High numbers of migrant arrivals have fuelled a sense of competition over social assistance and created feelings of insecurity. Rising xenophobia and populism is seen as a reaction to migrant flow, inspiring additional barriers and challenging integration. This was a key message underlined by Eurodiaconia in its policy paper titled: “Towards an Effective Integration of Third Country Nationals,” published on 5 December.
In this context, Eurodiaconia emphasises that decisive action at political and societal level is urgently needed to “foster social cohesion” and to reduce the increased risk of poverty and social exclusion which many migrants continue to face.
Among key findings, Eurodiaconia underlined that throughout Europe the educational level of migrant children is significantly lower than that of nationals. Specifically, “a quarter of third country national children leave school without graduating and a fifth of young non-EU-citizens is neither in employment, education or training.”
On the one hand, the report noted that many countries in response to the influx of arrivals in 2015 had set up submersion or introduction classes for refugee children, with the aim of facilitating their integration in mainstream education. Although, noting that this was based on a good intention, Eurodiaconia also cautioned that this risked creating “de facto segregation of up to two years, during which the children are not integrated into mainstream education and risk falling even further behind their peers”
“In order to provide best possible chances to migrant children, they need to be integrated as early as possible into mainstream education to learn the language and interact with their peers, independently of their legal status. Early childhood education and care, as well as day-care for older children, are therefore very valuable for integration and should be accessible to all migrant children.”
The importance of access to the labour was further stressed, as key to integration. However, many third-country nationals, are found to have difficulties accessing the labour market or have to accept jobs for which they are overqualified. Key obstacles include language barriers and lacking recognition of skills and qualifications. Moreover, some migrants opt for the informal working sector instead, especially asylum seekers who can have their right to work denied while waiting for international protection.
“Furthermore, intercultural training and support could be beneficial for employers and improve integration efforts, as integration is always a two-way process. Cooperation or partnerships between public employment agencies, NGOs, the business sector and local employers to support labour market integration of third country nationals is essential and must be encouraged.
To facilitate integration, language (and literacy) training should start as early as possible, as learning the host-countries language is a necessary basis for integration and any further training or work. There needs to be a broad offer of high quality and affordable language classes, adapted to different levels and needs. Furthermore, in order to allow migrants to fully use their skills, qualifications need to be recognized and skills to be adequately assessed, including skills gained through non-formal and informal learning.”
In this regard, Eurodiaconia welcomes the EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals, part of the European Commission’s New Skills Agenda for Europe, as a step in this direction. w Skills Agenda for Europe, adopted by the Commission on 10 June 2016, launched 10 actions to make the right training, skills and support available to people in the EU. According to the European Commission this tool aims to support “early profiling of the skills of refugees, migrants and citizens of non-EU countries who are staying in the EU (third country nationals). Furthermore, this tool is intended for use by any services that may offer assistance to citizens of non-EU countries support job-searching and job-matching.
In its report Eurodiaconia further underlined that short internships can allow migrants to discover the working environment in their host country, which in many cases facilitates integration later on, Longer internships on the other hand should aim at training the migrant and should ideally be linked to employment perspectives afterwards.
Promoting social inclusion of third-country nationals’ also means ensuring the creation of conditions which enable people to have a decent life, including adequate and affordable housing as well as access to social and healthcare services. At the same time, Eurodiaconia acknowledged the challenges for local administrations in providing affordable housing to migrants on account of housing shortages in many cities.
“Disproportionally high numbers of third country nationals face bad housing conditions, compared to EU citizens. Racism or fear among landlords and administrative barriers are some of the main reasons for a lack of access to adequate housing. Undocumented migrants face even higher barriers accessing housing, despite the fact that housing is recognised as a fundamental human right.10 Often, their status doesn’t give them access to emergency accommodation or shelter and landlords are very reluctant to offer accommodation to undocumented migrants, fearing legal consequences. Hence, undocumented migrants are pushed to the margins of the private housing sector or end up being homeless.”
Migrants are at high risk of experiencing discrimination, as well as poverty and social exclusion. Likewise, they are especially vulnerable to risks when they are in irregular situations. An effective response, should be grounded in European governments’ commitments respect of solidarity and human rights principles, said Eurodiaconia
Moreover, the majority of migrants arriving in Europe are young and looking for employment, and thus provide an important source for the development of relevant skills. “Migrants can help address staff shortages in specific sections of the labour market and provide a welcome stimulus to national economies. Facilitating successful integration at the earliest possible stage and on a holistic basis, reaching beyond the facilitation of labour market access, is key to capitalising on migrants’ potential and to countering negative rhetoric,” Eurodiaconia concluded.