Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

"You Are Responsible for Your People." the Role of Diaspora Leaders in the Governance of Immigrant Integration in Russia

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

"You Are Responsible for Your People." the Role of Diaspora Leaders in the Governance of Immigrant Integration in Russia

Article excerpt

Abstract: The Russian authorities are becoming increasingly aware of the need to improve the integration of Russia's many immigrants into Russian society. This article examines power relations between state and civil society in formal governance networks, the representativeness of "diaspora organizations," why the state structures want to include these diasporas in the formal governance networks, and why the diasporas are interested in participating. As is common in Russian network governance, state-based actors firmly control the networks through a variety of mechanisms. The diaspora leaders are generally not recent labor immigrants themselves, and do not rely on the latter group's approval to represent them. This disconnect, and the hierarchal and securitized nature of Russian immigration politics, severely limits the target population's possibility for input into policy-making or implementation. Non-state network members evaluate participation as leaving no visible imprint on policy, and rarely on implementation, but still giving a heightened potential for influence. Diaspora leaders underscored that membership did facilitate network building that could be of benefit to them and their communities. The state charges diaspora organizations with a special responsibility for keeping law and order among their co-ethnics--assisting, informing, and controlling them. Some were critical of the idea that ethnicity equals responsibility, or of NGOs getting such wide-ranging responsibilities, but most accept the role given to the diasporas by the Russian state.

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Russia is one of the world's major immigrant-receiving countries, second only to the USA. In 2014, immigrants made up 17,281,971 of Russia's 144,221,341 person population and there were 11,072,355 foreign citizens living in the country, according to official statistics. Precise numbers remain suspect, however, given the prevalence of irregular immigration. Since the early 1990s, Russia has experienced several immigration waves. The main influx came from the former Soviet Union and a substantial amount of this flow includes labor migrants from the states having visa-free relationships with the Russian Federation, particularly the Central Asian countries of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. (1) Russia faces significant challenges regarding the social conditions of immigrants, inter-ethnic and inter-religious tension (between native and immigrant groups, and among immigrant groups), linguistic and cultural adaptation to Russia, and problems when it comes to designing and enforcing a system that prevents uncontrolled immigration but does allow immigrants to legalize their presence in the country. (2)

Challenges related to the integration of immigrants confront many countries in Europe today. A key issue in this regard is how to organize dialogue between immigrant communities, state agencies that are tasked with their integration, and civil society organizations that have a special interest in the integration processes. How this communication is organized will impact how much the groups know about each other's needs and expectations, how well prepared they are to jointly meet challenges to social cohesion, and eventually how well the integration effort will work in practice. Ideally, such networks provide the target group with a mechanism for giving input to decision-makers, while also allowing the state to draw on the resources of civil society.

When it comes to analyzing such structures for dialogue and coordination, a useful theoretical concept is network governance. This term refers to organized coordination and communication between state and non-state actors to address certain political issues, often issues which are identified as being of high complexity and necessitating sector-transcending political collaboration. The concrete content of the term "network governance" varies somewhat among authors. Some utilize it to describe situations where they consider the state and non-state actors to be relatively equal partners whose goals are at some fundamental level in harmony, while others focus on power imbalances and hierarchies within governance networks. …

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