Expats likely to face huge disparities in integration policies in Europe and North America, study shows

by Ray Clancy on March 3, 2011

US and Europe immigration disparity

The United States is the best in the world in terms of strong anti discrimination laws and protections for immigrants, according to a new study that contrasts and compares integration policies in 31 countries.

Sweden was the top ranking country, followed by Portugal, Canada, Finland and the Netherlands. Also in the top ten is Belgium, Norway, Spain and Italy. The bottom five are Latvia, Cyprus, Slovakia, Malta and Lithuania. The UK, which is often a popular target for illegal immigrants, ranks equal 12 with Germany.

The study shows that there are great disparities, particularly in Europe in how immigrants and expats are integrated and while change is happening it is at a very slow place.

The Migration Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), published by the British Council and the Migration Policy Group, also says that there are still many obstacles to how new comers live, work and participate in societies.

The US is ranked ninth among 31 countries. This is the first year the US has been part of the study which examines seven key categories: employment opportunities, family reunion, education, political participation, long term residence, access to citizenship and anti discrimination.

The US also ranked high on the access to citizenship scale because it encourages newcomers to become citizens in order to fully participate in American public life. Compared with other countries, immigrants in the US enjoy employment opportunities, educational opportunities, and the opportunity to reunite with close family members.

However, MIPEX also acknowledges that the US’s complex immigration laws, limited visa ability, high fees, and long backlogs may make it challenging for immigrants to integrate into the fabric of American life.

It says that several US states are taking the lead on immigrant integration, including Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington state, as well as major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco that have offices dedicated to welcoming newcomers.

The study found that generally, migrants are still discouraged from becoming politically active or gaining full citizenship, although the trend in reforming countries is to open voting rights, dual nationality and birthright citizenship, for example in Portugal, Greece and Luxembourg.

The policies though are generally failing to address the needs of a new generation of diverse students with few schools required to help teachers, migrant students, and parents address migrants’ specific needs. However there are several countries that are leading in this area such as the Nordic countries, the US and Canada.

Most countries guarantee equal and secure rights to work for reunited families and long-term residents. However they are asked to fulfil more requirements that many nationals could not such as income, age limits, and tests without support to pass.

Nearly all countries guarantee legal migrants equal working conditions and access to unions once they begin working. But nearly half exclude migrant workers, who pay full taxes, from parts of the social security system.

Anti discrimination laws are being strengthened in many countries, for example Sweden and the UK, although very few have strong policies and bodies to promote equality in society. Most countries are creating as many opportunities as obstacles for immigrants to become equal members of society.

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