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Migrants in the city: Rethinking the governance of integration in an age of ‘super-diversity’

Donia Touihri-Mebarek


‘Super-diversity’, which has resulted from mass immigration, has led to major shifts in the ethnic demographic composition of English cities, and has also created many challenges for local authorities. In this respect, segregation, which characterises some urban areas, is a dominant issue. Following the publication of Ted Cantle’s report on race riots, which highlighted the fact that communities were operating on the basis of ‘parallel lives’, local authorities have had to take the lead in the integration issue by implementing adequate measures to promote community cohesion. Cities are considered to be better able to respond to the issues that are of immediate concern to them. By defining cities as key stakeholders in managing integration, a shift towards the local governance of integration in England has been observed. This shift has been cemented in the plethora of reports published by successive governments, but the government’s retreat can be questioned in many ways: Firstly, the government’s cuts to the funding allocated to local authorities has had a severe impact on those welcoming the highest number of migrants, as well as on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, by limiting their actions; secondly, as a further result of this cut, the numerous local stakeholders involved in the integration of migrants have created a complex and often confusing ‘multilevel local’ governance of integration. Moreover, the ineffectiveness of community relations programmes in tackling segregation should compel the government to play an active role in this national issue.

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1Post-colonial migration, globalisation and Britain’s former integration into the European Union have irrevocably transformed the face of many English cities. For example, Leicester and London, which experienced a rapid growth in their foreign populations, are now places in which no ethnic group is in a majority (Census 2011). In fact, the last census revealed that White British people only accounted for 44.9% of the population in London and 45% in Leicester. This ‘super-diversity’, as Vertovec termed it, has shed light on the complexity of a new phenomenon that involves a ‘dynamic interplay of variables’ with the arrival of ‘new, small and scattered, multiple-origin, transnationally connected, socio-economically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants’ (Vertovec 2007: 1).

  • 1 This non-departmental public body was replaced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2006.

2This process has led to a re-shaping of urban spaces and a redefinition of cities’ identities and it has also posed many challenges for the host cities in terms of housing, employment, health care, education and community relations. With regards to the latter aspect, successive governments have taken major decisions to promote community cohesion following the ‘crisis of multiculturalism’, which has called the publicly funded policies aimed at maintaining the identities of cultural groups into question. Ted Cantle’s report on the 2001 urban disturbances described a high degree of urban segregation, encapsulated in the metaphor ‘parallel lives’ (Cantle 2001: 9). A similar diagnosis was later made by the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality1 (CRE), Trevor Phillips, following the London terrorist attacks when he controversially depicted a country that was ‘sleepwalking to segregation’ and whose inhabitants ‘were becoming strangers to each other’ (Phillips 2005). Since then, the government’s framework for integration has consisted of numerous national programmes aimed at promoting dialogue between communities (see DCLG 2012 Creating the Conditions for Integration or, more recently, MHCLG 2019 Integrated Communities Action Plan).

3However, as diversity is not experienced homogenously in the country, the government has also underlined the necessity of having different local approaches and responses to integration (Local Government Association (LGA) 2019). This new perspective on integration governance was reaffirmed by the Localism Act of 2011 and supported by the European Union’s call to foster cities’ involvement in making integration happen. For example, a five-year project entitled Inclusive Cities, which is led by the University of Oxford and will run until 2023, aims ‘to support the development of an approach to inclusion which is strategic across the city administration’ (Compas 2019:1).

  • 2 I will focus mainly on England because the country attracts the vast majority of migrants in compar (...)

4Drawing mainly from official reports by the government and local authorities, this paper aims to examine the extent to which cities have become the main actors in integration in England2, and questions the government’s retreat from the integration issue in the context of a ‘crisis of multiculturalism’.

  • 3 In this paper, I consider the term ‘migrant’ under the broad definition given by the United Nations (...)

