Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first thank the ILO for its interesting concept note.

And for the questions to guide our discussions.

It makes clear that migration is not just a challenge,

but an opportunity as well.

That it is not only about vulnerabilities,

but also about capabilities and resilience.

It cannot be denied however that migrants and refugees face significant barriers in the labour market. This is, amongst others, due to differences in language, lack of networks, and yes, sometimes discrimination.

The European Union has significantly contributed in the general discussion on labour migration at the last International Labour Conference, in June 2017. The European involvement in the adoption of the new ILO Recommendation on Decent Work Employment, also made possible the coverage of labour market integration of refugees by this instrument.

The EU is also actively engaged in the United Nations debates on migration and refugees, in view of the preparation of :

  • the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration;

  • and the Compact for refugees.

We are very committed to the implementation of the sustainable development goals, including the target on protecting labour rights and promoting a safe and secure working environment for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants and those in precarious employment.

I welcome that our exchange of tonight and the wider ILO action on migrant workers and refugees work, will contribute to the two United Nations Compacts and the implementation of the relevant sustainable development goals.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our experience in Europe shows the importance of cooperation with key third countries if we want to manage migration comprehensively, orderly and safely.

The challenges for the labour market integration of refugees and migrants are very significant in our region. In particular here in Turkey, with the arrival of so many refugees. The EU is supporting Turkey and    its people with important financial and technical assistance, for hosting generously around 3.5 million Syrians and asylum seekers from other countries.

European societies are, and will continue to become, increasingly diverse. Today, there are 20 million non-EU nationals residing in the EU.

On the one hand :

  • we must protect our borders;

  • tackle irregular migration;

  • and organise returns.

On the other hand, we must help those in need of protection.

If well integrated, migrants can contribute to the growth and competitiveness of our businesses and economies.

They can help us to meet our own growing needs for specific skills and enhance the sustainability of our welfare systems.

At the same time, effective integration can help protect them against poverty and social exclusion, to which they are more exposed compared to natives, even when they are in employment.

Integration of migrants and refugees is mainly a competence of Member States. The European Commission has an important role to play through:

  • the EU legal framework,

  • EU funding,

  • and through peer learning and policy guidance.

In the EU, we launched an EU Action Plan on Integration, with more    than 50 actions across different policy areas to promote integration of third country nationals.

Many of these actions aim at supporting Member States' efforts to reduce barriers on the labour market, without creating unfair competition with local workers.

We proposed to open the EU Blue Card - our scheme to attract highly skilled migrants - to highly skilled refugees.

We also proposed changes to the asylum rules to help a swifter inclusion into the labour market.

Let me quickly point to several other key areas of EU action, as well :

First, Fair recruitment.

To help prevent human trafficking and smuggling, the EU strongly supports the ILO's initiative on fair recruitment. Including through funding of large programs.

We also work closely together with the ILO on improving the protection      of vulnerable migrants such as domestic workers, including during recruitment.

Second. Skills are key for integration.

This is why, under the EU Skills Agenda, we are making it easier for employers to recognise skills of migrants and refugees.

We designed the EU Skills Profile Tool to map people's skills, experience and qualifications and their needs, so the right choices towards their labour market integration can be made.

Which steps are needed, depends on the specific profile of the migrant.

Someone with a high level of education may need recognition of his or her existing qualifications, help with developing networks and guidance by public employment services.

A lower skilled migrant will rather need basic education and training.

The European Training Foundation is very active as well in EU neighbouring countries and supports, for example, our host country on recognition and validation of qualifications and skills for refugees.

Third, we need to address informality, which creates unfair competition between companies and workers and undermines opportunities for refugees to become more self-reliant.

Informality often leads to child labour, forced labour and other forms of exploitation.

The implementation of the ILO Recommendation on transitioning from the informal to the formal economy can be very helpful in Europe and elsewhere for establishing well-designed policy frameworks and more effective actions. This will improve protection and opportunities for both local workers and entrepreneurs, as well as for migrants and refugees.

Fourth. We need to work closely together with social partners to promote the integration of refugees and migrants into the labour market. The Commission launched the initiative "Employers together for integration". Interested companies can join, submitting their ongoing and future actions in the field of integration.

I welcome the work the EU social partners have already undertaken on this issue. I can refer to their joint statement on the refugee crisis, presented in March 2016.

Currently European social and economic partners and the European Commission are finalising work on a tripartite joint statement on "A European Partnership for Integration".

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While we still have many challenges ahead of us, we have already made quite some progress. What this shows, is that it is entirely feasible to show solidarity to both the people in need as well as countries under pressure, who are hosting them.

But we need to act. The cost of non-integration is far greater in the long run than the cost of effective integration policies.

What it takes is political will and a spirit of commitment to our obligations.

If we want everyone to have meaningful opportunities to participate in society and the economy, we have to act together.

Only this way our societies can truly prosper.

Thank you.