What's the big idea? Dealing with migration locally amid significant social change

Pip Tyler, the project manager takes us through the big idea behind Communities up Close 

Freedom of Movement, economic crisis, austerity, referendum, Brexit, Covid 19: these are relentless, colossal societal changes that have had huge impacts at a local level – and still do. The Communities up Close project set out to find out how councils can support local neighbourhood areas to adjust to new migration amidst these kinds of changes. And how can councils plan for the next big changes in immigration policy and trends around the corner in 2021 while we are still dealing with the impacts of Covid 19?

Let’s start with a story. A few years ago, a council in Yorkshire and Humber approached Migration Yorkshire for support in the context of some of those societal changes listed above. They knew soon there some coaches were due to arrive in their area, bringing a group of migrants coming from an eastern European country, recruited by a local employer to work in their factory. The coaches would be noticeable and the group of new arrivals would not go unnoticed locally because of its size.

The council wanted to know how to prepare the local community. They were a little concerned because that local area had experienced a lot of change over the years. The council hoped we might be able to put them in touch with other councils who had experienced a similar situation, from whom they could learn.

‘Ah, but it’s different here’ – this is a common response when we try to share learning from research or practice. At Migration Yorkshire, we know places in Yorkshire that have had experiences of groups of new workers from one country suddenly arriving, but they are quite different to the council area in question in terms of the community makeup, history of migration and the size and location of the neighbourhood in relation to the city. We weren’t sure that lessons about dealing with new migration would be applicable in such a different context. Wouldn’t it be ideal to be able to link the struggling council with one that matched the neighbourhood context more closely?

Fast forward 3 years and during the Communities up Close project we’ve talked to residents old and new in a selection of neighbourhoods about migration and local change, and we’ve surveyed the Yorkshire and Humber population about migration and integration  We’ve brought professionals together to share experiences - ironically impacted hugely by the latest huge societal change - across the country and at the regional and local level. We’ve found out about common issues across different kinds of neighbourhoods dealing with migration and change, but also, critically, how different types of neighbourhoods respond to migration in their own way: see our report 'Neighbourhood change and migration in Yorkshire and Humber'

It’s been a good 15 years now since EU accession in 2004. Yet we still think of ‘new’ migration from the EU, and being able to cope with the changes it brought. Some impacts of migration occur more quickly than others – we might notice new people in the community, but we might not notice until later how that’s gradually changed the look of a high street for example. The impacts of our huge societal changes are undoubtedly going to impact upon neighbourhoods for a long time yet.

Although our fieldwork was in Yorkshire and Humber, we selected varied research sites to develop a model that might tell us something about types of places and how they respond to migration and are shaped by it. This model – or typology – suggests how urban and rural experiences might be different, how areas with a long history of migration cope with migration differently to those that are relatively new to it, it compares places that have some diversity and places that have super-diversity, places that have experienced painful economic structural change, and autonomous towns with strong local identities. Hopefully, as our migration patterns evolve, if we know change is coming we may be able to anticipate and plan better for its impact on different kinds of local neighbourhoods.


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Page last updated: 28/08/2020 09:40:11

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