Policy Brief

A Tale of Three Cities: New Migration and Integration Realities in Istanbul, Offenbach and Tangier

October 24, 2016
Astrid Ziebarth
Jessica Bither
2 min read
Photo credit: Haeferl

Migration and integration are highly political and often politicized issues. As the refugee crisis in Europe has shown, migration can lead to confrontations between and within countries. But it is below the national level that societal changes and frictions materialize, and it is cities that face the complexity of new migration realities head on. Many cities must deal simultaneously with hyperdiversity and rapid urbanization, accompanied by social change that can challenge public order. Basic services such as access to health care and education need to be provided to growing numbers; yet they must also be tailored to the changing needs of an increasingly diverse population. 

More and more cities, in the global North as well as the global South, are experiencing new conditions of migration. The challenges differ according to the type of newcomers: permanent migrants, transit migrants, refugees from war torn countries, return migrants. They are also shaped by the total numbers and diversity of these migrants. But all cities face the complex challenge of integrating newcomers into the local urban fabric, sometimes in a very short period of time. These challenges range from promoting migrant social inclusion through city planning, housing, and the management of diversity, to combating potential threats to public order and social cohesion. The most vulnerable migrants need protection. This often strains financial resources. Urban centers also have the potential to act as policy innovators by creating laboratories for local interpretations of national migration plans and narratives. They can even circumvent the politicized debates that national governments face and act as catalysts for change on the national and international level.

There has been a growing focus on cities and their role in migration and integration practices and international city networks. Take, for example, conferences like Maytree’s Cities of Migration, Eurocities Metropolis, or the Mayoral Forum on Migration and Development (MFMD). The World Migration Report 2015 was titled “Migrants and Cities: New Partnerships to Manage Mobility.” Yet, as the MFMD’s Barcelona Declaration lamented, the voices of cities in global forums dealing with migration policy are still underrepresented. 

Istanbul in Turkey, Offenbach in Germany, Tangier in Morocco. These are three cities that offer a glimpse into how international migration appears in specific regional and national contexts. They offer different perspectives of cities that differ in size, types of challenges, and governance competencies.

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