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Equality and human rights

The Equality and Human Rights Commission works to create a fairer Britain. It “aims to narrow the power, inclusion and integration gap and strengthen good relations by forging greater understanding between communities”. Through its focus on Good Relations, it empowers people to tackle hate crime, has reported on the beneficial impact of immigration on the UK economy and labour market, and investigated solutions to help gypsies and travellers live with settled people.

“We are one community, the Travellers and our settled neighbours. We've all got something in common: we want our children to be healthy and educated.” Gloria Buckley MBE, Romany Gypsy and manager of three authorised sites, from the report Gypsies and Travellers: Simple Solutions for Living Together. Gloria Buckley’s comment is a reminder that, despite their many differences, people have important things in common on which they can focus and build bridges.

Citizenship

Many people who travel to a new country as migrants or refugees eventually think about settling down as residents and becoming citizens of that country. Those applying for naturalisation as a British citizen or indefinite leave to remain are required to take a test called Life in the UK. Information about the test, who takes it and what they need to do to prepare for it is provided by the UK Border Agency.

Can you pass a sample Life in the UK test?

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

Socrates, Fifth Century BCE

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Home | Key Concepts | Living together

Moving People Changing Places

Some key terms

The way migrants are expected to integrate into society can be divided into four main categories:

Melting pot/Assimilation: The host nation demands or encourages migrants to become like their majority populations by leaving behind their languages and cultures and adopting those of their new country

Accommodation: Migrants are encouraged to adapt to mainstream policies and institutions and dominant norms and values without being required to give up their languages, religions and cultural practices

Cultural pluralism/ Multiculturalism: Different groups co-exist without being required to adapt or engage with wider society

Integration/Cosmopolitanism: The host nation focuses on bringing diverse groups together on the basis of shared values or citizenship

The word diversity is often used for the variety of human cultures, languages and societies or communities both worldwide and in particular regions or cities, and superdiversity expresses the social complexity found in many societies today as a result of continuous population movements, multiple identities, new and varied interactions, and people's exposure to local, national and global communications and cultures.

canopy
© Aria Ahmed

Living together


How are migrants received and included in societies?

In both theory and practice, there are a variety of models and ways of thinking about how people of different backgrounds and identities live together in society.

How do receiving countries respond to the immigrants and refugees in their midst, and in what ways do migrants participate in the societies they become a part of? There are many possibilities and they vary across time and from place to place. Even within a single country, policies and attitudes can alter significantly as governments change, as different groups of migrants and refugees arrive, and in response to local, national and global events.

Some nations have demanded or encouraged migrants to become like their majority populations by leaving behind their languages and cultures and adopting those of their new country (key terms: melting pot, assimilation). Others have encouraged adaptation to both mainstream policies and institutions and dominant norms and values without requiring newcomers to give up their languages, religions and cultural practices (accommodation). Some have allowed different groups to co-exist without requiring them to adapt or engage with wider society (cultural pluralism, multiculturalism), whilst others have focused on bringing diverse groups together on the basis of shared values or citizenship (integration; cosmopolitanism).

children with henna hands
© Katy Gardner and Kanwal Mand

Living together in “diaspora space”

From Roman Times, the British Isles has been inhabited by many social and cultural groups.  Migration Histories examines the principal periods of migration, and Locations focuses on some key movements and places of migration and settlement. They reveal what these periods and places can tell us about how people lived with diversity and experienced being different. Together with the pages about Identities and Cultures, they describe the impact of migrants and diasporic communities, not only on their own people and identities, but on Britain and Britishness.  Everyday life and popular culture are all the richer for these influences, whether in food, art, sport, writing and reading, media, religion or music.

But ‘Living Together’ is about more than migration. It asks questions about how people encounter one another and find ways to live and work alongside each other in their own neighbourhoods. Localities, workplaces, schools and colleges, and town and city centres are all ‘changing places’ with new people constantly moving through them. How they interact and communicate, and what efforts they make to create hospitable, welcoming places is important for everyone, not just newcomers.

The scholar, Avtar Brah, devised the term “diaspora space” to refer to places that are “inhabited not only by those who have migrated and their descendants but equally by those who are constructed and represented as indigenous” (1996: 181). Such socially and culturally diverse places are as much about “staying put” as they are about migration movements. Those “staying put” may themselves once have been incomers from elsewhere, whether near or far, or may have been locally born and bred. As Avtar Brah suggests, their identities, practices and beliefs may also be shaped by the impact of moving people and changing places. They may at times be seen negatively by others. They may feel their way of life is misunderstood or taken less seriously than that of newcomers. Fears about strangers with different languages and cultures, as well as resentment about them getting special treatment – whether or not this is true – are not a positive starting point for good relations. Finding opportunities to learn more about one another is important, about the similarities as well as the differences.