5Thus, I will first explain the ways in which migration has transformed some English cities into ‘super-diverse’ places and how it has reshaped urban areas in terms of space and identity. I will then analyse the government’s approach to integration over the last 10 years, and will explain the strategic shift from the national to the local governance of diversity. This will lead to an analysis of how cities have responded to the arrival of migrants3 in terms of local policies and initiatives, and how they have become an indispensable ally for integration. Finally, I will question the relevance of this governmental retreat considering the consequences it has had for cities’ administrations.

‘Super-diversity’ and English cities’ demographic shifts

  • 4 The White ethnic group includes the following sub-categories: ‘White British, Irish, Gypsy or Irish (...)

6Europe remains a privileged destination for millions of migrants, and Britain is no exception. Net migration is estimated at 300,000 each year, and statistics show no signs of slowing down. The 1991 census, which included a question on ethnicity for the first time as part of the policy framework on equality and anti-discrimination, reported important changes in the population composition over time. For example, in England, the proportion of the White ethnic group4 decreased from 94.1% in 1991 to 91.3% in 2001, and the decrease continued to 86% in 2011 (ONS 2011). Amongst this group, the White British group accounted for 80.5% in 2011 (ONS ibid.).

7Migration has also increased the proportion of the foreign-born population living in the UK, which doubled from 4.5 million to 9.3 million between 2001 and 2020, with England alone accounting for 8.5 million of the foreign-born population (ONS 2020). The growth of ethnic minority groups followed a similar path, from 6 million to 13.5 million (ONS ibid.). Amongst the fastest growing populations were ‘Other White’, which mainly includes migrants from the European Union, and people of Asian and Black African origin (ONS ibid).

Graph 1. The evolution of ethnic minority groups between 2001 and 2011

Graph 1. The evolution of ethnic minority groups between 2001 and 2011

Source: ONS 2011

8The increased ethnic diversity in England can be correlated with the high proportion of foreign-born mothers due to persistently high levels of transnational marriages, particularly within the South Asian communities, which has created ‘a “first generation in every generation” phenomenon in which each new generation grows up with a foreign-born parent’ (Casey 2016: 9). This factor has therefore received significant attention when determining the extent of the demographic and composition changes in the UK population. Data published by the ONS show an increase in the proportion of births to non-UK-born parents. In London, Leicester, Slough and Manchester, live births to non-UK-born mothers accounted for 57%, 56% 62% and 50%, respectively (Migration Watch 2021).

9However, the distribution of migrants has not been even throughout the UK. England is the first destination for around 90% of the migrants who have arrived since 2001. In addition, analyses and research show significant disparities in the distribution of migrants within England, as half of all the ethnic minorities were found to live in London, Birmingham and Manchester (Casey 2016). For example, London receives a third of all migrants, and is the region that records the smallest proportion of the White population at 44.9% (Census 2011). Statistics have also revealed that eight of the 10 most diverse local authorities are to be found in London. Amongst these, the borough of Newham, which recorded the lowest percentage of the White ethnic group (29%), stands out as a clear illustration of ‘super-diversity’ in England at present. Outside of London, other ‘super-diverse’ places, such as Slough, Luton and Leicester, were the first local authorities in which no ethnic group was in the majority. For example, ethnic minorities accounted for 65% of the total population in Slough and 55% in Luton and Leicester. This changing demography is related to the appeal of cities and towns for migrants; to illustrate this, while 81.5% of the general population live in urban areas, 99.1% of Pakistanis live in urban locations. This percentage is very similar for other ethnic groups, such as Bangladeshis (98.7%) and Black Africans (98.2%) (Migration Watch op. cit.).

Migrants in the cities: Patterns of settlement and the issue of segregation

10Migration has contributed to Britain’s richness, has played a major role in shaping city and urban life (Hatziprokopiou, Frangopoulos & Montagna 2016), and has contributed to redefining cities’ identities and writing new narratives. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is Brick Lane in London, which has been transformed by waves of migrants settling there, including French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution under King Louis XIV in the late 1600s, followed by the subsequent influx of Jews and, more recently, Bengali Muslims. In addition, the upcoming celebration of Leicester’s diversity as part of a national festival demonstrates how ‘super-diversity’ has become part of the city’s story and identity.

  • 5 Notably, statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveal t (...)

11Migrants’ contributions to the British economy have been recognised by the government, while also raising awareness of the issue of segregation. When settling in cities, migrants have often perpetuated historical patterns of settlement by joining their diaspora to facilitate their accommodation. These areas, characterised by a high proportion of minority ethnic groups, are often the most deprived neighbourhoods.5

12The measurement of segregation has been the subject of contentious debate concerning the methodology used to measure it. However, debating the consistency of the methods used is beyond the scope of this article. Drawing on data from the census of 2001 and that of 2011, and derived from analyses made by the Integration Hub, this paper aims at presenting the results of the research conducted on the matter.

13Researchers of the subject have published different, sometimes contradictory results, with some suggesting an increase in segregation and others demonstrating signs of improvement in the intermingling of different ethnic groups (Cantle & Kaufmann 2016). Two indicators are generally used to measure the patterns of migrants’ settlement. The main indicator used to analyse the extent of segregation in a given area is the ‘index of dissimilarity’:

This measures the spread, or degree of separation, of two groups (for example White British and Bangladeshi British) within an area. More specifically, it shows the percentage of the ethnic group in question that would need to move somewhere else within the wider area in order to achieve the same spread as the comparator group. A maximum score of 1 shows that an ethnic group is completely separate. A minimum of 0 shows there is no residential segregation (Integration Hub).

14According to the research conducted by the Integration Hub, the index indicates that minority ethnic groups do not spread out in similar ways, with three-quarters of migrants settling in just a quarter of council districts. This creates highly concentrated areas. A detailed analysis of migrants’ patterns of settlement in English cities indicates that some areas are more densely populated by migrants than are others. Richard Harris and Dewi Owen showed that White British people were much more widely dispersed, while ethnic minorities tend to cluster together (Harris & Owen 2019). The index of dissimilarity shows that the bottom five areas in terms of segregation between White British and ethnic minorities are Cambridge, Adur, Castle Point, Tewkesbury and Waverly; the top five areas in which ethnic minorities are the most segregated from White British are Oldham, Bradford, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley and Pendle (Ibid.).

15The graph below, which compiles data from the 2011 census, shows that, in the large town of Oldham, for example, segregation from the Black community decreased significantly, whereas this decrease has been extremely slow for other communities, which remain highly segregated. Notably, the Pakistani community is even more segregated than it was in 2001, despite Ted Cantle’s insistent warning about this issue (Cantle op. cit.).

Source: Business Intelligence Service, Oldham 2011 census ethnicity report

The crisis of multiculturalism gave more impetus to the debate regarding how migrants should be integrated into the mainstream and how segregation should be remedied. The political discourse appeared to presume that ethnic minorities were self- segregating from the ‘mainstream’ population in some way; this analysis failed to consider that housing affordability actually prevents ethnic minorities from moving to wealthier urban areas. Reacting to Phillips’s observation concerning Britain ‘sleepwalking to segregation’, Lord Ousley commented that Phillips should ‘highlight the fact that [Britain] has concentrations and clusters of ethnic groups in areas that are suffering poverty, racialism, exclusion and discrimination’ (Ousley 2005, as cited in The Guardian).

17In turn, David Cameron explained that segregation was the outcome of the doctrine of state multiculturalism, which he argued ‘[has] encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream’ (Cameron 2011). He further observed that, according to this approach, Britain had ‘even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to [its] values’ (Cameron ibid.). He also acknowledged Britain’s failure to provide an effective strategy to connect minority communities to the mainstream. Although it was highly polemical, Cameron’s diagnosis was reiterated in a new report, which again raised alarm about the dangers of segregation and the concentration of ethnic minorities in some urban areas, which act as impediments to social mixing and community cohesion, thus exacerbating disadvantages (Casey 2016).

Inclusion and the shift towards local policymaking for integration

18Scholten’s typology regarding the governance of immigration and integration sets out four different types of relationships amongst government levels: centralist, localist (which integrates the notion of subsidiary – that is, ‘what can be done locally should be done locally’, multilevel (which refers to ‘interaction and joint coordination of relations between the various levels of government without clear dominance of one level’) and decoupled (which entails ‘the absence of any meaningful policy coordination between levels’ (Scholten 2013). Taking this typology into account, one can argue that British policymaking pertaining to integration has evolved over time from multilevel to local governance, which received strong impetus over the past decade.

19In this respect, the debate about integration policymaking is characterised by a recent and wide consensus based on the principle that cities should be the key stakeholders in this agenda. In 2007, the EUROCITIES working group on migration and integration, funded by the European Union, promoted a bottom-up approach of integration, and insisted on the necessity of recognising cities’ leadership in shaping integration policies and making integration work. In fact, research has shown that migrants express a stronger sense of belonging to the city than they do to the nation (Scholten & Penninx 2016). This shift towards local policymaking has also been defended by the OECD, which called for a ‘place-based’ approach in a report promoted at the Global Forum on Migration and Development (OECD 2017). Cities were given guidance about the framework in which integration policies should be defined and implemented. In this regard, in November 2004, the Council of the European Union adopted 11 common principles for Immigrant Integration Policy, which stress that integration ‘is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents, and implies respect for the basic values of the EU’ (Council of the European Union 2004). These principles include migrants’ basic knowledge of the host society’s language, history and institutions, frequent interactions between immigrants and member state citizens, and migrants’ access to education and employment to enhance their participation and contribution to the host society.

  • 6 The founding cities were Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, Peterborough and London. Other citie (...)

20The consensus on the local dimension of integration extends beyond European and national institutions, and academics have expressed renewed interest in seeking to define a general framework for local integration. The research project Inclusive Cities, which runs until 2023, draws on ideas and experience from within Europe and innovative approaches from cities in the United States. It is being conducted in 12 UK cities to promote a change in their approach to integration6 (Compas 2021).

21At the national level, much of Britain’s policy coordination has been done by the Department of Communities and Local Government and, since 2016, by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which was renamed the Department for Levelling up Housing and Communities in September 2021. The Local Government Association (LGA), which is the national membership body for local authorities, is in charge of guiding local authorities in the implementation of policies. The LGA works in coordination with the Strategic Migration Partnership (SMP), which establishes collaboration amongst the central government and the numerous local actors to work on specific matters related to migration and integration. Each English region has its own SMP, with a total of 12 SMPs across the UK. London has an even more complex stratified governance of integration; the Greater London Authority (GLA), the top-tier administrative body for Greater London, centralises much of the work done on integration at the city level, which is coordinated by the London Strategic Migration Partnership (LSMP).

22While matters related to immigration control and the acquisition of citizenship have been highly centralised, integration matters have been decentralised as part of the Conservative government’s austerity programme. In this regard, Jacqueline Broadhead observed that ‘the significant retrenchment of local authority resources post 2010 and lack of statutory requirements on local government in this area may have led to the conclusion that the UK government was an inactive and uninterested actor’ (Broadhead 2020). However, the plethora of published reports concerning this issue indicate the opposite view, although they all served to reiterate the government’s local approach to integration. Eric Pickles, former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, stated that ‘the government [will] not, as happens too often, stand in the way by dictating general solutions to complex local issues’ (DCLG 2012: 6), and argued that the government ‘would act only exceptionally’ because ‘integration is a local issue, and requires a local response which brings together public, private and civic and philanthropic partners’ (DCLG 2012). More recently, the Integrated Action Plan, which was published in 2019 and reiterated the same view, explained that integration challenges ‘are not uniform throughout the country – the interplay of demographics, patterns of migration, physical geography, industrial history and local economy in each place makes a unique set of challenges’ (DCLG 2019). The action plan also insisted on the diversity of local actors willing to take part in the issue of integration and called for a coordination of different local sectors to deliver on integration by involving business, social and faith sectors (HM Government 2019). All of these official reports have recognised the importance of ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, have equal opportunities, and promote the eradication of discrimination as a step towards social and political integration, with the connection of people of different cultures and religions being highlighted as a determining variable in combatting segregation and for successful integration.

