E.g., 09/20/2019
E.g., 09/20/2019

Supporting Immigrant Integration in Europe: What Role for Origin Countries' Subnational Authorities?

February 2015

Supporting Immigrant Integration in Europe: What Role for Origin Countries' Subnational Authorities?

The substantial role that subnational authorities in EU Member States play in the governance of migrant integration is widely recognized. Regional and local authorities in Member States have control over the implementation and delivery of a wide array of integration-related services. However, while much is known about integration at the subnational level in receiving countries, little is known about the role of corresponding authorities in migrant-sending countries. 

This report is part of the INTERACT research project, led by the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute. INTERACT is implemented by a consortium built by the Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies, the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and the Migration Policy Institute Europe.

More than 20 million people born outside of the European Union (third-country nationals) live in EU Member States and represent more than 4 percent of the total EU population. INTERACT promotes research on third-country nationals’ integration in EU countries as a three-way process that  involves immigrants, countries of emigration, and countries of immigration. The research agenda focuses on the extent to which the immigrant integration policies of EU Member States and the expatriate-focused policies of origin countries complement or contradict each other; and how these policies collectively affect the integration of migrants to the European Union.


This project is co-funded by the European Union

A number of major migrant-sending countries (including Morocco, Turkey, and Mexico) have started to promote the successful integration of their immigrants abroad, with the expectation that successfully integrated immigrants have more to offer their countries of origin. Until now, the substantial diaspora engagement measures seen most often at the national level have overshadowed activities at the regional and local level. But as a significant number of these countries undergo decentralization reforms and make efforts to strengthen local governance, the role of subnational authorities in supporting migrants begins to take on a new meaning.

This MPI Europe report represents the first attempt to investigate how the activities of origin countries' regional and local institutions may improve the lives of emigrants to Member States of the European Union. It discusses relevant obstacles as well as opportunities for sending-country cities, regional political entities, and federated states in the design and implementation of policy measures to improve the trajectories of migrants. The report also underscores the importance of international cooperation at the subnational level—specifically city-to-city partnerships—focusing on well-established migration corridors in Europe with the assumption that historical links or geographic proximity can make cooperation easier. 

Besides interventions on employment, political participation, and health care, local authorities may contribute positively to integration at destination through diplomatic visits, community celebrations and other cultural initiatives, and educational exchange programs—all of which help to increase trust and mutual understanding between immigrants and their host societies. The report notes, however, the wide range of challenges that hamper sending countries’ subnational authorities from doing more to promote the integration of emigrants at destination. Key challenges include inadequately devolved competences and—even where such competences are in place—financial constraints (affecting cities in particular) that make it difficult to address competing policy priorities and take opportunities to cooperate with host countries.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Subnational Authorities Responsible for Diaspora Engagement

III. Subnational and Local Institutions' Involvement in Integration Abroad

A. Examples of Direct Involvement

B. Examples of Indirect Involvement

IV. Challenges to Local Authorities' Involvement in Immigrant Integration

A. Constraints in the Origin Countries

B. Constraints Posed at Destination

V. Conclusion and Recommendations