Discussion Paper on Migration and Crime Prevention, Efus 2003


The Migration Immigration theme in local crime prevention strategies [1]

NB: this presentation was made for Efus’ general assembly, Lisbon, 4 July 2003

The link between the issues of immigration and security does not lend itself to dispassionate discussion, given the lack of neutrality this theme arouses when mentioned by the media or in political debates, or even in the field of social sciences, where it often remains ‘explosive’. It is important to point out here that although this question was first broached by criminology in most European states more than forty years ago, the involvement of foreigners in crime, whether as perpetrators or victims, is not widely known. And there, in a flagrant way, we approach the limits of administrative statistics (or even victimisation surveys) in accounting for the phenomenon[2].

The integration of minorities: a designated priority of immigration and crime prevention policies

As the European Urban Charter proclaimed as of 1992, one of the asserted objectives of every crime prevention policy is the participation of all members of society. The priority given to the integration of communities is shared by a number of local technicians and elected officials, as attests the Naples Manifesto (Efus, 2000): ‘We [the participants in the conference] want cities to be hospitable towards other citizens of the world, migrants and travellers. The problems linked to immigration cannot be resolved by criminalisation and the rejection of diversity.’

European immigration policy shares this integrative approach and stresses the role of local authorities and communities in this context. Refusing the ‘zero immigration’ option, the European Commission points out that the immigrant insertion policies must ‘correspond “to a sort of contract”: on the one hand, societies must be ready to accept differences, which are also a source of cultural richness, and on the other, the immigrant populations must respect the common values characteristic of the European society into which they are integrating (respect for human rights, the rules of the democratic system, equality between men and women, pluralism…).’

The ethnic minority: a complex reality

‘Make who participate?’ ‘Integrate who?’, one might wonder when studying the treatment of ethnic minorities in local crime prevention strategies. The question of minorities is  particularly complex due to the fact that the very term ‘minority’ refers to highly different realities[3].

On the one hand, the origin of ethnic minorities can have quite different causes: either the formation of the state does not always coincide with the geographical limits between nations, or the members of several nations share the same territory, or else the minority results from immigration. On the other hand, certain minority groups are hundreds of years old, whereas others are relatively recent. Finally, the cultural orientation of the majority and minority communities can undergo changes just like their identification model.

In general, asylum-seekers, immigrants or individuals of immigrant descent have different perceptions from a criminality perspective, from which specific needs arise compelling local players to adapt their policies[4].

The various integration models that explain the differentiated approaches of local crime prevention strategies

Two major models of integration illustrate the differences in dealing with the question of ethnic minorities in local crime prevention strategies.
The United Kingdom can be seen as the prototype of the ethnic minorities model, in which immigrants are considered as members of their new society but especially from the point of view of their ethnic or national origins. Conversely, France will be the most typical example of the assimilation model, in which immigrants are expected to assimilate to their hosts. One easily understands why the question of ethnic minorities and their involvement in public crime prevention policies is more identifiable for the first group of countries.

A direct consequence on crime prevention policies is the clear gap between the countries of Anglo-Saxon tradition for which crime prevention strategies in the image of the English Community Safety Partnership are based on the populations (or ‘communities’), whereas the others are focused more on territories. Thus, the city of Luton has made the fight against discrimination a priority of its local partnership for the 1999-2002 period (particularly by improving data-collecting relating to racist acts or again by developing victim aid for ethnic minorities); whereas the city of Liège (Belgium) opted for a neighbourhood approach in the framework of its Security Contract for implementing that of Bressoux-Droixhe, which includes a large ethnic minority, a plan to fight against the stigmatisation of those populations.

A common problem at the local level?

A priori, the phenomenon of immigration and the instruments implemented in the various member states differ from one to the next, as well as from one European city to the other.

However, we must go beyond all these differences in the study of the tools implemented in European cities. On the one hand, while the levels of ethnic minorities differ between states, a majority of European cities concentrate high levels of ethnic minorities in their neighbourhoods, making the issue a common problem. On the other hand, even when a city has a low percentage of foreign inhabitants and/or inhabitants of foreign origin, the thresholds of acceptation of endogenous populations can also prove to be low and complicate the task of grass-roots players for instituting a dynamic of inclusion of these populations. Thus the fact that in one Spanish city (immigration being a more recent phenomenon in Spain than in most other European states) only 3% of its population is foreign, whereas in Brent (United Kingdom), more than 50% consists of ethnic minorities (a record in Europe), does not mean that no scheme has been set up in the former…

The diversity of tools implemented by European cities: from integration to the participation of ethnic minorities

Concerning the treatment of ethnic minorities in local crime prevention policies, the local actors implement a multitude of projects that range from reception of asylum-seekers to the fight against racism, and include the consultation and even participation of those populations in implemented policies.

A number of cities implement fairly classic insertion policies of asylum-seekers (socio-professional insertion, language classes, etc.), whereas information and participation policies of asylum-seekers and ethnic minorities are rarer. Here we might mention initiatives such as preparing a guide of associations specialised in helping asylum-seekers, the setting up of counselling organisations for all questions stemming from those populations within municipal administrations (Antwerp, Terrassa).

The schemes to fight racism and, more broadly, discrimination are not as visible on the continent. As the prevention official for the city of Liège points out: ‘We have arguments for fighting against racial discrimination, but we do not yet know how to formalise them as tools.’ More commonly, one encounters this type of action in the United Kingdom, as in Edinburgh, where a far-reaching campaign has been undertaken (see attached document).

Finally, the participation of ethnic minorities, which, in a way, constitutes the sum of an integrative security policy, is sometimes encountered as in Modena, where an ethnic minorities commission has been set up.

[1] This contribution relies on the conclusions of the bilateral Belgium/Spain meeting (December 2002) and the speech delivered by J.-P. Buffat at the German Crime Prevention Day (April 2003).
[2] In this regard, one might ask oneself about the explanation for the increase, when observed, in the number of foreign perpetrators. Certain criminologists ask the question of knowing whether such an increase was not related to an increase in crime as much as to a discriminatory attitude on the part of repressive authorities. On this subject: Migration – Kriminalität-Prävention, Gutachten zum 8. Deutschen Präventionstag, Britta Bannenberg, April 2003.
[3] On this subject: Différents et égaux : modèles pour l’analyse des politiques d’intégration, Han Entzinger, in Les stratégies de mise en œuvre des politiques d’intégration, Council of Europe, 2000.
[4] It is here important to underscore how few studies refer to the perceptions and needs of ethnic minorities in face of crime. Here, one can also refer to Multicultural Perspectives of Crime and Safety, Department of Justice, Victoria (Australia), June 2000.