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Governments not managing migration well – study

22 July 20160 comments

Public trust in the ability of governments in the west to manage migration has been eroded amid the chaotic flows of asylum seekers and migrants leaving unstable regions, according to a new report.

The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute says that there are growing concerns about the threat of radicalisation and terrorism and a perception that governments have proven ill-equipped to manage these challenges.

The report, titled Managing Religious Difference in North America and Europe in an Era of Mass Migration, says this loss of trust threatens accomplishments that have required major social and political effort to achieve, including one of the European Union’s signal achievements: free movement.

The report, by the institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration, examines the fundamental differences in how religious difference is managed.

It says that as Muslim minorities continue to grow in size and influence, particularly in light of unprecedented flows to Europe, governments face the challenge of integration.

It has made recommendations on ways governments can manage immigration more effectively, turning the influx of culturally different newcomers from a challenge into an opportunity.

“In Western Europe, cultural fears continue to dominate, with many seeing Islam as a direct threat to the norms and values that bind their societies together,” the report says.

“In contrast, security fears, particularly surrounding terrorism, are predominant in the United States.”

The report says that while these differences have blurred slightly in the wake of the recent Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels and Nice attacks, key distinctions continue to be relevant, including that in the United States, religion in and of itself is generally not seen as a threat to American institutions or identity.

Countries across Europe have experimented with various approaches to manage these integration challenges over recent decades, ranging from accommodation and even adaptation to minority practices to the opposite end of the spectrum: restricting or even prohibiting certain Muslim cultural practices, such as wearing the veil.

The report recommends several proactive steps that policymakers should consider, including taking host-community concerns about immigration seriously and empowering immigrants to contribute to their host communities as soon as possible, demonstrating that they are an asset rather than a burden.

The institute has commissioned a series of similar reports examining public opinion on immigration, including the role played by the media in shaping the narrative, with case studies of Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as reports focusing further on the causes for public anxiety and offering policy recommendations.

Australian academic and migration scholar Dr Ian Trindall says the reports will have relevance to Australian policy makers.

“The issues may loom larger in Europe and US because of recent tragic events, but Australia faces similar problems of a lack of trust in government and issues like migration and the threat of terror can be divisive and emotive,” Dr Trindall said.

“We should observe what happens elsewhere in terms of these issues because emotive responses almost always do not make for good policy.”

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist