Country report on social relations, individual attitudes and migrant integration experiences – Belgium

This report studies reciprocal interactions between post-2014 migrants and long-term residents. It also evaluates experiences of inclusion and exclusion of post-2014 migrants in four small and medium-sized towns in Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia). The findings are based on interviews conducted with post-2014 migrants and on four focus group discussions with a mix of long-term residents and post-2014 migrants, one in each locality. The report provides an overview of the factors that possibly foster or hinder experiences of inclusion and exclusion by post-2014 migrants and social interactions at the local level.

More precisely, we discuss the role of:

  1. the socio-demographic factors (e.g. age, gender, country of origin, class, educational background, religion, etc.);
  2. the ideational/political dimension (i.e. the discourse and framing, local politics, and protests related to migration, asylum, and integration at the local level);
  3. the governance dimension (such as the impact of housing, labour market, and immigrant integration policies and practices, and their implementation at the local level);
  4. the spatial dimension (ethnic and racialized socio-economic disparities between neighbourhoods in housing at the local level). 

We note that a combination of these four dimensions gives insights into the extent to which inclusion and exclusion are experienced by post-2014 migrants in the four towns studied. On the one hand, we found that the presence of a strongly politicized discourse on migration, characterised by a largely anti-immigrant rhetoric (in the type D locality), the presence of a high level of racialized socio-economic disparities between neighbourhoods (in the type C and D localities), and inaccessible or badly maintained housing (in all localities) hindered perceptions of inclusion and social interactions at the local level of post-2014 migrants. On the other hand, we found that initiatives developed by local stakeholders to foster migrants’ inclusion, the availability of spaces of encounter, as well as the presence of pre-existing migrant communities facilitated experiences of inclusion for post-2014 migrants, even in localities where migration is highly politicized or where there are high levels of racialized socio-economic disparities between neighbourhoods.

Authors: Louise Hantson, Laura Westerveen, Ilke Adam
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