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Immigration and integration utopia

Updated on December 23, 2015

The concept of "integration" appearing next to assimilation, multiculturalism and segregation, is often understood as one of the main models of the relationship of immigrants into the host society.

The term "integration" is used in the social sciences to describe the inclusion and integration processes of 'foreign' individuals towards the receiving society, and is a subject with very different interpretations in different countries. Integration is understood as the process of immigrants’ inclusion in the institutions and relationships of the host society. The immigrant’s integration process into a country is adopted principally at the level of the nation state (formulating policies, creating legal and administrative framework etc...). Integration is defined as' the state to organize, unify and harmonize various elements making up the social community and referring to the realm of norms and values, actions and communications between individuals and social groups. Social integration is a very important issue of a healthy coexistence of different social groups; is a prerequisite for any social group or community's existence, actions and activities.

In the European framework integration is defined as a dynamic, long-term and continuous process: The process of integration lasts several years, in many cases longer than naturalization, and it affects second and third generations. Receiving societies must welcome immigrants and help them with opportunities to become as soon as possible familiar with the host country’s cultural and social elements, and immigrants must show determination to become part of the receiving society. A successful integration of immigrants into the host society is the right to achieve language proficiency and employment corresponding to immigrant qualifications, obtaining financial independence, permanent residence, the right of political life participation etc.

The factors that determine the "integration" are the socio-economic framework conditions in the host country; the cultural attitudes and the behavior of the population of the same host country; the skills and qualifications of immigrants which affect their chances of social inclusion; the culture and ways of immigrants’ life, their adaptation to a new environment which affects their cultural assimilation etc.

The receiving society, its institutional structures and its reaction to newcomers are therefore much more decisive for the outcome of the process. Integration policies are part of the institutional arrangements in a society, particularly such policies should include both general policies and their effects on immigrants, and policies specifically concerned with the integration of immigrants.

Policies in the political and cultural domain are indispensable over the long term for integration. The forms that such policies may take in practice depend very much on the existing institutional arrangements in receiving societies, and on the political willingness to become gradually more inclusive. The adaptation of adults in the cultural and normative dimensions of their behaviour, however, tends to be less easy: knowledge may change, but feelings and preferences, and moral evaluations are quite persistent during an individual’s lifetime.

Immigration is seen as a necessity in countries with an ageing society and labour shortages in certain areas of the economy and many European countries have had to acknowledge that immigration is here to stay.

Integration policies most typically aim at the successful incorporation of immigrants into the host country’s institutions and labour market. Enough attention is not always paid to political, social, cultural and the identity-based integration of immigrants.

The legal position, the rights and obligations associated to them, have important consequences for the functioning of migrants in the host country, as well as for their integration’s efforts. The situation of legal immigrants varies considerably from country to country, which is a consequence of differences in legislation of these countries. The variety of integration - the dimensions and mechanisms depended on the length of migrant’s residence in the host country - usually the longer migrants stay in the country, the wider is access to public resources and rights. Naturalization is considered one of the most important elements of the integration of immigrants into the host society, which introduce them to the new political and civil system. Acquisition of citizenship is therefore a factor of the impact of immigrants on the policy and its promotion in the host society.

The economic integration of immigrants, however, consists of many different factors, which in practice makes it inextricably linked to other dimensions of integration (especially with the level of social and legal). The most important elements of economic integration of immigrants are:

• employment,

• high income,

• work in accordance with the qualifications and the possibility of advancement,

• the presence and nature of ethnic enclaves,

• social and culture factors.

Economic integration, in fact, is often seen as a prerequisite for further successful integration, and so is the first step for immigrants to become an important part of the host society. The economic integration is influenced from the legal status of immigrants. Those who have a residence permit can easily find work and better integrate into the new society regard to others. In this way, they have the possibility to be better engaged in the labour market of the host society. Through the work they can directly interact with the natives and know each other better.

Discrimination in the labor market is one of the factors that can make difficult the effective economic integration of migrants and affects the creation of a hermetic community. Immigrants are in fact legally discriminated against in most countries since they do not have the same right to work as natives.

As a result of the discrimination, immigrants (including representatives of the second generation) may have difficulty in finding a job, and the representatives of the receiving society would not like working with them.

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Social integration refers to the inclusion of individuals in a system, in the creation of relationships among individuals and their attitudes towards the society. It is the result of the conscious and motivated interaction and cooperation of individuals and groups. Social integration can be defined as the inclusion and acceptance of immigrants into the core institutions, relationships and positions of a host society. The integration of immigrants also promotes the opening up to different national, ethnic and religious groups (Home Office 2004)

For migrants, integration process refers to a process of learning a new culture, acquisition of rights, access to positions and statuses, to personal relations with members of the receiving society and the creation of feelings of identification with the immigration society. Integration is an interactive process between migrants and the receiving society.


Getting to know the host country is one of the key elements for a successful integration of immigrants in their new country of residence. Cultural competences themselves do not constitute a successful integration, but make easier the integration of immigrants on many levels. If people know better the language of the new country, they can get a better job and this make easily to establish contacts with the host society and lead to a more effective way to operate in the institutional framework. Not knowing the language is more difficult to understand the specific culture of the host society, because every society and every state has, in fact, their own norms, values, symbols, which knowledge enables their effective functioning in the host society. Immigrants must know and be able to use cultural codes in the host society, so that the integration of different national or ethnic groups can took place in an acceptance and tolerance atmosphere. At the same time they should not deny their origin and indigenous culture, which can enrich the culture of the host society.

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