Sunday, August 10, 2008

We all have a role in immigrants’ integration

Article from 2004 about the research on integration and immigration by Antoinette Batumubwira, who is now Burundi's minister of foreign affairs.

Antoinette Batumubwira has studied integration measures in Vantaa. Antoinette arrived in Vantaa almost two years ago. She was born in Burundi and came to Finland with her husband and two daughters. She has a Masters Degree in Information and Communication. Antoinette Batumubwira

Antoinette attended a five month Finnish language course and completed three month’s training in Uudenmaa Employment and Economic Development Centre (TE-keskus). After the training, she began to work in the same office as a Planning Officer. “I am very impressed by the openness of TE-keskus to offer me such interesting work, although my Finnish language was still weak,” Antoinette says.

During her ten-month contract, Antoinette worked on a study about how integration measures function in practice both at Municipality level and in the local Employment Office. She also analysed the City Integration programme and compared it with the everyday integration work at grass root level. Vantaa was chosen to be the target of the study.

In her study Antoinette divides the analyses between three different areas that are responsible in the integration process.
- the host society
- the immigrants themselves
- the integration, social, and employment services

“I believe that the role of the host society, as one of the main actors in the integration process, is not highlighted enough.” For example, in Vantaa she sees the Integration programme as something very, very innovative. However, the way the Integration programme is implemented is not often very multicultural as many of the activities are targeted at only immigrants. “There should be more activities leading to exchange between the migrants’ communities and the host society,” suggests Antoinette.

One of the points indicated in the study is that immigrants should be empowered as partners in the integration work. For example, in associations Antoinette sees a great deal of potentiality, but the associations also need to be strengthened, she says. In Vantaa there are many immigrant organisations but very often they work in the cultural area, although they could have a lot to do and say in larger social questions. In fact, she says, “The Immigrants’ associations could, in the long run, also be partners in the formulation of the city integration policy.”

The study also gives suggestions on how to improve the work of individual integration plans. Antoinette has seen that the partnership relation is often missing in the moment of working on the integration plan and this is due to the immigrant not having enough information to actively participate in the developing the plan. The immigrant should be given adequate information tools before they set up their integration plan, also the officials, especially the employment office counsellors, need to have enough information on the immigrant’s background in order to assist them in designing a realistic integration plan.

Antoinette Batumubwira’s study, entitled “The route towards integration: the share of every one”, is published on September 30, 2004.

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