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Immigration policy: interview with Giampiero Cama

During the PhD, Giampiero Cama, dealt with the processes of primary democratization in Western Europe.
In recent years he has developed his activity as Associate Professor of the Department of Political and Social Science at the University of Genoa, which is divided into two main strands.
One concerning the theory of democratic regimes.
The second theme instead is focus on the comparative study of political institutions, with particular attention to the structures and dynamics of executives and administrative authorities in democratic systems. This research in particular involved the University of Genoa (Department of Political and Social Science and Department of Economic and Financial Sciences), the University of Pavia (Department of Political and Social Studies) and the University of Milan (Bocconi’s Department ‘Poleis‘) in a team effort.
Currently his studies focus on hybrid regimes, considered as a keystone to approach a general theory of political regimes.

1 – The migration phenomenon has become the focal point of the national and international political debate, especially in these days, why?

There are three elements that trigger this reaction: an economic one, a social one and a cultural one.

The economic one is the competition from the labor market, i.e. people who accept lower wages than those earned on average by European and Italian citizens. So, this downward competition has its weight, as also the fact that the welfare rights guaranteed to newcomers appear to many people as an abuse of power compared to those who were born and lived in Italy for generations.

The second issue concerns a social threat in the strict sense. Immigrants are often perceived as a danger to public order, in relation to the fact that generally people who arrive in Italy are sorted into peripheral and infamous neighborhoods, as a result they are easily prey to more or less organized crime. For this reason, immigrants are more likely to commit minor crimes, which have a considerable effect on the perception of citizenship.

Finally, there is the cultural theme, in fact, especially migrants from Africa and the Middle East, are identified as an identity threat. This is because the different customs, traditions and religions, risk to frustrate the models of life of the western countries of destination.

2 – How does this issue affect political consensus and why?

Clearly, these fears are translated into feelings that favor and feed the political forces that appear to be most directed towards the defense of security and tradition. I am referring to right-wing parties and populist parties that are usually more adept at riding these issues. Now, in Europe, there is a new rift between sovereign-populist parties that defend national identity on the one hand and parties that defend globalization on the other.

Before we talked about right and left, however, this division has not disappeared but overlaps, and in some cases is mixed, with a new political definition that provides for those who are in favor of a cultural and economic closure, and those who are in favor of a cultural and economic opening. New parties are born or those that already responded to these needs are strengthened, I refer to phenomena such as Donald Trump in America, Brexit in Great Britain and the rise of populist parties in Europe.

3 – Home, services and activities: what is the political challenge?

Solutions are technical and architects are involved, but the consequences and decisions are political. Developing an urban policy capable of reducing social fears, while at the same time promoting the integration of newcomers, requires a very articulated public policy effort. There are different types of skills and functions. For example, it is necessary to protect security and then place national or local police forces in different strategic locations, and this is the competence of municipalities or the Ministry of Interior, but also social policies are needed, therefore school and social services, and I refer to the skills of certain councilors or ministries, finally there is the urban policy itself, which organizes the territory and its functions, and so it involves the responsibility of architects and planners. This mix of skills applies to all policy areas requires imagination, political will and implementation skills. It is not enough to want a process and draw it in the abstract, but you need to have the ability to put good ideas into practice. This is not an issue that concerns only architects but also sociologists, jurists, economists, engineers, politicians, etc. and the overall effort is important.

Urban planning policies, such as welfare, have a considerable social impact, in fact, according to the political choices you can bring the social classes closer or further away, you can make life better or worse, it is not only about the landscape and the quality of the houses, but it is also about how you live in the community.
The challenge of urban planning is to make the city “one”, that the different neighborhoods are not condemned to have a single function or to be inhabited only by certain classes or ethnic and cultural groups. It is a challenge that requires many years and a medium and long term vision.

4 – Urban planning tends to support political choices, how can one positively influence the other?

It is necessary to persuade experts, at least those who have good will, to explain both to the élite and the population, the profound implications of a redefinition of the urban fabric of the city. In my opinion, among the most important contemporary challenges, in addition to the environment, which is in any case closely linked, there is the theme of cities, or the relationship between the center and the periphery. It is not acceptable that cities are destined for segmentation, so that certain parts of the city are destined for Hell and others for Heaven.
The economic impact needs to be understood: if cities are not organized and inclusive, they result in a loss of human and social capital that affects economic progress, as well as the level of civilization and quality of life.

We need to rethink cities and develop a policy that ensures that cities are livable at 360°, with efficient public transport, telematic connections and even an aesthetic quality. One of the themes is also the aesthetic quality, “beauty” must be everyone’s right and not exclusive to the privileged areas of the city. Green, public buildings that have their own design, streets that have an intrinsic beauty, obviously within the limits of compatibility. This element is often underestimated, in fact it is very important that the functional quality is accompanied by an urban nobility, because everyone benefits from the “beauty”, even psychologically; it is one of the fundamental elements that makes individuals feel part of a community and not excluded.

