Mass Migrations, Integration and Local Governments: Issues and Prospects

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Mass migrations are but one of the wicked problems local governments have been faced with recently. Border issues are frequently stressed by politicians. The capacity of the Customs Service, the police, the Army, and other state bodies seems to be of critical importance in the event of unexpected mass influx of migrants. Migrants are frequently in the limelight of the public and media interest, for various reasons. The treatment of migrants attracts attention of international actors such as the UNHCR and others. A considerable body of research is devoted to these issues and problems. However, the real life indicates that the local level needs more thorough research than that conducted so far. Local turn in dealing with mass migrations is necessary in scientific and practical work. First of all, local governments and various local service providers have an important role in managing the influx of migrants in mass migrations, along with national bodies. Secondly, integration and mutual adjustment of people within local communities become increasingly prominent. There is a raising awareness that integration is not assimilation based on large national projects, but a sensitive and continuous local action consisting of cultural, educational, economic and other processes. Recognition of diversity and respect for human, political, and social rights in everyday (local) life serve as the main anchors of integration. In reality, there is a predominant role of urban and other local governments in taking care of integration. Representative and participatory governance principles need to be respected, and the most appropriate level for developing representative and participatory institutions is the local level. The role of local public services needs to be stressed in ensuring quality adjustment of people. Civil society, the media, and the voluntary sector need to be involved in mutual adjustment efforts. Capacity development of local actors has to be continuous, because migrations are becoming part of normal (or quasi-normal) way of life in today’s world. Although the space for autonomous local response to governance challenges connected with mass migrations is considerable, the coordination between national immigration policy and local implementation deserve special attention.