The 4th meeting of the European Migration Forum brought together over 200 representatives from NGOs, local and regional authorities, national governments, the Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The EESC hosted two days of detailed debates about the challenges and opportunities of integrating migrants into national labour markets in the European Union.

In his keynote speech EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said that those who have obtained a legal right to stay into the European Union it is essential, and even urgent, that we now focus on their integration into our societies. Effectively integrating all those who have a legal right to stay, including refugees, is also beneficial for our ageing societies, as well as for our labour markets, contributing to address skills and labour shortages in many sectors.  

In his keynote speech, Georges Dassis, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), said that migrants are important given that the population on the European continent is ageing and that they need to be treated equitably and integrated into EU societies, considered as full citizens with rights in all the issues. Civil society, will need to be mobilised to achieve that, he added. He also said that migrants need to benefit from the same rights as EU nationals but must respect the EU’s model in terms of equality of gender, education of children and respect for children. Integration goes in both directions, he said.

José Antonio Moreno Díaz, member of the EESC’s Permanent Study Group on Immigration and Integration, said that integration into the labour market is a key part of any integration of migrant workers. He stressed the need to change the narrative on migration away from migrants being depicted as a burden on society to one about the need for migration in any modern society.

Testimonies by two migrants

Two migrants gave testimonies about their experiences in terms of migration and integration into the labour market of the EU.  Maria Lourdes Gernan, from the Philippines, is now working in Ireland for an organisation dealing with children with disabilities. With other Philippinos, she organised and co-led a domestic migrant childminders’ group to voice their issues and to have their status legalised.  Mr Shadani was playing football professionally and studying as a mechanical engineer in Iran when he was forced to flee. He ended up in Slovenia, where he is now looking to do a PhD at a university so that he can compete fully on the labour market working as a mechanical engineer.

Eugenio Ambrosi, Regional Director for the European Economic Area, the EU and NATO at the International Organisation for Migration, said that more time needed to be spent talking with and listening to migrants, “a major shortcoming in the EU policymaking process”. He noted that the migrants’ stories showed a lot of determination and resourcefulness and that any society/group would like to have those qualities.

Ensuring proper integration into the labour mark is a step towards increasing their self-reliance and reducing their exposure to vulnerability and minimising the risk of marginalisation. “This is the best security response – far more efficient than sealing borders that can’t be sealed anyway,” he said.

Parallel workshops on labour market integration issues

A major part of the Forum took the form of participative workshops on a wide range of issues. The workshops dealt with the following issues:

  • How to foster a multi-stakeholder approach in the labour market integration
  • Concrete solutions for a better cooperation at the local level
  • Recognising and developing skills - best practices
  • Matching refugees skills with labour market needs
  • Addressing the issue of irregular migrants in the labour market
  • Preventing labour exploitation and ensuring decent working conditions
  • Tackling discrimination and promoting diversity at the workplace
  • Promoting entrepreneurship among migrants and supporting social economy

Rapporteurs summarised the main findings of these at the end of the Forum . These findings were debated by Menno Bart, representative of The Adecco Group, Lazar Lazarov, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Bulgarian Presidency and Simon Mordue, Deputy Director-General for Migration and Home Affairs, European Commission, with the help of moderator Sean Klein.

The Forum also included sessions on:

Access to EU funding: This session dealt with detailed questions about how EU funding is spent and managed and how it can be made easier to access
The floor is yours: This session allowed representatives to talk about specific issues of interest and ask for feedback/comments from other representatives (e.g. online skills assessment tools, helping refugee women find work, a new language technology for language learning, consulting migrants about counselling, assessment tools etc, increasing the visibility of migrant entrepreneurs in the media).


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