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Czech Republic: Integration courses may be mandatory for migrants from 2021

Czech Republic: Integration courses may be mandatory for migrants from 2021

27/09/2020

According to new regulations proposed by the Czech Republic's Interior Ministry, foreigners seeking long term or permanent residence in the Czech Republic will need to take a mandatory integration course - which before now has been voluntary - from 1 January 2021. These new regulations are currently undergoing legislation and still need to be formally approved by the Interior Ministry.

The course would be four hours long, covering the following topics related to practical life in the country:

  • rights of migrants
  • the education system
  • the processes of recognition of foreign education and qualifications
  • healthcare and housing
  • culture and traditions
  • holidays and celebrations
  • gender equality
  • core values of Czech society.

The Interior Ministry is pushing to make the course mandatory in order to prevent migrants becoming socially excluded. People would be obliged to pay for the course, at a cost of 1 500 CZK (57 EUR). The Interior Ministry expects that 25 000 foreigners would participate in the course each year.

Find further information (in Czech) here.

New Pact on Migration and Asylum includes integration measures

New Pact on Migration and Asylum includes integration measures

23/09/2020

The European Commission today presented a new Pact on Migration and Asylum. Acknowledging that the current system is not working and has not been for several years, the Commission announced its plans to move away from ad-hoc solutions and to put in place a 'predictable and reliable' migration management system. The new pact sets out faster procedures throughout the asylum and migration system, building on the principles of fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity

Developments suggested in the pact include improving cooperation between countries of origin and transit countries, ensuring more effective procedures, successful integration of refugees and return of those with no right to stay. 

Supporting integration for more inclusive societies 

In the 8th section of the pact the Commission writes that too many migrants and households with migrant backgrounds still face challenges in terms of unemployment, lack of educational or training opportunities and limited social interaction. Building on the work of the EU's 2016 Action Plan on Integration and the recent renewal of the European Partnership for Integration, the Commission is creating a new action plan on integration and an informal expert group on the views of migrants.

The Commission lays out two key commitments in the area of integration: 

  1. Adopt a comprehensive Action Plan on integration and inclusion for 2021-2024;
  2. Implement the renewed European Partnership for Integration with social and economic
    partners and look into expanding the future cooperation to the area of labour migration.

The Action Plan on integration and inclusion for 2021-2024 will:

  • provide strategic guidance and set out concrete actions to foster inclusion of migrants and broader social cohesion;
  • bring together relevant stakeholders and recognise that regional and local actors have a key part to play;
  • draw on all relevant policies and tools in key areas such as social inclusion, employment, education, health, equality, culture and sport, setting out how migrant integration should be part of efforts to achieve the EU’s goals on each;
  • ensure migrants fully benefit from the European Pillar of Social Rights;
  • recognise in its actions that people with a migrant background often face similar integration challenges to third-country nationals;
  • directly support those active ‘on the ground’ and cover the full range of measures needed to accompany migrants and their families along the path to successful integration and social inclusion.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas today said: 'Moria is a stark reminder that the clock has run out on how long we can live in a house half-built. The time has come to rally around a common, European migration policy. The Pact provides the missing pieces of the puzzle for a comprehensive approach to migration. No one Member State experiences migration in the same way and the different and unique challenges faced by all deserve to be recognised, acknowledged and addressed.'

 

Read the full communication from the European Commission here.

Read the relevant press statement here.

Read the Commission's roadmap to implementation of the new pact here.

Access the Commission's own webpage on the pact here.

Portugal: Online debates to focus on migration policies in the era of COVID-19

Portugal: Online debates to focus on migration policies in the era of COVID-19

23/09/2020

The Foundation Friedrich Ebert Portugal and the NOVA Refugee Clinic / Legal Clinic (Nova University of Lisbon) are organising two online debates about the struggle to reconcile European migration policies with the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The debates will take place on 28 and 29 September 2020.

On 28 September a discussion will be led by academics and policy makers on the following:

  • the impact of COVID-19 on migratory movements in the Mediterranean;
  • the impact of COVID-19 on the situation at the EU borders;
  • current political developments at the EU and national levels.

On 29 September a roundtable of international experts from academia and civil society will discuss expectations for European policies relating to migration and the pandemic, including measures taken at national levels to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on migrants and refugees already living in European countries.

The debates will be held via Zoom, in English, and simultaneous translation into Portuguese will be provided. Further information will be sent upon registration.