23The concept of ‘community cohesion’, which first emerged in the British debate in 2001, has inspired much of the political debate on community relations in the UK in a post-multicultural era. In this regard, there has been a long-lasting consensus between left and right regarding the necessity of reviving a new sense of belonging to ‘Britishness’, which is defined broadly as a set of values including fair-play, the rule of law, democracy and the rights and responsibilities that are entailed in citizenship. In terms of the policy framework, much of the work was in the hands of the LGA, ‘the national voice of local government’, which developed the general framework of community cohesion to be implemented through local initiatives. Community cohesion takes place when

[t]here is common vision and a sense of belonging for all communities; the diversity of people’s different backgrounds and circumstances are appreciated and positively valued; those from different backgrounds have similar life opportunities; and strong and positive relationships are being developed between people from different backgrounds in the workplace, in schools and within neighbourhoods (LGA 2002:7).

24The conceptualisation of community cohesion was later defined in terms of rights and duties, in line with the debate concerning citizenship (Blunkett 2003), which paved the way to a new reform of the naturalisation procedure at the national level. This new definition also stressed the necessity of correlating community cohesion with a sense of shared rights and responsibilities:

- a defined and widely shared sense of the contribution of different individuals and groups to a future local or national vision
- a strong sense of an individual’s local rights and responsibilities
- a strong sense that people with different backgrounds should experience similar life opportunities and access to services and treatment
- a strong sense of trust in institutions locally, and trust that they will act fairly when arbitrating between different interests and be subject to public scrutiny
- a strong recognition of the contribution of the newly arrived, and of those who have deep attachments to a particular place – focusing on what people have in common
- positive relationships between people from different backgrounds in the workplace, schools and other institutions (CIC 2007:10).

25This conceptual approach to community relations led to the implementation of short-lived, publicly funded programmes to promote community integration, such as ‘Near Neighbours’ or ‘Big Lunch’. As Pickles (2011) explained: ‘Too often communities that live side by side don’t get together […] this can lead to isolation and misunderstandings which are not healthy for local communities’. In 2018, the Integrated Communities Innovation Fund was introduced to assist local authorities to conduct similar initiatives to address the issues identified in the green paper that were considered to be impediments to integration, namely residential segregation, a lack of English-language proficiency, a lack of meaningful social mixing and labour market disadvantages (MHCLG 2018). However, in reality, these costly, short-lived, out-of-whack programmes did little to address the issue of segregation. The Big Lunch, which was meant to encourage interactions between communities and overcome tensions and conflicts, was only an occasion for communities to share a samosa and a cup of tea for an afternoon, which was a highly minimalist approach to countering extremism and promoting community relations.

Integration and local initiatives

26The shift towards local governance led to the implementation of publicly funded programmes to assist cities to define their own policy frameworks in accordance with their priorities. The Integrated Communities Strategy green paper that was published in 2018 led to the implementation of an Integration Area Programme in five areas: Blackburn, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall and the London borough of Waltham Forest. This consisted in implementing a Local Integration Partnership to define local challenges and priorities.

27An analysis of published reports revealed that, overall, local authorities were experiencing the same challenges. For example, in its report entitled Stronger Communities Together, the City of Bradford noted that residential patterns, which rank the city as having the third-highest level of residential segregation in England and show that the BAME population accounted for over 50% of the population in a third of the city’s council wards, were the main priority (City of Bradford 2018). The arrival of new migrants in the city, including asylum seekers and Syrian refugees, makes this issue all the more sensitive. According to the report, this has resulted in high levels of segregation being found in schools. Segregation is correlated with the issue of poverty, which affects 21.9% of the city’s children. In addition, high levels of unemployment can be found amongst BAME females (38%) in comparison to White females (67%). The local authority insists that, as asylum seekers are barred from public funds, many women are left vulnerable to modern slavery (Ibid.). To address this issue, the report announced that the Linking Network initiative, which aims to promote gatherings and connections between communities, will be reinforced.

