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Integration & Diversity

About our integration and diversity programme

MPG’s Integration and Diversity programme is committed to promoting an environment where diversity is recognised and valued. Migrants are entering societies which are themselves changing and becoming more diverse.

The Integration and Diversity programme is aimed at:

  • Promoting effective diversity strategies
  • Removing integration obstacles
  • Promoting active citizenship
  • Enhancing the capacity of stakeholders

In a strategic approach to diversity, the responsiveness of mainstream institutions and organisations to the challenges and advantages of Europe’s diverse populations is key. Responsiveness means meeting the challenge of providing products and services that reflect the diversity of society, and harnessing the full potential of that diversity to contribute to socio-economic arrangements and processes.

A citizens-centred approach offering multiple pathways to citizenship, leading ultimately to the acquisition of nationality, encourages active participation in society as well as increasing openness among the general public enabling all members of society to shape the shared future of a diverse society.

Tools include:

  • Peer review
  • Handbooks
  • Indicators
  • Benchmarking methods

highlighted projects

West London Alliance Social Value Conference – London – 7 December 2015

Former MPG Director Jan Niessen will represent MPG at the West London Alliance Social Value Conference. He will present the outcomes of the Diversity in the Economy and Local integration (DELI) project, and in particular how the use of social considerations in public procurement fits the European agenda.

diversity and integration work in use

Belgians start to see correlation between naturalisation and integration

MPG’s recent research on naturalisation policies and outcomes has been prominently used in the 2013 Annual Migration Report of Belgium’s new Federal Centre for the analysis of migration flows, the protection of fundamental rights of foreigners and the fight against human trafficking. Citing the MIPEX and MPG’s recent project with EUDO-Citizenship (known as ACIT), the report tries to analyse the impact of the 2012 Nationality restriction on the integration of immigrants. The report endorses the use of the ACIT indicators to evaluate the impact of the new law and cites Huddleston and Vink’s ACIT paper showing the strong positive correlation between integration and naturalisation policies across Europe. The report summarises MIPEX assessment of the 2000 legal liberalisation leading to a ‘simple, short, and free’ procedure, the discretionary nature of the Parliament’s Naturalisation Committee, and the the prospective impact assessment of the 2012 restriction on the MIPEX blog.

Drawing on MPG’s analysis, the Centre recommends that public authorities create the conditions for foreigners to still be able and interested to become citizens. The Centre also calls for the new naturalisation law and procedures to be regularly evaluated based on their impact on integration: Will there be a major decrease in the number of naturalisations? Does being a foreign rather than Belgian citizen make it harder for immigrants to integrate on the labour market and in other areas of public life?

A way forward for a National Integration Policy in Malta

On 13 June the human rights organisation Aditus released a report with “concrete recommendations aim­ed at national policymakers on how to maximise the success of the various stages of third country nationals’ integration process in Malta”. Using Malta’s scores on MIPEX as its starting point, consultations were organised and 60 recommendations developed on every MIPEX strand with different national stakeholders participating in the Malta Integration Network, as well as international experts, such as MPG’s director Jan Niessen.

diversity and integration Work in Context

Requests for acquisition of Belgian nationality plummeted in 2013

A survey conducted among the communes of Brussels by one of MPG’s interested partners on citizenship campaigns, Objectif, shows that the number of applications for acquisition of Belgian nationality fell by more than 65% between 2012 and 2013. The 2013 Activity Report of the Foreign Office supports these results and found that in 2013, only 15,899 requests for advice concerning the acquisition of Belgian nationality were introduced compared to 48,385 in 2012, a 66% decrease.

This significant decrease is mainly due to the tightening of conditions since the reform of the Nationality Code, in place since 1 January 2013. Access to this procedure is now limited to foreigners with an unlimited residence permit, who can prove at least 5 years or even 10 years of uninterrupted legal residence. In addition, the applicant must prove knowledge of one of the three national languages (A2 level), which thus excludes those people who may speak the language well but are illiterate. Candidates must also demonstrate their social inclusion and economic participation (having worked at least 468 days or paid independent economic contributions in six quarters over five years) or participation in the life of the host community.


Eric Jadot incumbent for Ecolo, is adamant that the law has gone too far and has become too dependent on socio-economic criteria. For example, “if a woman is in Belgium for seven years and is raising her two children at home, she also contributes to society, simply by doing her job as a mother… Belgium should be proud that people want to assume Belgian nationality.

Given the complexity of the conditions for granting the new law, foreigners may need help understanding whether or not they are eligible for citizenship and if so, how they should go about applying for it. In order to give them support, and as part of the Immigrant Citizenship Campaigns project, Objectif will host a Forum on Nationality on 25 November 2014. During the Forum, Objectif and their partners will offer information and personal assistance to those attending, delivering practical information on the main criteria of the new law, including the steps to take to become eligible and the documentation necessary to apply for access to Belgian nationality.