The full programme is available here.

Register to join the debates here.

 

Czech Republic: Education Ministry may end funding for teaching assistants of migrant pupils

Czech Republic: Education Ministry may end funding for teaching assistants of migrant pupils

21/09/2020

The Czech Ministry of Education is planning to change the conditions for financial support available to pupils with special educational needs. The ministry's draft amendment to its decree on inclusion proposes a new, stricter definition of eligibility for additional support in the form of a teaching assistant. This new definition means that certain children, such as those with a different mother tongue, would no longer be able to receive support.

The draft amendment has been criticised by both experts and individuals within the non-governmental sector. According to Klára Laurenčíková, chair of the Czech Professional Society for Inclusive Education (ČOSIV), no concrete data has been presented to explain this decision. It would affect thousands of children, putting many at risk of losing their teaching assistants and consequently of failing school and / or experiencing problematic relationships with their peers and teachers.

Kristýna Titěrová, Head of the META Association, points out in an open letter to the Education Minister that there are currently more than 47 000 migrant pupils in the Czech education system who could be affected by this move. The draft proposal, she writes, directly contradicts the government's own aim to 'reduce inequality in education', which it outlined as one of the fundamental pillars of its Strategy 2030+, a national strategic framework for sustainable development.

Czech Republic: New initiative demands access to public health insurance for children of employed migrants

Czech Republic: New initiative demands access to public health insurance for children of employed migrants

21/09/2020

A group of migrant citizens in the Czech Republic has launched a petition calling on the government to grant access to health insurance for children with employed migrant parents.

As discussed previously on EWSI, the children and spouses of third-country nationals are excluded from health insurance unless they hold a permanent residence permit (this is typically received after 5 years in the country). Their only available healthcare option – the commercial health insurance plan for foreigners – provides them with very limited access to free health care. Consequently, they risk falling in to devastating debt whenever they require medical support.

The Czech Republic is the only country in the EU that restricts access to its public healthcare system for children of employed third-country nationals. According to those who launched the petition, the commercialisation of healthcare in this way excludes some of the most vulnerable people in Czech society, including pregnant women, premature babies and individuals suffering from chronic conditions.

Read the full petition here.

Read an open letter from the group to the Czech government here.

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Sweden: Investment in informal education to bring migrant women into the labour market

18/09/2020

The Swedish government has announced it intends to increase state support for informal education providers which organise activities for newly arrived migrant women.

In the budget for 2021, the government proposes increasing the state subsidy for public education institutions by SEK 50 million (approximately 5 million EUR). The proposal that is now put to parliament is based on an agreement between the governing parties.

The specific target group for the subsidy is migrant women who are currently excluded from or unable to access the labour market, and who need support in order to enroll in formal education or find employment. It has been known for some time that migrant women make up one of the migrant groups most at risk of exclusion from employment across Europe.

The funds will be distributed through Folkbildningsrådet, the Swedish National Council of Adult Education.

Read the government's official press release on this issue here.

Lithuania: NGOs call on government to join EU states in responding to Moria crisis

Lithuania: NGOs call on government to join EU states in responding to Moria crisis

18/09/2020

Fifteen NGOs in Lithuania, together with UNICEF and and LCC International University, have demanded that the Lithuanian Government and relevant ministries take an active role in responding to the crisis on the island of Lesbos, Greece, after its biggest refugee camp was destroyed by fire earlier this month.

The fire that broke out on 9 September left nearly 13 000 people without any form of accommodation, among them 4 000 children. Later that week, the Lithuanian Government confirmed that it would not be joining other European Union states in welcoming and granting asylum to unaccompanied minors from the camp, because the country is currently too preoccupied with supporting Belarusian nationals fleeing their own country.

Earlier this year, Lithuania did accept two unaccompanied minors from Greece and pledged to maintain an active role in implementing EU relocation scheme. These organisations are hoping that the government will uphold the pledge and act in solidarity with these displaced people and the other EU nations offering them welcome.

Slovakia: Less than half the population has direct contact with migrants, poll reveals

Slovakia: Less than half the population has direct contact with migrants, poll reveals

18/09/2020

The Milan Šimečka Foundation and Focus Research have published the results of a public opinion poll on perceptions of migrants, carried out in June 2020. The results indicate considerable distance between the majority Slovakian population and migrants, despite the very dynamic growth of the country's migrant population over the last few years.

