Minorities in European Cities: The Dynamics of Social Integration and Social Exclusion at the Neighbourhood Level

by Body-Gendrot, Sophie and Marco Martiniello, eds. 2000. London: Routledge.

Key words: migration, minorities, Europe, urban governance
Summary by Margaux Dandrifosse (IBEI)


Micro-summary: The social incorporation of migrant populations into European cities is characterised by growing residential concentration, economic and political mobilization based on ethnic and religious identities, trilateral relations, and an association with criminalization, security threats, and public disorder.

Summary: In this book, the authors aim to examine the mechanisms underlying the integration or exclusion of migrants into European urban centers. To conceptually frame the analysis, the first section introduces four ways in which European cities are structurally different from North America in relation to migrant populations. First, the European Single Market has increased economic inequalities, further worsening the precariousness of migrant minorities. Second, European governance systems do not acknowledge the diversity of ethnic identities and emphasize a top-down homogenous population. Third, the ethnic territorialisation is less radical than in North America, as the middle-class has not deserted the citer centers. Fourth, widespread popular expectations of state intervention and redistribution have encountered disillusion and state failure to comply, resulting in the loss of trust in the state and local mobilization.

With those observations in mind, the analysis considers the integration of migrants in four sectors: economic, social, political, and public order, and develops through case studies of cities in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, and Italy. The four sectors identify recurrent themes relevant to understanding the mechanisms guiding the integration of migrant minorities in cities. Those include: a territorial concentration of migrants in poor areas; a growing emphasis on ethnicity and religion as organizational principles; a triangular dynamic relationship between the migrants, the host state, and the home country; and an association with criminal violence, security threats, and marginalization, reinforced by the media and institutional actors.

In the economic sector, migrants frequently engage in the creation of transnational networks based on financial support to families, business opportunities, and social connections with the home country. While in certain cities migrants of the same nationality have clustered in similar occupational activities, this trend is decreasing and the economic activity of migrants largely depends on market forces and institutional regulations. Moreover, a growing number of young people from minority groups enter the informal economy as a mean to work independently and maintain a social and personal status. In the social sector, a growing trend lies in the territorial concentration of migrants in poor neighbourhoods, in the city centers or periphery. Territorial exclusion and poor conditions increasingly result in local mobilization through demands for access to minority protection rights, neighbourhood-level strategies for survival which may include a return to ethnic ties and/or religious fundamentalism, or violence. Islamic identities play an important role in the social life of large numbers of migrants, and lie at the root of tri-partite relations between home and host countries and the migrant group. At the political level, migrant populations increasingly mobilize and participate in politics, largely through ethnic and religious organisations and movements. Nevertheless, the impact that such participation exercises remains limited. Lastly, at the public order level, migrants are framed as security threats, due to marginal and often irregular status, and as a source of disorder and criminality. While there is no statistical consensus that migrants are associated with more criminality, this image has been constructed by the media, state experts and officials, and the judiciary in European cities.

Follow-up: The works most relevant to the project by Body-Gendrot include: “Models of immigrant integration in France and the United States” (2001) and “Immigration, Islam, and the politics of belonging in France. A comparative framework” (2013). By Martiniello, it includes his participation in the book “Governing Diversity. Migrant Integration and Multiculturalism in North America and Europe” (2018) and “Antisemitism and Immigration in Western Europe Today Is there a connection? The case of Belgium” (2018).

Relevance for the SECUREU Project: This book provides a comprehensive overview of the dynamics at play in the integration or exclusion of migrants in different European urban sectors. It provides a first step towards a migrant-oriented perspective on the securitization of migration. Nevertheless, research could go further in the study of securitization from a migrant perspective, for instance, by conducting interviews or focus groups directly with migrants in European cities. An insider view could bring novel insights on securitization processes in Europe.  Additionally, the book points out the growing importance of identity politics both for migrants, through ethnic or religious movements, and majorities, through support for right-wing and xenophobic parties. It would, therefore, be interesting to look at how this ethnicization of politics has played a role in fuelling increasing xenophobia and right-wing populism in Europe. In other words, is xenophobia a response to the growing focus on identity politics brought by the political mobilization of migrants along ethnic and religious lines?