28Bradford’s local authority has pointed out migrants’ lack of English proficiency as a key challenge, particularly affecting long-settled members of the South Asian community, newly arrived migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in many English cities. All the local authorities participating in the Integration Area programme have ranked the lack of English proficiency amongst their top priorities. Responding to the high demand for English classes and reducing long waiting lists are examples demonstrating that local authorities have needed to find alternative solutions in response to the government’s funding cuts. This political choice is in clear contradiction with successive reports that have insisted on the significance of English-language proficiency in the promotion of community relations in the UK.

29The City of London has also taken the lead in the debate and in integration policymaking via the LSMP, which is chaired by the Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement; its goal is to ‘develop and maintain a strategic overview of key issues for migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum in London to maximise opportunities for social integration’. The city’s social integration strategy, ‘All of us’, has been defined as the extent to which people positively interact and connect with others from different backgrounds (Sadiq Khan 2020). It is shaped by the level of equality, the nature of our relationships, and our levels of community participation’. The strategy also involved establishing an online forum to allow people to join the conversation concerning how it is possible to connect with people, as well as a video that shares people’s experiences of living in London. The city has also developed ‘a social integration measurement toolkit’ to ‘establish a better understanding of the circumstances of individuals and communities, focusing on three core themes: relationships, participation and equality’. Along with these initiatives, local organisations have taken the lead on the integration issue. For example, the Trust for London, which is an independent charitable foundation aimed at countering poverty and inequality, was launched in partnership with the GLA, independent funders and civil society, with the Citizenship and Integration Initiative promoting integration of the youth population.

Questioning the government’s retreat from integration

30The shift towards local policymaking for integration should not go unquestioned. While local authorities have extremely close contact with migrants and are in a better position to implement appropriate solutions to specific local issues, the increasing devolution of the integration issue to local authorities and, more generally, to civil society, raises new questions and challenges.

31One aspect of the problem concerns the funding of integration policies. The drastic budget cuts since 2010 have had severe consequences for local authorities. Despite the government’s willingness to rectify the situation through punctual funding such as the recent Controlling Migration Budget, the shift towards local governance has not been followed by adequate funding. This is particularly true for English classes, for which provisions by the local authorities have not been sufficient to meet the demands. Since 2010, funding has been reduced in the context of economic austerity, with a risk of compromising migrants’ integration. As the Association of Colleges (AoC) warned, ‘this will prevent them from not only integrating with society, but from getting employment and off benefits. Many high-level professionals who come to this country could now be held back from offering their vital skills to the economy’ (TES 2015). This cut therefore appears to be in sharp contrast with the government reports, which have all ranked the learning of English as a top priority to promote community relations and to combat segregation.

32These cuts led to local authorities searching for alternatives to remedy the situation, which is another aspect of the problem. In fact, the complexity and multiplicity of stakeholders involved in integration at the local level may make it difficult for migrants to have a clear understanding the services and assistance that they can access. This is also true for ESOL classes, which are delivered across the cities in many different ways, and involve many different actors from civil society, religious organisations and volunteers. In the absence of sufficient means to respond to the high demand for ESOL classes, the City of London has published a call for ‘informal ESOL organisations’ (

  • 7 See, for example, the research published by the Integration Hub, ‘residential patterns’; http://www (...)

33Finally, the precise extent of the retreat from the issue of integration is unclear, as limited data pertaining to the measurement of the effectiveness of policymaking on the issue it is aimed to address are available. For example, with regard to segregation, the ineffectiveness of the implemented programmes is correlated with published data concerning segregation in English cities.7 In this case, the government’s response has been extremely limited, as it has consisted of reminders about the side-effects of segregation on integration. This was also observed in Casey’s report, which acknowledged ‘that the available data are already feeling out of date’, and argued that, while the census provided comprehensive and rich information, relying on data that were published every decade was not satisfactory (Casey op. cit.: 7), concluding that ‘better data and research are needed across a range of issues relating to integration’ (Casey ibid.).