Although migrants make up 2.7% of the country's population, almost half (47.3%) of respondents to the survey said they do not personally know any migrants in Slovakia. Furthermore, in only one of four areas of public space - sport - did the majority of people (55.5%) say they know at least one migrant. The results from the other three areas were:

  • 42.1% of respondents in culture;
  • 30% of respondents in the media;
  • 16.4% of respondents in politics.

The poll also compared attitudes towards eight different migrant groups: people from the USA, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Germany. Three conclusions of these comparisons were as follows:

  • In their local neighbourhood, respondents were most likely to be accepting of migrants from Ukraine.
  • Into their own families, respondents were most likely to accept migrants from the USA.
  • The majority of respondents would view the marriage of one of their children with an Afghan, Syrian or Saudi Arabian migrant as unacceptable.

The main reasons suggested for these results, among others, are a lack of effective integration policies at national and local levels, and a public discourse which reinforces xenophobic prejudices and encourages divisions between native and migrant citizens.

The opinion poll was conducted within the 15th festival of new minorities [fjúžn], held annually in Slovakia.

EC expert group on the views of migrants: useful information for applicants

EC expert group on the views of migrants: useful information for applicants

18/09/2020

The European Commission launched a call for applications to set up an expert group on the views of migrants in the fields of migration, asylum and integration policies. The deadline for applications has been extended to 28 September 2020.

On 16 September, the Commission's Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) ran an online information session with some 160 prospective applicants. Useful information about the application process and answers to frequently asked questions are summarised below. 

Scope of work of the group

While hundreds of other expert groups have already been providing input for the design of EU policies, there has not been targeted way to regularly consult migrants on issues that directly concern them at the EU level. The creation of the expert group comes to fill this gap and to ensure effective and tailored policy design and implementation. 

The group will have 20 members appointed for a period of two years. In addition, some applicants will be included in a reserve list and may be asked to substitute for members who may not be able to fulfil their full terms. 

Once selected, the experts are expected to meet two or three times per year. Each meeting would last a full day and will be held in Brussels or online, depending on the ongoing COVID-19-related restrictions. Relevant information about the policy issues the EC would like to consult on will be sent in advance of each meeting, allowing the experts enough time to prepare their opinions.

The expert group is expected to start work this autumn. The first consultation with the group would focus on integration policies, as DG HOME is currently working on the next Action Plan on integration and inclusion, to be introduced in late 2020. As the working priorities of the Commission develop further, future meetings will also focus on asylum- and migration-related policy, including within the context of education and employment, for example.  

For transparency reasons, once selected, the expert group members' names will be published in the Register of Commission expert groups and other similar entities.

Types of applications 

Applicants must choose to apply as type A, B or C members.

⇒ Apply as Type A member if you want to join the expert group in a personal capacity

You should have:

  • A migrant background: this includes being a migrant such as a third-country national or a EU citizen born outside of the EU, as well as a descendant of migrants, i.e. a second or third generation migrant;
  • Good knowledge of English allowing active participation in the discussions (minimum C1 level);
  • At least five years - not necessarily consecutive - of professional experience working in the fields of migration, asylum or migrant integration; 
  • No conflict of interest (see more in the attached document)

⇒ Apply as a Type B member if you want to be appointed to represent a common interest

You should have:

  • A migrant background: this includes being a migrant such as a third-country national or a EU citizen born outside of the EU, as well as a descendant of migrants, i.e. a second or third generation migrant;
  • Proven capacity to represent effectively migrant stakeholders and links with a wider network of migrant organisations and communities;
  • Good knowledge of English allowing active participation in the discussions (minimum C1 level);
  • At least five years - not necessarily consecutive - of professional experience working in the fields of migration, asylum or migrant integration; 

⇒ Apply as a Type C member if you are an organisation representing the interest of migrants

You should be an organisations which:

  • Is legally based in one of the EU Member States;
  • Has proven competence and experience, including at the EU or international level, in areas relevant to migration, asylum and integration;
  • Proposes competent representatives (one member and one possible substitute) to represent your organisation within the expert group; they do not need to have five years of experience and do not have to be of migrant background;
  • Ensures the proposed representatives have good knowledge of English allowing active participation in the discussions (minimum C1 level)

Application documents

All applicants should submit the following documents:

  • A cover letter, preferably not exceeding two pages (when submitting as a Type C member, the focus should be on the work of the organisation and not its proposed representative);
  • A classification form (found in Annex I of the attached document);
  • A selection criteria form (found in Annex II of the attached document);
  • A curriculum vitae (CV) not exceeding three pages and preferably in the European format

NB: In addition to the above, Type A candidates should also submit a Standard Declaration of Interests (DOI) form (found in Annex III of the attached document).

