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Frans Lelie

Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences, Sociology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Maurice Crul

Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Sociology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Ayse Caglar

Deputy Head of Department, CREOLE Coordinator, University of Vienna

Jens Schneider

Senior Researcher, Osnabrück University

On September 26–27, 2019, the 5th International Conference “Migration, Displacement, and Urban Development” was held in Moscow. The event was organized by Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Centre for Political Theory and Applied Political Sciences, RANEPA, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Following the conference, RIAC’s editorial team caught up with four of the leading experts in migration studies to get their thoughts on a few of the questions at the core of migration research.

On September 26–27, 2019, the 5th International Conference “Migration, Displacement, and Urban Development” was held in Moscow. The event was organized by Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Centre for Political Theory and Applied Political Sciences, RANEPA, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Following the conference, RIAC’s editorial team caught up with four of the leading experts in migration studies to get their thoughts on a few of the questions at the core of migration research.

How can we measure the influence of migration processes on human capital?

Frans Lelie: If you look at, for instance, the city of Amsterdam. To give an example, Amsterdam has a migration history that is as old as the city and you can see how the city has thrived through all kinds of waves of migration — be it the French, be it the Jewish migration both from Portugal and Eastern Europe, be it the waves of migration later through the labor migration and now with the new migration that is mainly expats. You can see the city is thriving, as our colleague Jens (Jens Schneider) was also pointing out. The cities with the largest influx are also the cities that are thriving the most.

Maurice Crul: Well, in my research, education is crucial. So if you are looking at the study we did on the second generation in Europe, of all the key influences in how people become part of society, education is the most crucial thing. So how society has developed the educational system to incorporate newcomers is essential.

Ayse Caglar: Because the language of human capital is the language of business in a way and economic benefits, looking at it as human capital. Of course, migrants become human capital but we also know that migrants are forced labor, displaced labor, very much used in the mines. And they were not referred to human capital. So, referring them as human capital is in a way very much within the semantics looking migrants contribution, location in a very narrow way. Only a particular kind of people becomes human capital. The woman was a human capital in that sense: definitely, it was displaced labor. I am not so sure when you refer as human capital do you want to refer as displaced labor or kind of contributing to the economy in a particular way? So, that is why how to make migrants, how to turn them into human capital is very much in the language of the recent IOM, UN refugee, and migrant compasses. They talk about what are stakeholders, practices turning the disadvantage into an advantage and human capital, but there were conditions for that. You have to be a deserving one; you have to be entrepreneurial and responsible. Though in that sense it is a very neo-liberal language, I would say.

Jens Schneider: That is a very general question. Capital can be education, so we can measure educational outcomes. We have been very much in favor of the study of educational pathways. To see what are the ways that migrants or refugees go. What are the opportunities? It depends on what is your intent. What is the added value of migration to the cities in terms of human capital? That is, of course, very difficult. Because you see, some migrants come with language competencies. And I would say that language competency is always good. Is it possible to transform language competency into economic capital, into something that helps? Migrants are generally well-educated; let’s take for example a Turkish guy who married a German-Turkish woman. He did not know a lot of German, but of course, he knows English and Turkish. He comes to Hamburg, so what can he do with his education and his language competencies? And it is not that easy, of course. Most companies would say: «It is fine that you know English, it is fine that you know Turkish. But if you don’t know German…». So then there was a Turkish bank that wanted him, and he worked for the Turkish bank. But then at the end that is a valuable resource. But if you cannot combine it with the local opportunity structure, it does not help. And like Chinese would nowadays (it is very good to know Chinese). I remember my professor telling us as students that: «10 million Chinese students study German every year. And there are not even 10,000 German students studying Chinese in one year». So, what is going on? And you also need a market asking for that, or maybe your counterpart is already far beyond that. Nobody needs Chinese because all the Chinese speak English and German. It’s very complex. In general, the numbers that I said just to show the general statistics. And the general statistics picture shows that diversity and also migration induce diversity. Most diverse people are part of the most diverse places and the other way round. The most interesting places like Amsterdam or New York, Istanbul, Saint Petersburg: you would rather say they are diverse. Homogeneous.

How can the policies of municipal authorities contribute to the human capital increase in the framework of the migration influx?

Frans Lelie: Opening up institutions for people who still have to acquire the capital to fully profit from the institutions. So for instance, in education, it is crucial that people have the same opportunities, and it totally depends on the social and cultural capital that they bring in to determine what they need. It’s about equity, not equality. If they need more language classes, provide that. If they need more individual attention, provide that. It’s not about one size fits all. It’s about understanding what people bring in and reacting to that.

