Facts and figures on Sweden, Västra Götaland and integration 2014-2016
By Therese Ydrén
With its robust labour market and well-resourced public sector, Västra Götaland is well positioned to take on the challenge of immigration. Successful integration into Swedish society requires close collaboration between various stakeholders in the community. This text reflects Region Västra Götaland’s position on asylum seekers and new arrivals from a regional development perspective.
Starting points for regional development initiatives for asylum seekers and new arrivals
The number of refugees entering the country has risen significantly over the past year. Receiving refugees is above all a humanitarian endeavour although Region Västra Götaland also regards refugees and new arrivals as assets to society and potential employees within its companies. A good and effective immigration practice for refugees is vitally important to the future development of Västra Götaland. The driving force and entrepreneurial capability of immigrants to Sweden as well as sought-after expertise and skills are necessary resources in order to ensure that the region remains attractive and competitive.
Region Västra Götaland’s regional development remit includes coordinating the implementation of the regional development strategy. The goal is to bring about an inclusive society and conditions that are essential for the growth and development of individuals, organisations and companies.
High-quality healthcare, education, training, cultural activities and access to the labour market are fundamental aspects for involvement in community life, assuming personal responsibility and developing a sense of belonging.
The implementation of key initiatives designed to speed up the path to self-sufficiency reduces the need for income support and alleviates the feeling of exclusion.
The task and role of Region Västra Götaland from a regional development perspective
As a politically governed entity, Region Västra Götaland has been commissioned to coordinate the regional development programme. The regional government is also the largest employer in the country with 53,000 employees.
Collaboration across sectors – ranging from industry to education, public agencies, municipal authorities and civil society – is crucial in order for new arrivals to establish themselves in the region.
At present, the Migration Agency is responsible for asylum seekers whilst the Public Employment Service and municipal authorities are responsible for assisting new arrivals with residence permits. Civil society plays a key role in the integration, involvement and humanitarian reception of refugees. With effect from 2017, the county administrative boards will have the government-assigned task of coordinating and organising early initiatives for asylum seekers including language training and organised employment. Based on its regional development remit, Region Västra Götaland, in cooperation with local authorities, plays an important role in regard to receiving refugees. Long-term strategic work and carefully defined activities reinforce and complement each other and also provide favourable conditions for maintaining a high degree of efficiency in Region Västra Götaland’s work.
Regional activities for asylum seekers and new arrivals
The waiting time for reviewing applications of asylum seekers is increasing as more and more refugees are entering Sweden. In the interim, asylum seekers are left in no-man’s land with very limited opportunities to actively participate in community life. To reduce the risk of widening the exclusion gap, Region Västra Götaland is also focusing on refugees who are in the asylum-seeking phase. The aim is to make this waiting time meaningful and improve the conditions for asylum seekers and new arrivals who are in the process of establishing themselves in Swedish society, which allows asylum seekers to live independently and reduces the risk of exclusion. With this in mind, Region Västra Götaland has opted to focus its resources on the following areas:
- Provision of language training during the asylum-seeking phase
- Participation in cultural life, leisure activities and sports
- Access to civil society and networks
- Facilitating mobility through special public transport arrangements
- Promotion of intercultural dialogue
- Opportunities to secure a work experience placement, job or become self-employed
- Promoting matching for occupations in which there is a shortage of qualified and experienced workers by means of the validation process
- Formulating plans to facilitate job creation for new arrivals within the organisation of Region Västra Götaland
- Involvement in the Public Employment Service “fast-track” scheme to help new arrivals establish themselves
- Stimulating entrepreneurship and enterprise
Examples of voluntary initiatives in Västra Götaland focusing on refugees in the asylum-seeking phase
Region Västra Götaland initiates, develops and co-finances projects to strengthen integration. Region Västra Götaland’s remit includes the acknowledgement and sharing of good practices initiated by stakeholders in Västra Götaland. Cooperation with civil society and acknowledgment of voluntary initiatives is important.
Several proven voluntary initiatives in Västra Götaland have played an important role in making the waiting period meaningful while strengthening the integration of refugees. One such initiative is the “Support Group Network”, a network consisting of refugees who work together with Swedish society to assist other refugees, asylum seekers and migrants during long waiting periods in which decisions are made on migration cases. The group gives psychosocial support through needs-based activities and makes the waiting time meaningful. Support Group Network was established in August 2014 at Restad Gård in Vänersborg, the largest Swedish reception site for asylum seekers, hosting approximately 1,300 refugees. The model has now spread to 13 other cities and 16 camps in Sweden. Support Group Network has become an umbrella for associations, groups and individuals who want to empower and assist asylum seekers, refugees, migrants in Sweden and abroad by promoting independent initiatives and establishing local support groups in their temporary or permanent living areas.
Another voluntary initiative established by the local business council in the City of Trollhättan, located twenty kilometres from Restad Gård, facilitates meetings between migrants and companies. DoubleCup is based on the simple concept of meeting over a cup of coffee. Candidates (asylum seekers and newcomers) are invited to meet with a business person – a welcome partner – at the workplace. The meeting is facilitated by an IT-tool. The Support Group and the Public Employment Service locate candidates for the programme.
Department of Regional Development, Region Västra / Götaland, Sweden
Therese Ydrén is working with regional development at Region Västra Götaland in Sweden since 2007 with focus on integration, skills/ labour market inclusion and international coordination. She has many years of experience working with international cooperation, starting her working life in Brussels at the Swedish Permanent Representation to the European Union. After that she worked as Research Grants Officer at University West in Trollhättan and as researchers network coordinator in the field of working life research at a national research institute. Therese Ydrén has studied political science, law and French language at universities in Sweden and at Institut d’Études Politiques de Lille in France.
Film about Restad Support Group and DoubleCup produced by Region Västra Götaland: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qHWXQhLHW4
This article is part of the publication "Sustainable adult education in relation to immigration and asylum" published in December 2016 by EPALE Austria.
Publikation "Nachhaltige Erwachsenenbildung im Kontext von Flucht und Migration" (German)
Publication "Sustainable Adult Education in the Context of Immigration and Asylum" (English)
Foto: (c) OeAD-GmbH/APA-Fotoservice/Hörmandinger