More on documents, Annexes I, II and III, and how to fill these can all be found in the attached document. Applicants are asked to be specific in their answers and provide the most relevant details when filling in the forms. 

Frequently asked questions 

  • Can an asylum seeker apply? - Persons of migrant background, refugees and asylum seekers may all apply; above all, note that expert group members need to travel to Brussels and therefore it is important that their status allows them to travel from one EU Member State to another.
  • Can a EU citizen apply? - Yes; what is important is that Members Type A and B are of third-country background, even if they have already obtained a EU citizenship or are a second- or third-generation migrants. 
  • How can candidates prove their level of English? - Where official certificates of proficiency are available, please submit these. The Commission will however review and accept other proof and relevant experiences that show a candidate is able to complete all the work and take part in working discussions in English.
  • What kind of organisations can apply as a Type C member? - A large variety of entities is included here, such as research institutes, academic, think tanks, NGOs, law firms, financial institutions, professional organisations, consultancies, unions and more - please see pages 8 and 9 of the attached document for more. 
  • Does the representative of an organisation (a Type C member) have to be of migrant background? - No.
  • Does the representative of an organisation (a Type C member) have to have five years of relevant experience? - No.
  • In the case of Type C candidates, what should the cover letter include? - The cover letter should present the relevance of the organisation, not of its nominated representative. The representative's experience should be listed separately in the CV submitted with the application. 
  • Can an individual apply as more than one type of member? - As long as they fit the separate profiles, yes.

Please note: it is possible that an individual qualifies to apply as a Type A/B member, and also happens to work for an organisation that applies as a Type C member. This individual cannot be selected to the expert group as both a Type A/B and a Type C member. Instead, they may be appointed as a Type A/B member, while the organisation they work for will have to nominate a different representatives. Also, in the rare case where an applicant simultaneously fulfils the criteria, it is possible for them to apply both as a Type A and B member. 

  • Does volunteering in the fields of migration, asylum and/or integration count as relevant experience for Type A and B candidates? - Yes, the Commission is aware that relevant experience may often be in the form of unpaid or volunteer work, and would accept this as long as it relates to the nature of the expert group. 
  • Does working on a PhD degree count as relevant experience for Type A and B candidates? - Yes, depending on the topic of research and the applicant's profile, the Commission may accept that as relevant experience.
  • For Type A and B applicants, do the five years of experience need to be continuous? - No.
  • What costs would be covered? - The participants in the group will not be remunerated for their work but the Commission will cover travel and subsistence expenses. 
  • What would the composition of the group be? - The broadest possible diversity in terms of age, gender, geographical location, profession, field of expertise and migration experience will guide the composition of the group.
  • Will there be interviews? - No, the selection will be made based on the submitted applications.
  • When is a decision expected to be made? - After the submissions deadline on 28 September, the Commission will need at least a month in order to review and decide on all applications. The first meeting of the expert group should take place later in 2020.
  • Can an applicant resubmit an application? - If there is an important correction to be made, applicants are allowed to resubmit, but are asked to clearly state why.
Funding opportunity in the Czech Republic: Prague to support municipal integration projects

Funding opportunity in the Czech Republic: Prague to support municipal integration projects

17/09/2020

Prague City Hall has announced a call for grant applications for projects aiming to support the integration of migrants in 2021. Prague is the only Czech municipality that regularly allocates funding to integration activities.

Two types of activity will be offered funding:

  1. Those supporting the integration of migrants in Prague, such as:
    - informing migrants and the general public on integration;
    - mainstreaming migrant access to social services (eg. through community and intercultural work and interpreting);
    - education (eg. inclusion of migrant children in schools, language learning, training of teachers);
    - fostering good relations between majority population and migrants (through community, cultural and sporting events and volunteering).
  2. Those involving the publication of integration-related materials.

The total budget is 4 million CZK (150 000 EUR).

Grant applications must be submitted by 13 October 2020.

Find further information and application forms here.