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What measures are in place to ensure the long-term integration of migrants and refugees in Europe?

Introduction

The large and sudden arrivals of people seeking international protection in Europe in 2014–2016 led many countries to implement measures for the integration of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection. In this emergency context, the integration measures focused on ensuring that basic needs are met in an unfamiliar country, with an emphasis on language learning and employment.

Several years have now passed since the so-called ‘crisis’, and many of the people who arrived during that period have made Europe their permanent home. It is therefore time to evaluate whether EU Member States have planned and implemented measures to support the long-term integration of beneficiaries of international protection and other migrant groups. In other words, have countries been able to think beyond integration as being only a means of meeting basic needs and towards integration as being the full social and economic inclusion of all their residents?

In this analysis, the European Web Site on Integration examines whether EU Member States and the United Kingdom have implemented policies and measures across various areas of life that aim to promote the long-term integration of beneficiaries of international protection (BIPs) and other third-country nationals (TCNs).

Key findings

  • Almost all EU countries have a strategic framework that addresses the integration of BIPs and other TCNs, but few perform systematic evaluation of integration outcomes.
  • National government authorities see the importance of supporting language learning, but in many countries, there is a clear drop-off in support for intermediate and advanced courses.
  • While refugees and other migrants generally have access to mainstream public employment services, there is inconsistent availability of services or vocational training opportunities that are tailored to migrants’ needs.
  • There is uneven support for migrant children’s needs in education, and a lack of systematic support for access to higher education.
  • Access to healthcare and housing requires more attention from policymakers.
  • All EU countries have anti-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination in the employment context based on race, nationality and/or ethnicity, but in many countries, enforcement of these laws is weak.
  • Overall, there is no major difference between BIPs as a sub-group and the larger group of TCNs in terms of the availability of long-term measures for their integration.

Methodology

The EWSI Editorial Team researched a range of indicators of long-term integration in all EU Member States and the United Kingdom. The indicators looked at the existence or availability of specific policies or measures in the following areas:

For each indicator, the Editorial Team examined whether the relevant policies or measures are applicable to TCNs in general and to BIPs specifically. The research covers migrant integration policy and measures at the end of December 2019.

See more about methodology and read notes on specific countries.

National strategic frameworks for integration

Almost all surveyed countries have one or more integration strategies covering TCNs generally, BIPs more specifically or both, and over one-third of the countries also make provisions tailored to more specifically defined groups, such as migrant women and girls, unaccompanied minors, LGBTI asylum seekers, descendants of migrants and migrant youth. However, for each of these groups, there are, at most, only a handful of countries that make special considerations for them in a national integration strategy. Across Europe, countries were about equally likely to have an integration strategy that covers BIPs specifically as a strategy that covers all TCNs.

Over half of the national strategies define responsibilities for integration among stakeholders like local and regional authorities, civil society and social partners. With the increasing recognition and emphasis on the fact that integration happens at the local level, it thus appears that many national strategies have not yet reflected this shift in thinking.

Evaluation of integration strategies is not a regular practice in most countries. Fewer than half of the countries have a regular mechanism to monitor integration outcomes, and even fewer have implemented longitudinal studies to follow outcomes over time. Most countries do not consult stakeholders such as civil society, researchers, local authorities, etc. in the development of integration strategies.

Language

Reflecting the importance of language in the integration process, most countries make available free or highly subsidised language courses at the beginner level. However, the availability of courses clearly declines as the level of proficiency increases, and often there is no support for language learning after an initial integration period.

This indicates that the focus is still on the early stages of integration. Considering the persistent underemployment of migrants, policymakers should pay more attention to the limited availability of courses at higher proficiency levels, as well as the drop off in support for migrants who have lived for several years or longer in a country. Moreover, fewer than half of countries offer subsidised courses oriented toward professional usage and qualifications at least somewhat regularly.

The types of course offerings (e.g., different proficiency levels) available to BIPs specifically did not differ significantly from those of other TCNs. However, it was more likely that courses for BIPs were limited to an orientation phase or a fixed period following orientation, mainly because BIPs are more likely to have structured, mandatory integration programmes that set out such time limits. About half of countries support courses in specialised formats at least occasionally—for example, evening classes to accommodate work schedules or classes that provide childcare.

 

 

Good Practice in Language Learning

In addition to classroom-based language courses available nationally through the Portuguese for All programme, Portugal has developed an online platform for language learning that includes 24 thematic learning modules with accompanying audio, video and texts. While online courses and materials might not be a substitute for in-person language training, online platforms can serve as a helpful supplement to classroom learning and reach people who live in remote areas, have scheduling difficulties or want to progress more quickly.

 

 


Employment and vocational education

Availability of support and length of vocational training

Almost all countries give BIPs and other TCNs partial or full access to mainstream employment services and/or their public employment services play a central role in integration support. However, for both BIPs and TCNs, targeted training based on assessment and validation of skills or qualifications is not widely available across EU countries. Less than half of the countries have implemented such actions specifically for BIPs (not always systematically), and even fewer countries do so for TCNs in general. Overall, measures to promote employment were more likely to target BIPs specifically than to be offered to all TCNs; about half of the countries have implemented some specialised labour market actions for BIPs, but only a minority of countries have done so for TCNs in general.

Targeted, publicly funded vocational training and employment-related education is at least somewhat accessible for BIPs in most countries. While an increasing body of research focuses on migrant entrepreneurship, few countries have actively pursued migrant entrepreneurship as a means of achieving economic and social integration.

Anti-discrimination in the employment context

A slight majority of countries have publicly supported NGOs or employment support organisations, like labour unions, that assist victims of labour market discrimination. However, only a few countries make a systematic effort directed at private sector employers to inform them about the rights and entitlements of foreign residents.