Introduction Introduction Chapter 5 Chapter 5
Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Notes for Indicators Notes
Chapter 2 Chapter 2 Noties for quotations Notes for quotations
Chapter 3 Chapter 3 Notes for boxes Notes for boxes
Chapter 4 Chapter 4 Indicators Indicators
CHAPTER 5 Printer Friendly printer friendly version
Chapter 1 Safeguarding Human Rights,
Embracing Cultural Diversity

Protecting the Human Rights of Migrants

Engendering the Management of Migration

Embracing Diversity, And Easing Cultural Differences

Embracing Diversity, And Easing Cultural Differences

Resolving the tough socio-cultural issues surrounding international migration is a complex challenge that countries all over the world face. These include the tensions that arise when immigrants of different ethnic, racial, cultural and religious backgrounds are received into host country societies. Flashpoints also involve differences over traditional practices and customs regarding women-including those that are harmful, constitute human rights violations and are illegal under national legislation. But intolerance for "otherness" and cultural misunderstanding are problem areas that can be assuaged through leadership and a concerted effort-on the part of both receiving countries and the immigrant communities themselves.

In recent years, xenophobia and discrimination against migrants has been rising in industrialized countries, especially in Europe, but elsewhere as well-including in immigrant-receiving countries of Southern Africa.(53) Migrants and refugees are often blamed for economic stagnation and high unemployment. In addition, as polarizing global issues rise to the surface-in particular since 9/11-tensions reflected at the national and local levels can influence perceptions and attitudes towards migrants. These can sometimes be intensified by political opportunism and negative media coverage, which can, in turn, aggravate animosity and give rise to mutual mistrust between immigrants and host community members. Recent events-such as the 2005 riots in Paris, sparked primarily by youth of immigrant origins, or the 2006 "cartoon crisis"- have brought renewed reflection about the relative failure, or absence, of effective integration policies. Yet over the past decade, more and more countries report that they have adopted relevant policies: By 2005, 75 countries (37 developed, 38 developing) had integration policies in place.(54) In a number of countries with a strong economic record, integration has facilitated the socio-economic and cultural contri┬Čbutions of immigrants.(55)

Integration and tolerance, however, is a two-way process that involves adaptation by both immigrants and their new societies-but is also one that is beneficial for all involved. It entails fostering understanding and respect for the rights and duties of both migrants and natives of the host societies, and the laws and values that bind them in a shared social system.(56) As the 2004 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme states: "Multiculturalism is not only about recognizing different value systems and cultural practices within society-it is also about building a common commitment to core, non-negotiable values, such as human rights, rule of law, gender equality, and diversity and tolerance."(57) Integration should be tailored to meet the needs of both new arrivals and longer-term residents, in addition to second- and third-generation immigrants who may struggle with exclusion. It should also take into account the diverse needs and perspectives of different immigrant communities, and be sensitive to varying patterns of integration.(58) This includes ensuring attention to gender and youth issues. Ignoring them, as the European Parliament points out, "can have devastating effects for the women involved as well as for society in general".(59)

The role of cities and decentralized government structures in managing migration and promoting cultural understanding is especially critical, since they are increasingly the favoured destination of both international and internal migrants.(60) Engaging migrants in policymaking and urban planning as well as fostering shared interests and responsibilities vis-à-vis their host countries, is central to their integration as members of society. Experts have also recommended multi-cultural training for journalists in order to discourage a tendency among some media outlets to brand immigrants with labels such as "criminal" or "irresponsible" that play into negative public perceptions and xenophobia.(61)

How migrants settle into their communities is also a factor influencing to what degree they will integrate. When migrants first arrive in the destination country, they will often settle in communities of fellow expatriates who can assist newcomers to adapt to a new culture and language and help locate housing and work. But ethnic migrant enclaves can also reinforce exclusion-especially where the external environment is characterized as discriminatory or alienating. In some cases, migrant communities themselves perpetuate their own isolation.

Various campaigns and programmes seek to alleviate intolerance, promote diversity and the inclusion of immigrants and refugees, and support their successful integration into society. UN-Habitat's campaign, the "Inclusive City", aims to enable all who live in a city to enjoy its benefits and opportunities without discrimination.(62) Following the 1998 Immigration Act, the Italian Government introduced "cultural mediators"-foreign citizens who facilitate the interaction of immigrants with public services.(63) In Naples and its surrounding area, authorities produced the Ciao...! leaflet, which is designed to help teachers foster multicultural tolerance through the theme of "growing up together with our differences".(64) Integration policies that focus on the specific needs and rights of immigrant children and youth are particularly strategic, not only for the short-term, but also to promote long-term socio-economic cohesion. In Berlin, the Kumulus mentoring initiative, begun in 1993, is assisting young immigrants to find employment. The initiative is made up of multi-ethnic groups of experts and immigrants who have counselled tens of thousands of immigrant youth and their parents, while also engaging ethnic businesses and media.(65)

Reducing discriminatory attitudes in the job market also facilitates inclusion. In some countries, employers may be concerned that cultural or religious practices might interfere with workplace performance. In the United States, the Government works with employers to prevent discrimination and harassment against Muslims and find ways to accommodate their needs-for example, with regard to prayer and the wearing of traditional turbans and, in the case of female adherents, headscarves. The programme raises awareness of anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation, and informs both employers and workers of their respective rights and duties.(66)

A more telling measure of the acceptance of immigrants into mainstream society may lie in their participation in the political process. Quite apart from migrant-run organizations, immigrants have also been making their way into politics. During a series of heated debates on proposed immigration legislation in the United States earlier this year, a number of senators recalled their own immigrant origins. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants marched in major cities across the country in a bid to influence public opinion and have their voices heard. During the Italian elections in April 2006, a woman who had emigrated from an impoverished region of the Dominican Republic was elected to Parliament.(67)

"[I]mmigrants must not be seen as disposable workers who can be used and then discarded."

- European Parliament Resolution on Immigration, Integration and Employment (2003)

Efforts to bridge the lack of social interaction or familiarity between immigrant newcomers and their wider society can assuage both the sense of exclusion and isolation on the part of migrants and counter negative public perceptions. Sometimes initiatives are small, but can have an important effect. For example, in Belgium, in 2005, a newspaper launched a campaign to invite asylum-seekers into the homes of residents for Christmas dinner. In less than two weeks, over 100 families extended invitations to asylum-seekers. A participant from Kazakhstan remarked, "It's wonderful to be treated as normal people for once. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."(68)

Local authorities can also grant permits to immigrant groups for public events that celebrate cultural diversity and bring different ethnic groups together. In New York City-the quintessential "city of immigrants"-parades are held year round and are sponsored by Brazilian, Irish, Persian-Iranian, Chinese and West Indian communities, among others. In São Paolo, Brazil, indigenous Bolivian migrants held their first carnival in 2003, and more are joining samba schools. Their large market now draws crowds of some 8,000 people every Sunday, and brings together other immigrant groups and native Brazilians who enjoy a taste of Andean goods, food and music.(69)


Migrants are first and foremost fellow human beings-whatever their status. Dismissing or labelling them simply as "foreigners" or "illegals" devalues their humanity, and only serves to justify their treatment as "different" or inferior. It also objectifies them as goods to be conveniently utilized, whose voices and interests are better left unheard. But migrants are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, spouses, workers and refugees. They, like the host population, harbour the same aspirations and dreams as everyone else-a better and more secure life for themselves, their families and loved ones. Migrants' rights are human rights. Today, we have a unique opportunity to manage international migration in a more humane, equitable and ethical manner.