Building upon and reaching beyond definitions of immigrant integration as a two- or three-way process the WoC perspective conceives of integration as a process of community-making:
In the context of the ‘European migration and refugee crisis’, between 2014 and 2015 SMsTRA in Europe have been confronted with increasing arrivals of migrants from areas of political and humanitarian crisis either spontaneously or through the operating of national redistribution policies. In this context, local communities which had been only marginally (if at all) affected by the settlement of migrants seeking asylum, are being confronted with new challenges, often adding to already complex situations characterised by austerity policies, diminishing social cohesion and political polarization. Understanding what shapes, affects or enables the integration of post-2014 migrants in SMsTRA is more crucial than ever if policies are, in the spirit of the Urban Agenda for the EU, ‘to manage integration of incoming migrants (extra-EU) and to provide a framework for their inclusion based on willingness and integration capacity of local communities’ (Pact of Amsterdam, iii)
Recently arrived migrants’ integration challenges are likely to be even more relevant in the context of the post-Covid19 crisis. Economic sectors of a vital relevance, like agriculture and food processing, and sectors hit hard by the pandemic like tourism, are characterised by both a high prevalence of migrant workers and a high territorial concentration in SMsTRA. A better understanding of migration governance and integration processes in small localities is, therefore, of utmost importance.
By adopting a WoC analytical lens and conducting a systematic cross-country/cross-locality and mixed-methods comparative study, Whole-COMM aims to:
Figure 1 illustrates the overall theoretical rationale underlying the Whole-COMM proposal. Post-2014 arrivals are conceptualised as a watershed for local communities in SMsTRA, who had previously been exposed only to very limited arrivals of asylum seekers if any. We hypothesise that the activation in Time1 of multiple actors to face the new challenge will lead eventually, depending on broader contextual factors and policies from other levels of government, to the emergence of specific integration policies and measures. The everyday implementation of these policies and interaction with the structures/networks of local support and services for asylum seekers put forwards by the market and civil society will result in an overall process of community-(re)making which can lead in T2 to either more cohesive social relations and positive attitudes or to societal fragmentation and hostility.
Whole-COMM will take a truly cross-country/cross-locality comparative perspective, to generate new comparative knowledge on the settlement and integration paths of different types of post-2014 migrants in SMsTRA in the EU CEAS’ system and beyond.
Table 2 provides an overview of the 10 countries analysed by Whole-COMM in terms of type of post-2014 migrants, national redistribution system, limits to mobility and modes of arrival in SMsTRA.
Whole-COMM country cases
Whole-COMM has the ambition of contributing to pushing forward the boundaries of both scientific research and policy debates on immigrant integration, therefore innovating not only in the way of conceptualising and theorising, but also of making integration policy.
- To theorise on the key dynamics and causal mechanisms that account for the emergence of community cohesion or fragmentation.
- To study the link between immigrant integration policy and community cohesion assuming a truly relational and agent-based perspective.
- To overcome the general and unspecified conception of local level and to generate new knowledge on the specific dynamics of SMsTRA.
Whole-COMM is innovative in designing territorial comparisons, especially with regard to two aspects:
- Whole-COMM proposes an innovative, truly cross-locality research design which assumes as a reference frame a typology of localities rather than of countries.
- By promoting a cross-country, trans-continental empirical comparison (Europe, Canada, Turkey) Whole-COMM aims to bridge geographical areas with different policy approaches and theoretical traditions in migration research.
- Whole-COMM aims to directly engage local stakeholders with the intention of stimulating their ownership of the project in order to increase the likelihood of real utility and exploitation of the project’s results.
- Whole-COMM will complement grass-roots work with stakeholders (i.e, policy workshops in selected local communities) with their involvement in multilevel and international high-level policy dialogue (e. the PolicyCommunity-LABs and the Transatlantic PolicyCommunity-LAB).