  • 8 However, Brexit has shown that numerous Central European migrants have left the country. For exampl (...)

34At a time when migration shows no signs of decreasing8, one can legitimately expect that more English cities will become super-diverse spaces in the near future. This will undoubtedly increase the burden that is already being experienced by cities in terms of employment, housing and social care. While the social and economic integration of migrants are prominent issues, events threatening national security, causing a “crisis of multiculturalism” in Britain, have given more impetus to the debate about segregation, as observed in urban areas (Cantle 2001). The extent of this phenomenon has caused much alarm. The research conducted on residential patterns of migrants shows that some English cities are as segregated as they were 20 years earlier.

35One can therefore call the long-term effectiveness of expensive programmes devoted to community cohesion into question. Addressing segregation involves much more than sharing a cup of tea, which was what the Big Lunch, a programme aimed at promoting community relations that was organised a few years ago and funded by the DCLG as part of Eric Pickles’ integration agenda for ‘creating the conditions for integration’ entailed. It certainly involves more action from central government in terms of funding being allocated to integration policymaking and measuring the effects of programmes concerning segregation and integration.

36It is also predictable that Brexit will have a negative impact on the amount of funding allocated to integration programmes, as Britain withdrew from the European strategy on integration; this is expected to complicate and crystallise tensions with regard to policy coordination, as has already been observed with the Calais migrant crisis.

37Finally, the experiences of European cities may be instructive. The Dutch government passed the Act on Extraordinary Measures for Urban Problems to address segregation in response to local authorities lobbying for policy measures to be taken at the national level. This somewhat coercive piece of legislation, which was based on ‘group dispersal’, allowed authorities to prevent specific groups from settling in designated areas as a means to prevent segregation. In England, it remains to be seen whether the shift towards local policymaking for integration will provide conclusive results in the short term.

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1 This non-departmental public body was replaced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2006.

2 I will focus mainly on England because the country attracts the vast majority of migrants in comparison to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

3 In this paper, I consider the term ‘migrant’ under the broad definition given by the United Nations – that is ‘people who change their country of usual residence where they normally spend the daily period of rest’. Migrants leave their country to work, study or join family. The word should not be confused with the terms ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum seeker’, who are not considered in this paper. A refugee, as defined by Amnesty International, is ‘a person who has fled their own country because they are at risk of serious rights violations and persecution. Refugees have a right to international protection.’ An asylum-seeker is ‘a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognised as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim.’

4 The White ethnic group includes the following sub-categories: ‘White British, Irish, Gypsy or Irish travellers, and other White background’.

5 Notably, statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveal that, in 2019, ‘people from all ethnic minority groups except Indian, Chinese, White Irish and White Other groups were more likely than White British people to live in the most overall deprived 10 % of neighbourhoods in England’ (https//

6 The founding cities were Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, Peterborough and London. Other cities in the programme include Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Coventry, Newry, Mourne and Down, Newport and Sheffield.

7 See, for example, the research published by the Integration Hub, ‘residential patterns’;

8 However, Brexit has shown that numerous Central European migrants have left the country. For example, official statistics reveal that net migration for EU nationals was negative in 2020, and 94,000 more EU nationals are estimated to have left the UK than to have arrived.

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List of illustrations

Title Graph 1. The evolution of ethnic minority groups between 2001 and 2011
Credits Source: ONS 2011
File image/png, 69k
Credits Source: Business Intelligence Service, Oldham 2011 census ethnicity report
File image/png, 115k
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Electronic reference

Donia Touihri-Mebarek, Migrants in the city: Rethinking the governance of integration in an age of ‘super-diversity’Angles [Online], 15 | 2022, Online since 15 November 2022, connection on 30 May 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Donia Touihri-Mebarek

Associate professor at Université Rennes 2. Member of ACE: anglophonie, communauté et écriture.Donia Touihri-Mebarek completed a PhD (Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2014) on integration and the crisis of multiculturalism in the UK. Her research focuses on the policies of integration, securitization, multiculturalism and secularism in the UK

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Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International - CC BY 4.0

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