Migrant self-organizations can be analyzed from very different perspectives. They can be considered as interest groups, as means to promote the integration of immigrants into a society of arrival, as mechanisms of ethnic segregation, and as a forum for interest groups to participate in the political system of a country. The existing studies on MSOs in Germany recommend that any debate on principles which would oversimplify the role of MSOs as either ‘bridges to integration’ or 'integration traps' should be avoided and that MSOs should instead be considered as multidimensional and multifunctional organizations which change over time and which are usually rooted both in the country of origin and in the country of arrival in which they operate.
The exact nature of the various roles they play and the influence these roles may have not only depends on the organizations themselves, but also strongly depends on the social environment in which they act. Their internal structures, processes, and strategies can only be understood and explained by studying the migration regimes and organizational fields in their environment. Moreover, MSOs should always be examined from a systematic perspective which considers their relationships with other MSOs, the interplay between the country of origin and the country of arrival, and the migration regimes of and organizational fields in the country of origin. With the general societal relevance of MSOs having been more widely recognized for about a decade, researchers must now use appropriate resources and take a broader, more comprehensive perspective to extend the empirically based knowledge about these organizations.
This text is part of the policy brief on Interner Link: "Migrant Organizations: Size, Structures, and Significance".