WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 27, 2016) — Public trust in the ability of governments in Europe and North America to manage migration has eroded amid protracted, chaotic mixed flows of asylum seekers and migrants leaving unstable regions, combined with growing concerns about the threat of radicalization and terrorism at home—challenges governments have proven ill-equipped to manage. This loss of trust threatens accomplishments that have required major social and political effort to achieve, including one of the European Union’s signal achievements: free movement.
A new series from the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration seeks to shed some light on the complex, overlapping drivers of anxiety that often surround immigration as well as explore the conditions under which these can be mitigated.
The first publication in this series, Managing Religious Difference in North America and Europe in an Era of Mass Migration, examines the fundamental differences in how religious difference is managed across the Atlantic. As Muslim minorities continue to grow in size and influence, particularly in light of unprecedented flows to Europe, the policy brief explores the integration challenge that governments confront. The brief concludes with recommendations on ways governments can manage immigration more effectively, turning the influx of culturally different newcomers from a challenge into an opportunity.
“In Western Europe, cultural fears continue to dominate, with many seeing Islam as a direct threat to the norms and values that bind their societies together,” write authors Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Richard Alba, Nancy Foner and Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan. “In contrast, security fears, particularly surrounding terrorism, are predominant in the United States.”
The authors note that while these differences have blurred slightly in the wake of the recent Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels attacks, key distinctions continue to be relevant, including that in the United States religion in and of itself is generally not seen as a threat to American institutions or identity.
Countries across Europe have experimented with various approaches to manage these integration challenges over recent decades, ranging from accommodation and even adaptation to minority practices to the opposite end of the spectrum: restricting or even prohibiting certain Muslim cultural practices, such as wearing the veil.
The authors recommend several proactive steps that policymakers should consider, including taking host-community concerns about immigration seriously and empowering immigrants to contribute to their host communities as soon as possible, demonstrating that they are an asset rather than a burden.
Forthcoming reports in the series will examine public opinion on immigration, including the role played by the media in shaping the narrative, with case studies of Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as reports focusing further on the causes for public anxiety and offering policy recommendations.
Read the first publication in the series here: www.migrationpolicy.org/
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community. The Council’s work is at the cutting edge of policy analysis and evaluation and is thus an essential tool of policymaking.
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