Local councils should play a prominent role in helping migrants to integrate, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
A new report on diversity from IPPR argues that Britain could learn from Canada how best to integrate migrants and create a cohesive society. This would involve active input from local authorities.
Entitled Trajectory And Transience: Understanding and Addressing the Pressures of Migration on Communities, the study recommends that local councils should be involved in the design of citizenship tests, which would include information about community life and local activities.
The report also recommends that councils hold widely advertised and public citizenship ceremonies for newly arrived migrants, and that ‘naturalisation’ fees, currently at £1,000, should be lower.
Other recommendations in the report include:
• The Government should bring in a Controlling Migration Fund targeted at transition areas that have seen localised high migration in recent years. This would help local authorities pre-empt and alleviate pressure on public services and integrate migrants into areas.
• Local authorities should consult local residents on developing Action Plans to positively engage the local population, plan services and encourage community cohesion.
• Universities should also play an active role by helping to support international students with applications and processes related to post-study visas and by encouraging them to stay in the local area after completing their studies, for example, by setting up programmes that match international students with sectors of the local economy affected by skills shortages.
Phoebe Griffith, IPPR's associate director for Migration, Integration and Communities, said: ‘Opinion polls consistently show the majority of the public have fears about large unplanned immigration and politicians frequently respond with ever-tougher measures and rhetoric. This is getting us nowhere fast. We desperately need a new approach, which recognises the need to integrate migrants, rather than hoping the issue will go away.’
‘What Canada shows us’, she continued, ‘is that more effort spent trying to make active citizens out of migrants pays dividends. We think that national and local Government, universities and established communities all have roles to play in making newly arrived immigrants feel at home and want to participate fully in local community life.’
The report will be launched at a conference entitled Diverse or Divided? at Canada House in London.