On the basis of return migration of Christians to Mardin (Turkey) and the location of migrants in Essen's (Germany) nomination for the European Capital of Culture, this article focuses on the interface between urban restructuration, cultural diversity and migrant incorporation in the context of neo-liberal globalization. Despite the growing literature on the new role of culture in urban economics, scant attention has been given to the place of immigrants/returnees in urban dynamics and in the repositioning struggle between cities within and across border. This article aims to bring together the field of (transnational) migration and studies on culture in scalar politics. It argues that the structural changes taking place in the cities of migrants' departure and settlement shape the nature of migrant incorporation and transnationalism, the narratives about migrants' place in urban development, and the venues of translating cultural diversity into a competitive advantage in scalar politics. On the basis of the role migrants/returnees play in the involvement of supranational actors like the EU in Mardin and Essen in the prospects of urban development, this article draws attention to the impact of supranational actors in shaping territorial inequalities, as well as the local trajectories of urban politics. Finally, it raises questions about special European dynamics in changing imaginaries and topographies of cultural diversity in Europe, which go beyond conventional schemes of multiculturalism.