Making space: Encouraging interactions between recent migrants and long-term residents in smaller communities

Whole-COMM’s extensive research has illuminated a concerning trend: recent migrants, those who have arrived since 2014, and long-term residents tend to have limited meaningful interactions with each other. Daily encounters often remain confined to necessary exchanges, failing to blossom into deeper connections that can foster lasting relationships.

To tackle this challenge, the policy brief, authored by Caitlin Katsiaficas and Leila Hadj Abdou, presents a multifaceted approach to increase opportunities for encounters between recent migrants and long-term residents. It underscores the importance of local governments’ involvement in providing resources to facilitate social interactions and recommends collaboration with civil society and migrant-owned businesses to organize events that promote intergroup communication.

To make it easier for people from different backgrounds to get to know each other in smaller communities, we should create more chances for them to meet and remove things that make it hard for newcomers to join in. The policy briefs suggest some ways of action:

  1. Local governments support: Local governments can provide funding (directly or from other sources), space, publicity, and other resources to make getting together possible. They can also collaborate with civil society and migrant-owned businesses to organize events that foster interaction, intergroup understanding, and a sense of belonging, looking to the above list of activities for inspiration.
  2. Inclusive activities: Stakeholders can make existing activities more inclusive and public spaces more welcoming to migrants. This includes alleviating barriers related to language, physical distance, cost, and work schedules. In this endeavour, different age groups and family situations should be considered, including children and youth, working-age adults, retirees, men, women, families, and single persons. Special attention should be paid to reaching out to younger persons in the community, as people’s stances on immigration are formed when they are young and typically remain consistent as they age.
  3. More opportunities for encounters: Local governments, as well as civil society, national governments, and philanthropy, can boost the availability of community activities and spaces. These can be for the locality in general, such as neighbourhood-level initiatives, gardening and sports activities, walking tours, and cultural events. They can also include activities more directly related to integration and the migrant community, such as language cafes, buddy projects, and intercultural events. Support from non-governmental actors is particularly important in cases where local governments are unable or uninterested in getting involved.
  4. Different public places: Local actors can (re)design public places and initiatives, involving the participation of (migrant) residents, to ensure that they are of interest and accessible to the wider community.
  5. Involving the silent majority: Local actors can strive to reach the ‘silent’ or indifferent majority in the community, in addition to those those who are already engaged, to expand possibilities for meaningful intergroup interactions and relations. Such efforts might include the provision of information and stories about their localities that includes migrants and their lives in the locality, underlining commonalities across groups and highlighting issues of common concern, particularly instances where migrant and non-migrant residents have successfully worked together to solve a common issue. 
  6. Support from higher up: National governments and philanthropic actors can provide funding and technical assistance to local actors to develop and elaborate projects that bring people together across differences.
Related Publications
Publications categories
Want to know more?