5 – In this sense, which are the virtuous examples and which are not?

Some cities in Belgium are going in this direction, in general many cities in northern Europe. I am reminded of the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands that have developed models that include cities that are sustainable from the pollution point of view of, efficient transport, clean and accessible to all, public toilets, parks, etc. … They are still small-medium cities, but the challenge is for large urban centers. In small towns, especially in Italy, there is already an urban balance; if you walk around Siena you don’t meet “the ugly”, every house is beautiful, and the context is decent. The problem is the big cities such as London, Paris, Rio De Janeiro, Shanghai, etc…
We must follow the models that certainly exist and enhance them through a popularization work. Making television broadcasts, organizing events, to publicize the importance of the city theme using a language understandable to everyone, not just by specialists. Architects, sociologists and economists often speak the language of insiders, and the message does not pass, so you must translate into understandable terms how such a speech can improve people’s lives and the prosperity of countries. We need an impactful, simple and clear communication.

After having moved the consciences, a promotional effort must be made, I am not referring exclusively to specialized magazines, but also to generalist newspapers, to television, to public conventions, to social networks, etc. Otherwise the people tend to underestimate this theme enormously, except those who live in the suburbs, who personally feel the abandonment of the city. However, everything is resolved in claims, but the real project must be proactive, it must be the “New Millennium Project” that redesigns the big cities, mending the suburbs.
Then, if there is awareness, the policies can be activated by giving resources and means, just as it happened with the environmental issue. Perhaps we need to intercept those political groups or forces that have fought on environmental issues by passing on the message. Now people are much more sensitive to the climate issue and the same must be done with the theme of cities.

Cities are not on the political agenda, but paradoxically affect all its points, i.e. immigration, the environment, employment, quality of life, etc…

6 – What are the guidelines and policy provisions that can define a legislative framework capable of managing immigration?

At national level it is difficult, European legislation is needed. No nation alone can solve this problem, in fact we need a European regulatory system within which individual states should organize themselves on several levels: organization of cities, social services, welfare policies and cultural policies.
It is a common effort that puts into play different policies: school, education, law enforcement, administration, etc … Immigration is a centuries-old challenge so it must be tackled on different levels. The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education also have a key role in terms of training, they must develop appropriate structures capable of informing and educating newcomers to respect our lifestyles and our culture, transmitting, first of all, their rights and duties.

7 – What is the european, national, regional and local role in terms of immigration policy planning? What is the political Masterplan?

The main one is the European level, then at national level it is necessary to develop legislation that provides the means and resources to the regional and local authorities to implement the policies dictated by Europe itself.

The task goes from general to particular:
– Europe must distribute migration flows in a equitable and orderly manner, it must also develop a common border control policy and also help the countries from which these migrants come, so that the migration flow does not become uncontrollable (it must promote a sort of Marshall Plan).
– European states, on the other hand, must implement these general guidelines, endeavoring to organize themselves in such a way that, even at national level, there is a sensible regional distribution of flow and funding, monitoring that the European regulation is respected.
– The regions must distribute the immigrants in the various municipalities according to local logic and national regulations, providing the necessary services and measures, checking that national provisions are not violated.
– Each municipality will have specific priorities such as changing parts of the city, improving services, improving transport, etc…

8 – Reactive and pro-active vision: what is the difference?

Reactive policy is the one that offers emotional answers, but which in the long run does not work.
The pro-active vision is the awareness that things do not change overnight, with immediate and miraculous solutions, but we need a plan, which by definition only works after a certain number of years. This requires intermediate steps and planning.
It is clear that these two spheres are not always in opposition, there are sufficient “buffer” measures to deal with problems in the short term, but in this case the problem will concern the next decades. A long-term plan is needed, developed around demographic trends and national data. As with the theme of the environment, we must anticipate events responding in time, preparing and organizing ourselves.

I give the example of earthquakes.
The reactive policy after each earthquake sends the Civil Protection trying to recover the dead and injured, trying to rebuild resigning ourselves to the cycle of disasters.
The pro-active vision develops a 10-15-year plan to secure homes with anti-seismic techniques. In Japan, they successfully carried out a 20-year plan to transform all public and private infrastructures and buildings into completely anti-seismic structures.
In my opinion, this also applies to migration policies.

Translated into English by Marco Grattarola.

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Marco Grattarola AdministratorKeymaster
He graduated in Architecture Sciences at the Polytechnic School of Genoa with a thesis on “Active Architecture”. He did two internships, in an art gallery and in an architecture studio. He currently attends the Master at the Polytechnic of Milan. His interests range from music to drawing, in which he experiments with curiosity and passion.
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