Home Institution

University of Puget Sound

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy

Abstract

Because of the reality of permanent immigration to Europe, the issue of integration of immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants is of great importance and the direction and style of policies are the subjects of increasing debate and disagreement. Neither multicultural policies nor assimilation policies have led to a satisfactory level of integration and decreased social and ethnic tensions in France and the Netherlands. We found that often, the rhetoric, perceptions, and misinterpretations that go along with the labels of ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘assimilation’ serve to further polarize the debate and lead to more problems than they solve. The overall rhetoric and program label does not make a huge difference in, and often does not match the programs and policies that are implemented on the ground; the more important issue is having a consistent policy that emphasizes welcoming immigrants, helping them succeed socioeconomically, and finding their place within society. From comparing the cases of France and the Netherlands and looking at specific policies in each we are able to draw some conclusions about policies in education, labor market access, and access to citizenship and regarding what aspects are important in an integration program. In education it is important to account for immigrant status and culture in policies, not only socioeconomic status. In the labor market it is crucial to provide equal access to all parts of the economy and to have programs that help immigrants find professions that fit their skill sets. It is important to decrease barriers to citizenship so that immigrants feel as though it is possible to fully integrate, but not lower them to the extent that citizenship loses its meaning. Finally, there should be focus on religious tolerance, open debate, and intercultural education, as well as decreased demonizing of immigrants by politicians and the media to promote understanding and acceptance of diverse peoples.

Disciplines

Civic and Community Engagement | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification