DeltaLecture: Arrival Cities

Doug Saunders on Arrival Cities and Immigration

Doug Saunders is a journalist, European Bureau Chief for The Globe and Mail and author of the book ‘Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World’ (2010). The Deltametropolis Association and the University of Leiden invited Saunders as part of the tIP lecture series to talk about migration and Dutch cities. His book ‘Arrival City’ is widely acclaimed and even considered “the best popular book on cities since Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities", by The Guardian. With his book, Saunders has questioned and changed the common views on migration, cities, population growth, foreign aid and politics.

According to Saunders, migration is not a country-to-country phenomenon, as often explained, but in most cases a move from people from a single village somewhere in the world to a neighborhood in a city 

somewhere else in the world. From a policy perspective, migration is often understood as something nations should deal with, while it’s a very local issue at the same time. 


In Leiden Saunders talks about the concept of ‘Arrival Cities’ - those parts of cities were immigrants start their new lives. In Western Europe, especially in the Netherlands, integration of migrants in society is often facilitated by the government. In the United States, however, it is usually organized by the market or (in)formal urban ethnic institutions. How can both concepts be compared and what works best?


Three spatial Conditions

Saunders starts with comparing the Dutch arrival neighborhoods such as Slotervaart in West Amsterdam with Neighborhood 2060 in Antwerp. The latter is a neighborhood that, according to Saunders, works well as an ‘arrival city’ and can be compared to successful neighborhoods like Shoreditch in East London in the mid


Doug Saunders (c) Fred Ernst

For being a good ‘Arrival City’, three spatial conditions are very important for Saunders. First, proximity. In Holland, the arrival cities are the post war outskirts, with bad connections to these economic centers. Neighborhood 2060 is older and close to Antwerp’s Central Station. Second, the urban lay-out. The Dutch migrant neighborhoods are all post-war urban fields with five-level apartment buildings surrounded by green. This set-up doesn’t work for migrants according to Saunders, simply because low density means no clients for starting businesses. In addition, the buildings are not designed to stimulate any form of initiative. Third, bureaucracy. Successful ‘Arrival Cities’ are not too tight when it comes to all kinds of regulations that kill initiatives. Dutch immigrant neighborhoods do have this over-regulation problem compared to Neighborhood 2060 in Antwerp.



Most interesting is Saunders' story about a research that tracks migrants who originate from the same area and share the same cultural background. Some of them go to Istanbul, others go to Berlin or London. After a while their situation in all these different cities is very different, varying from poor and lower-class situations in one city to middle class and well integrated in another city. This way Saunders explores the best conditions for good ‘arrival cities’ that really help people to climb the ladder. His conclusion here contradicts with the current political vision in the Netherlands, which believes that the country suffers from groups of people that do not function in society, because of their background. Saunders has a different perspective. The ‘social success rate’ of a migrant has mainly to do with the capability of a city to facilitate the right conditions and seldom with a migrant’s background.

Sat, 03.03.2012 0

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