The COVID-19 Catalyst: Learning from Pandemic-Driven Innovations in Immigrant Integration Policy
Despite talk of COVID-19 as a “great equalizer,” the pandemic and its economic fallout have hit certain segments of European and North American societies particularly hard. Among them are immigrants and refugees, and especially groups with distinct vulnerabilities, such as refugee children, irregular migrants, and migrant women. Without swift government intervention, the twin public-health and economic crises risk jeopardizing immigrant integration and creating durable rifts in diverse societies.
Yet precisely at a time when bold and agile policy responses are needed, the pandemic has disrupted governments’ usual ways of working. When lockdown and social-distancing measures were introduced in 2020, many in-person integration services were suspended, and both these programs and the day-to-day work of governments and civil-society organizations shifted online. This opened new opportunities but also hindered the engagement of migrants, policymakers, and other stakeholders with limited digital access or literacy.
This report examines how governments’ immigrant integration strategies, partnerships, and policy priorities have changed in the two years since the pandemic began. It explores how this period of forced adaption has worked as a catalyst for innovation at the local, national, and (in Europe) EU level, drawing on interviews with senior policymakers and other experts in North America and Europe. The report then distills recommendations on how to leverage these innovations to durably improve the governance of immigrant integration.
2 COVID-19 Disruption and Transformation: The Forced Shift Online
A. Online Services and Integration Courses: Broadening Access to Some, Cutting off Others
B. A Digital Transition among Policymakers and Officials
3 Shifting Stakeholders, Partnerships, and Priorities in Integration Governance
A. Shifting Stakeholders
B. Shifting Partnerships
C. Shifting Policies and Priorities
4 Distilling Lessons from a Crisis for Future Policy Innovation