Many would argue that the integration of immigrants in Europe has been a failure. Dutch sociologist Paul Scheffer, 55, spoke with SPIEGEL about cultural reciprocity, the need for self-criticism and why tolerance cannot be based on fear.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Scheffer, immigrants are widely seen as a problem in Europe today. Or can you name a country that is dealing successfully with immigration?
Scheffer: In the past few years, I have visited the areas where most of the immigrants live, cities like Lyon, Rotterdam, Berlin, Birmingham and Malmö. I see the same social problems everywhere: segregation, high unemployment, cultural alienation.
SPIEGEL: If integration has gone wrong, we have to ask: Who is to blame? The conventional answer would be: the host society, because it hasn't accepted the immigrants. Do you agree?
Scheffer: I am not interested in assigning blame. I see a pattern that we know from the history of the United States. It begins with segregation on both sides. The immigrants don't want to become merged into a society that they perceive as foreign, and so they stick together and form networks. The local inhabitants, on the other hand, abandon neighborhoods where the immigrants settle. Avoidance is part of the history of immigration. That's why I don't say that integration has failed, but that it's just beginning.