While integration policies are traditionally decided at the national and regional levels (e.g. inclusion in the welfare system, and access to education), integration itself essentially happens locally. In the case of Belgium, local authorities and stakeholders can implement national policies differently and design their own programmes, which can lead to different levels of migrant integration, even though the institutional and regulatory framework at national level is the same for all regions and local authorities. This study analyses these differences at the Belgian local level to understand which factors and measures are more successful than others.
Results show that the major elements hindering integration are: weak communication and coordination of key integration players; lack of awareness of responsibilities and goal-setting at the local and regional levels; inconsistent access to funds; the lack of stakeholder networks in Belgium; inconsistency in the interests of stakeholders; and the absence of a comprehensive response and sense of political priority.
The paper suggests that a target-based approach, combined with efficient communication and cooperation between different institutions, are important factors in improving the integration of immigrants at the local level. In municipalities where different institutions face conflicts of interest or a lack of communication channels, integration appears to be less successful, mostly due to poor outreach to the disadvantaged groups (e.g. non-EU migrants) by employment services and other integration initiatives.