchange"

Societies are becoming more and more intercultural, the movements of people are frequent and the reasons are various. These movements result in diverse and heterogeneous cities that pose a major political challenge. "For an intercultural future" is the third challenge of the Re-City Project, of the Catalunya Europa Foundation, which began after dealing with the challenges "Fighting inequalities" and "Facing climate change." 

The cycle has begun with the conference: "Immigration Policies: Challenges, Goals, and Instruments from a Comparative Perspective," by professor Nando Sigona, from the University of Birmingham, an expert on migration policies. The conference has addressed the issue of migration policies through two European case-studies: the refugee crisis and Brexit. Gemma Pinyol-Jiménez, as the coordinator of the cycle, has introduced the topic by stressing the importance of raising the right questions, in order to rethink the cities’ governance. In this sense, Nando Sigona has started bringing up questions such as: how can we define the integration? which indicators can we use to measure it? who needs to be integrated? or what makes an integrated society?

According to Sigona, the process of integration is a dynamic and relational process, not on the assimilation of the "other" but rather on the exchange and social dialogue. In this context, the narratives are very important, as it is not the same talking about “refugees" or about "immigrants." This change of denomination, which coincided with an increase in the arrival of migrants in Europe, reflects a racialization of hierarchies among people, which ultimately determines the responses being given to the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean.

Nowadays the public importance given to the migration crisis has decreased. but this does not mean it has ceased to exist. Though in 2018 the migrants which came were 89% less than in 2015, data is a mirage. Migratory movements continue, although the EU has managed to curb arrivals through agreements with third countries, which makes it more difficult to obtain data. And what happens with those who arrive? Often migration policies are completed at the time of rescue, without taking into account subsequent integration policies.

Sigona continued its exposition explaining the Brexit, a different case but also with great consequences regarding migration policies. According to him, from a British perspective, the European project was only understood as an economic opportunity, without taking into consideration other political or identity aspects. Sigona, who has studied particular cases of European residents in the United Kingdom, states that between 2007 and 2018 requests for British nationalization from European Union nationals went from 4 to 28%. The reason why is because some nationals of the recently incorporated countries in the EU felt their stability was more threatened, and therefore tended to seek nationalization rather than nationals from other European countries, such as Germans or Italians. Because of this, the myth that integration takes place at the time of naturalization has been put into question when the desire to become nationalized derives more from the fear than from feeling part of a community.