Transmigration as a challenge to urban social policy and social work in super-divers citiesTransmigration as a challenge to urban social policy and social work in super-divers cities
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
Henry van de Velde
Superdiversity : Theory, Method and Practice, University of Birmingham, 23-25 June 2014
The shift towards super-diversity in large European cities includes an increase of flexible migration strategies: many contemporary migrants come and go, not always being sure how long they will stay in sending or receiving countries; when they will stop migrating; or where they will settle. The social life of these mobile migrants or transmigrants is not only oriented towards their new countries, but consists of complex networks and contacts beyond boundaries. They shift between different modus operandi and between different visible and invisible, local and global networks. Transmigrants balance themselves atop the tight rope, vacillating between maintaining some functional sense of local rootedness while at the same time gaining access to opportunities that are more transnational, even global, in scope(Simone 2001:84). Many transmigrants still face a high risk of social vulnerability. As a consequence, they are overrepresented in the client population of social services. The paper explores the impact of transmigration on social policy and social work practice in super-divers cities. We first describe the context of super-diversity as a framework to study transmigration. Building upon the existing definitions of transmigration we present our operationalization and the first results of an on-going social work research in the two main and super-diverse Belgian cities (Brussels and Antwerp) and is based on the analysis of qualitative data, gathered by means of focus groups with social workers, and in-depth interviews with Moroccan, Brazilian and Ghanaian transmigrants. Finally we discuss how transmigration gives rise to renewed social work practices explore the challenges to overcome the difference in perspective between the transnational lives of transmigrants vis a vis the mostly locally rooted practices of social workers. Keywords: transmigration, transnationalism, social work research, urban social work, super-diversity.