Maurice Crul: I think what we’ve seen worldwide is the difference between the countries that are highly regulated, so this is especially true for the first generation that comes, and if a country is highly regulated in terms of can you start your own company, are your diplomas accepted - then there is a difficult entrance for first-generation migrants into the city in which they’re migrating to. And in countries like the United States where these kinds of things are less regulated, migrants can make an entrance easier either through their own businesses or because there is a part of the economy that doesn’t rely so much on diplomas but allows migrants to work and access a niche for them to start their life in a new country.

So I think that is a big difference. And often cities can also be either part of the problem or the solution in terms of how much they regulate. Because in the end, of course, the goal is to help migrants become economically independent as soon as possible. Highly regulated countries and cities make people welfare-dependent rather than on their own resources.

Ayse Caglar: I would not say that human capital but how could they recognize the knowledge, the role of migrants in making the cities? They could be contributing to their taxes, and no matter how you see them segregated, they are part of the city. They are part of the value creation of the city. And sometimes, they might be referred to diversity to attract tourists, to show the vibrancy of the city, how the world is opened, and how cosmopolitan the city is. So, they have various functions or various locations. And if you look at them only in terms of economic benefits, then I think you will be losing the impact and the potential of the migrants. If you want to refer to the human capital and think beyond that then I agree, but still, it is within the time to fair vocabulary that has been used to select migrants useful, deserving, good migrants, and bad migrants. So, for the municipalities, first of all, their value and contribution but also not to address them in a way to freeze them in the categories. That is very important. And I was talking about that it came de-facto that the city was not able to provide any services based on migrants, based on religious divisions. And that had an integrative impact on migrants in the cities: they became part of the political life not as ethnic politics, not as migration politics. They became part of the politics for social justice. And this is an important finding for the authorities, city officials. Usually, city officials are much more aware of the role of migrants than the national governments because they have to deal with those cities. They are much more aware of the problems, opportunities, and benefits. As long as they do not freeze or reproduce those categories I think like everywhere as I said cities are made for/by migrants. And the more they acknowledge that the more they make them the part of the city.

Jens Schneider: Creating chances, of course. Having a welcoming attitude. Regarding the jobs, well, that is not usually municipalities that provide jobs, but let’s say to provide the welcome infrastructure for the newcomers. So, one would be a center where people could come to get the relevant information. To have a specialized center for refugees, for work migrants, center for international students. Especially, center for those who come from another city. You could have a sort of welcome website as multilingual; you can have there the center information. You can help with housing, you can help with the education for the kids. And, of course, help with language courses, counseling — this sort of thing. And this is already a good basis and organized cooperations that organize communications within the cities. So, that you know what employers need that you speak, that there is a way to communicate with employers. You know that you have contacts with schools; you have contacts with different players etc.

Based on your research, what are the critical factors in social mobility for first-generation and second-generation migrants?

Frans Lelie: Education, without any doubt. And access to education. And this is totally dependent on the context. So, for example, we read an article about second-generation migrants here in Russia — where you can see the effect of the educational system. If the educational system is more similar, then it results in more similar chances for the children of immigrants in Russia. This happens to be the case because there is a similar system in the former Soviet republics.

But if you look at Europe, there are super different institutional arrangements — which means that children in France have entirely different chances than children in Germany or in Sweden. To give a short example, in France and in Sweden — children go to school at the age of two. In Germany, children start compulsory education at the age of six. This means that for children of immigrants to acquire the language in which they will be educated - it comes at a totally different stage of life.

And then this sort of institutional arrangements differ and therefore also the chances in education differ as well as chances for social mobility. And you can see how this works out in, for instance, France or Sweden, about half of the children of immigrants, go on to higher education. Wherein Germany, only about six percent of children of immigrants go on to acquire higher education. And these are children we’ve researched who come from similar socio-economic backgrounds, the same cultural backgrounds; and yet we see this huge, very big variation in outcomes.

Maurice Crul: Well, the first generation and this also partly true for in-between generations that come at a later stage in life, like say in high school or later; they usually have a quite disrupted career. And often you see that many people in the first generation also in the ten years after that migration, they make a dip in their status because they cannot either work in the job they had before or there is no room for them in the economy. While the second generation has grown up there, gone to school there, and therefore have many more chances.