MPG has met with Objectif and other interested partners twice this year in order to develop a best practice model that can be used by practitioners across Europe to develop their own citizenship campaigns. The experiences of the first Forum on Nationality held by Objectif in April 2014, which had over 250 participants, were very useful in the development of a one-stop-shop event model on citizenship, voting and political participation that will be outlined in the best practice proposal.

Video below: see 5’30” to 5’45” for the section that mentions the report on nationality

Le journal de 13h (21 août 2014)

The immigrant democratic deficit and the rising far-right

DivPol_Benchmak_pThe following text was published as an opinion piece by MPG Programme Director Thomas Huddleston in the EUobserver on 12 November 2014.

Actions countering the far-right are mostly limited to election periods. The rest of the time, policymakers and civil society are overlooking a growing democratic deficit that inflates the far right’s electoral results; immigrants themselves simply do not count in most elections.

The low levels of electoral participation and naturalisation among Europe’s growing immigrant populations have become the major disenfranchisement cause of our time.

Voter registration and turnout are on average lower among immigrant voters, though these levels are generally related to their age, education level, duration of residence, and interest in the election issues.

The major unaddressed issue is that, unlike in traditional countries of immigration, such as Australia and Canada, most immigrants in Western Europe are not naturalised and thus not eligible to vote in national elections, most regional elections, and (for non-EU citizens) in European elections.

Fifty-one million people

People with an immigrant background make up an estimated 14 percent of the EU’s adult population aged 15-74 – that’s around 51 million people.

An estimated 32 million are first generation (born abroad to foreign-born parents) and 18 million are second generation (born in the country to a foreign-born parent). Two thirds of the first generation are not national citizens of their country of residence. The numbers are not much better even for non-EU immigrants or for residents living in the country for ten years or more.

Large numbers of young second generation adults are also not national citizens in around half of the EU member states. As a result, an estimated 16 million non-EU citizens and 11.5 million free-moving EU citizens are disenfranchised in national and most regional elections, where most immigration, employment and social policies are decided.

Among non-EU citizens, 10 million live in EU countries denying them even the right to vote in local elections (e.g. Germany, Italy, France, Greece and Austria). These ‘missing voters’ may not have swayed the balance of power among mainstream parties, but they certainly would have diminished the power of the far-right.

Far right parties are perpetuating and benefiting the most from this democratic deficit. It is no coincidence that the far-right did best in the 2014 EU elections in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, and the UK, where naturalisation rates have also plummeted over the past decade.

Vicious circle

Research finds that the electoral power of the far-right is the most important factor explaining the restrictiveness of European countries’ citizenship policies, which then has major effects on immigrants’ naturalisation rates, even for high-educated and developed-world immigrants.

This explains why successful far-right parties usually succeed at lobbying to keep the naturalisation rate low by either blocking or undoing reform. This strategy sets off a vicious cycle of democratic deficit: the more citizens that vote for far-right parties, the more restrictive becomes the citizenship policy, the fewer immigrants become citizens, the greater is the electoral power of the far right, and the cycle continues.

To remedy this, active citizenship should be at the core of integration policies at national, local and European level. Countries without a major far-right party, such as Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, can focus on maintaining or increasing their naturalisation and electoral participation rates.

Countries with a major far-right party can still do much in practice to support immigrants and facilitate naturalisation and political participation. Positive examples include campaigns led by NGOs and municipalities in Italy and France, advocacy by immigrant youth in Italy and Greece, and specialised services in countries such as Belgium.

All of these efforts to promote active citizenship will further build consensus for electoral enfranchisement and citizenship reform based on what all citizens have in common. In all European countries, the general population also need to be informed about the effects of this democratic deficit and the benefits of active citizenship for immigrants and for wider society.

An emerging scientific literature suggests that naturalisation and electoral participation work as tools to promote socio-economic integration, fight discrimination and counter the far right.

Citizenship-campaign-model_COVERSo far, few national and local policymakers or civil society in Europe are promoting naturalisation and electoral participation among immigrants. The Migration Policy Group, inspired by good practices in the US and Europe, has just developed a model for citizenship campaigns to inform and encourage immigrants to vote and to naturalise.

In fact, this model is already being implemented in Brussels, where readers can learn how to become a Belgian citizen at an all-day forum on 25 November (http://www.allrights.be/forum)

MPG and its partners believe that these campaigns will create the missing constituency on active citizenship in cities and countries across Europe. Full citizenship is within reach.

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