Rethinking “Integration” and “Assimilation” of Refugees

The Migrant Integration Policy Index ranks countries based on how they invest in opportunities and rights for newcomers, focusing on the job market, education, political participation, health, residence, and family reunification. These researchers have determined that integration policies create more national unity. Countries with far-reaching integration policies usually provide the optimal environment for social cohesion, which benefits both the newcomers and society in general. Meanwhile, restrictive, assimilationist policies reinforce xenophobic attitudes and general division. These policies provide fuel to racist far-right political parties. This is not to say that positive integration policies immunize countries from racist extremism. Sweden — which the Migrant Integration Policy Index ranked first out of 38 developed countries — has experienced increased support from far right parties. Belgium — which also scored well — was used as a home base for many of those involved in the attacks in Paris in 2015. This simply proves that integrationist policies do not exist in a vacuum. Social norms need to be taken into consideration when implementing these policies.