Migration from South East Europe. Enabling participation and cohesion at municipal level (ZuSudo)

Migration dynamics in the Ruhr area received a significant boost with the EU’s eastward enlargement. Alongside the associated opportunities, the region also faces challenges. Particularly in connection with full freedom of movement in the EU for Bulgaria and Romania in 2014, buzzwords such as ‘poverty migration’, ‘immigration into social systems’ and ‘problem homes’ have emerged. While, contrary to these initial fears, a very diverse migration process with mixed qualifications, and a generally positive labour market integration process emerged at federal level, a contradictory picture emerged for some municipalities in the Ruhr region. According to it, Bulgarian and Romanian migrants are perceived as groups with specific problems and support needs, living increasingly spatially segregated in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Educational and labour market opportunities are seen as relatively low. Access to adequate and affordable housing is difficult. In addition, many Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants often have limited entitlements to social benefits. At the same time, they are rejected by local residents.

The research project “Migration from South-East Europe – Enabling participation and cohesion at municipal level” (ZuSudo) addresses these challenges for migrants and their host municipalities. The starting point is an understanding of integration as a facilitating strategy, as the participation of all individuals and social groups in social and societal coexistence with the greatest possible equality of opportunity, as a mutual process of understanding and negotiation, and as an invitation to participate in all economic, cultural, social and political activities and areas considered important. In this context, integration needs to be conceived and shaped in a highly differentiated way, depending on the respective types of migration (long-term, short-term, return migration), the expectations and action strategies of migrants and their families and, finally, the conditions and strategies in the regions of arrival and origin.

In the project, on the one hand, highly dynamic, diverse and transnational migration movements between Bulgaria, Romania and six selected municipalities in the Ruhr area are examined in order to understand the complexity of arrival processes (including mobility between municipalities and neighbourhoods) and multi-local and cross-border participation, as well as to analyse the (possible) stigmatisation mechanisms of this group of migrants.

To this end, the family, educational, occupational and migration histories as well as the changing life orientations of migrants in the six municipalities of the Ruhr area will be researched and analysed. The social framework conditions that promote or limit opportunities for participation will also be examined and discussed with stakeholder groups. In addition, the multitude of experiences from municipal integration and action concepts and the respective integration policy action principles will be recorded, compared and evaluated for their effectiveness in the dialogue.

Levels of investigation and project objectives
By including relevant stakeholder groups, experiences and proposals for increasing opportunities for participation of immigrant and migrant groups will be documented and debated, which can support municipalities in shaping these processes.

The study will focus on three levels: communities, organisations and families. At the level of municipalities, current concepts of action will be compared with the needs of migrants. This includes the classification of the effects of the pandemic on this population group. The project also promotes the exchange of experience between the six participating municipalities, supports the establishment of effective contact possibilities and contributes to the creation and strengthening of transnational cooperation structures between the regions of arrival and the regions of origin.
Migrant Organisations (MOs) should be supported in their dual function as bridges between the host society and the society of origin and between the municipal administration and migrants. The project supports the establishment of new organisations or the promotion of existing organisations with links to Romania and Bulgaria. At the level of individuals, households and families, the project aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the conditions, course and consequences of immigration for individuals and their families, going beyond “migration from poverty”. To this end, individual and family biographies will be documented and there will be an exchange of experience at municipal level on measures that can increase opportunities for participation in the host society.

Approach and methods
The project follows a mixed-methods approach and combines primary data collection in arrival communities in the Ruhr area and selected regions of origin through expert interviews, surveys and biographical interviews as well as secondary analysis from various data sources. At the same time, it integrates elements of action research by providing information and discussing the collected and analysed data with the affected groups (migrants, managing authorities, municipalities).

Events and results
There will be four conferences with relevant stakeholder groups in the Ruhr area as well as in Romania, and various practical dialogues. In addition, an international summer school will be organised to promote application-oriented scientific interest in the field.

Research report: Target group / Scientific community
Policy paper (in German, Romanian, Bulgarian): target group municipalities from the three countries
Recommendations for action: Target group MO, independent sponsors, religious communities, media partners

April 2021 – June 2024