A new report sheds light on the dynamics of migrant integration in smaller towns and in rural areas and offers valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by these communities.
Small- and medium-sized towns and rural areas are increasingly involved in migrant integration, but there is less understanding of integration dynamics in these contexts as compared to larger destinations. This working paper, authored by Leila Hadj Abdou and Caitlin Katsiaficas from the European University Institute, highlights key factors that are shaping attitudes and social relations between post-2014 migrants and long-term residents, and consequently migrant integration experiences in smaller towns and rural areas. It is based on data collected by the Whole-COMM research project through participant observation, interviews, and focus groups in 42 migrant-receiving localities across 9 countries. You can read here the 9 Country Reports on social relations, individual attitudes and migrant integration experiences.
A significant trend that emerged across all countries studied was a lack of intergroup interactions and meaningful relations. Still, work, school, and civil society-run activities provided spaces where migrants could improve their language skills, expand their social networks, and make connections to better work and housing opportunities, all of which improved their integration experiences.
Places for encounter, especially those providing some type of structure or moderation, were critical for fostering interactions between post-2014 migrants and long-term residents. Civil society actors (including migrant-led organizations) were important sources of support, serving as a bridge to local communities and at times filled critical gaps in integration services, while engaged local authorities also supported positive integration experiences. Yet, across the board, building meaningful intergroup relationships was often difficult – especially beyond volunteers – even where there was a positive attitude towards migrants.