So that is the significant distinction because they have been able to get the educational credentials that are valued in society, and language is also an issue, of course. All these factors make it easier for the second generation to become part of society and to move up.

Ayse Caglar: Actually, interestingly, the second generation depending on where. What kind of legal and political, and economic structures are provided? But the second generation is probably very socially mobile. But very often they are not because they are torn and especially the temporal legal residences of the first generation. That creates a lot of problems in terms of not being part of not seen as part of society. They tend to be treated as temporary, but once you are looking, you are related to the second generation that way, they start seeing themselves too. Because how you see yourself is very much related to how you are seen. As to how your subjectivity is produced. That becomes a hindrance to social mobility. The only thing I could say is that it is skewed in the places where I have seen the second generation. One, it is not general social mobility, one falls even before the first generation. But one part is very highly mobile. And interestingly through generation linguistic competencies suffer in all the languages, in Germany. It depends again on the facilities that are provided. I am not talking about whether they should be provided with native language courses in their native tongues. No. But if they are provided with proper schooling services and linguistic support for the education of the countries languages as a second language — they just rock it.

Jens Schneider: First-generation, they are mobile. They are already mobile. For them, the most important thing is indeed to be able to travel back and forth and to find jobs. And it is not about exceptionally successful in the sense of making a lot of money but becoming finally the well-off person. And for the second generation, the question is social mobility. So, can I become successful, can I obtain a high-education degree and so on? Even though I come from a migrant family, and my mother is a cleaning woman, and my father worked as a taxi driver. Or is this an embedment? Or is this something that makes it difficult? And they will see a lot of differences between the countries that attribute the topic tomorrow because, for example, there has been a lot easier for Turkish working-class kids in Sweden or France than in Germany to be socially mobile.

How do migration processes transform the socio-cultural landscape of modern cities?

Frans Lelie: Fully and totally. Like for instance, my city — Amsterdam. And it’s not special in this case, it’s in all the big cities in Europe.

There are now under the age of 15, only one out of every three children has two parents born in the Netherlands. One out of three. And this doesn’t even mean that these are children with Dutch heritage over generations. No, these are children with two parents who were simply born in the Netherlands. And so this also includes children with parents whose parents were born in places like Suriname, Turkey, the former Soviet Union, or Portugal. So the landscape has changed dramatically, and diversity has become the new norm.

Maurice Crul: Well, I think we have to look at the cities where this has already been a long-established practice. These are the most traditional migration countries like Canada, Australia, and America. There you can see cities that are very attractive cities, very vibrant cities, and those cities have been able to attract people from all over the world. With these people also come capital and economic growth because one of the main drivers of migration these days is not only people that come from poor countries, but more and more professionals are moving to big cities. This is a new dynamic that we’ll be much more important in the future and it’s a phenomenon that we’ll have to start studying more deeply moving forward.

Ayse Caglar: They transform first of all political and economic, transform the government structure of the cities. So, it is not simply in terms of economics, but in terms of how to, they become part of urban citizens. Trying not to see them leaves them outside of the governance. These governments and, if you want to govern them, and redeem to government schemes, want to bind them to the city more, you have to acknowledge their multivarious contributions. And, on the other hand, what is the category of the natives. If you scratch it, you find a lot of migrancy behind that. People in Moscow: are they all from Moscow? I don’t think so. But they’re counted as a native. So, there is an invisible migrancy. Not to exenterate any particular kind of migrancy.

Jens Schneider: I think, in general, it is a new perspective. People bring something with them and that can be already something. Let’s say you have Syrian restaurants — this is something new. And can be good, and it is good food. And then you can have all sorts of things.

Side effects? I will not overestimate the side effects. There is a lot of fear that says you have large groups of Muslims, living in ethnic enclaves. I don’t believe in that. Of course, if you don’t give chances, people feel discriminated against. If people do not dare to be out in the city because they have to count on, at any moment. If they do not feel welcomed, they will tend to stick with their people, they will tend to stick in their families.

Yes, it is bad for them, but it is not bad for the general society. Only when, of course, there is radicalization, for example, it could be an issue. But most of those modern global cities do not see a lot of radicalization in the sense of bombing towards the city themselves. Of course, you have radical Islamic groups, and you have radical neo-Nazi groups that do violent attacks. But it is not against the city, it is specific groups of people who are considered enemies. Give people a chance to take part, and you won’t have a lot of side effects.

Interviewed by Roman Maika and Hunter Cawood.

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