Migrants and Cities: Recognizing the Roles of Cities to Promote Social Inclusion

Currently, there is unprecedented human mobility across the world, caused by various factors including lack of employment, motivation to pursue better education & living, security, and even environmental issues pushing migrants to flee from their home regions. Whether it is cross-border migration or rural-urban migration, cities globally has been increasingly known to be the popular destination for migrants to settle in. Whether is related to the current global phenomena of Syrian Refugees, uprising climate refugees, the mobility of women caregivers in Southeast Asia, migrant workers in Gulf region, up to day to day migration, flagging the cross-sectorial discussion between urban and city development with migration is necessary to further seek solutions in related problems. With the increasing phenomenon of human mobility, migration has brought both positive and negative consequences for the destination cities where they migrate to. However, the 2015 World Migration Report from IOM states that the issue of migration is overlooked in the discussion of urban and city development and to some extent, is often perceived negatively (IOM, 2015).

The issue of migration is inseparable with the efforts to manage migrants, particularly on the integration aspect. It is argued that migrants bring positive impacts to the hosting community by bringing new knowledge and culture, manpower resources, agent of diversity, and even essential economic and social contribution to their home community, among others. However, these contributions that migrants bring to the hosting cities and communities are again, still under-discussed. However, diverse sectors of society may not always have the sufficient conditions to keep a cohesive social inclusion into a populated city. The problems where ‘your migrant neighbors’ are sources of community problems that lead to discrimination, social conflict, differential treatment, and to some extent, social disintegration are no longer new problems globally.

Regardless of the overlooked positive contribution from migrants, cities can play a role to promote the contribution from new members to the society and to remove the negative stigma of migrants by promoting social inclusion among both incoming and hosting society. The efforts of cities in improving social cohesion and inclusion lies at the core of social policies of education, health, as well as the promotion of social mobility, all this managed under the city, provincial, and national governments.

When it comes to managing social inclusion at the community level, there are countless interactions among individuals and community groups that take place that may perpetuate the social disintegration among migrant and hosting communities. In this regard, it is the role of city governments to further seek local solutions to manage the community diversity by reaching out to both migrant and host communities as well as to mitigate the potential social exclusion and disintegration that may take place in communities or neighborhoods (MPI, 2013).

Participation can also become an element to promote social relations between newcomers and locals in which city governments can play a role as facilitators. There have been initiatives between public sectors (city governments) and non-governmental organizations, private sectors, urban practitioners, civil society representatives, migrant and diaspora groups to further discuss and cooperate on urban governance issues which are seen as the ‘opportunity structures’ among migrants and hosting society (IOM, 2015). Another example that is recently gaining popularity in homogenous society such as the Republic of Korea, is where localized policies and activities conducted by non-governmental organizations and migrant shelters provide spaces and programs where migrants and locals can interact together to increase the understanding between the two groups (Fitriana, 2016).

There are and there will be more countless examples where cities play roles to manage issues of incoming migrants and bridging them with hosting society. However, when it comes to managing incoming migrants, the discussion goes beyond the provision of housing, education, or income sources for the newcomers. It also deals with the social cohesion among members of community groups that include migrants and hosting community. In reducing the social disintegration and foster the social inclusion, it takes the political commitment from city governments and relevant partners to further recognize and acknowledge the connection between migrants and cities within their urban governance priorities considering the countless human mobility across the world.


Fitriana, C. E. 2016. Social Integration of Migrant Workers in Hosting Society: The Case of Indonesian EPS Workers in Ansan, South Korea. Unpublished Thesis: Graduate School of International and Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

International Organization for Migration (IOM). 2015. World Migration Report 2015. Available at: http://publications.iom.int/system/files/wmr2015_en.pdf

Migration Policy Institute (MPI). 2013. The Roles of Cities in Immigrant Integration. Available at: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/role-cities-immigrant-integration

By Cresti Eka Fitriana

Cresti is from Indonesia and she holds Master of Arts in International Development Studies from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Seoul, Republic of Korea. She is a former awardee of Korean Government Scholarship Program (KGSP) and is specialized in areas including migration & development, social policy & inclusion, and ASEAN region. She served as a Program Intern in the CityNet Secretariat from August to November 2016.

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