A new EESC opinion calls for a stronger focus on integration policies and highlights best practice examples. If integration is successful it will lead to social cohesion, economic growth and job creation.
While there is a need to accommodate refugees, addressing the needs of the local population is indisputable to garner full public support. Better communication and engagement with host communities – media, local authorities, trade unions, employer organisations, NGOs – is therefore needed to create a positive climate for new arrivals.
In order to fully integrate refugees in labour markets, the EESC calls for investment in targeted measures such as language- and vocational training and access to information about labour rights and obligations.
“Language training should be provided soon after registration, if a positive decision on the asylum status is to be expected,” stresses Mrs Schweng, rapporteur on the issue. “This training should also include basic information on values culture, and processes as well as identification of skills and qualifications.”
Unaccompanied minors deserve special attention. A rapid integration into the school system or guidance on the professional training opportunities should be provided. Investment in integration measures is costly in the short- and medium term, the opinion argues, but should be seen as an investment in people that pays off in the long term. "We are convinced that integration of refugees is an absolute must for our societies if we want to preserve social cohesion. A lack of integration can lead to parallel societies which may destabilise receiving countries. It is therefore in our own interest to start integration measures from a very early stage", added Mrs Schweng and the co-rapporteur Panagiotis Gkofas.
While the Committee calls for better cooperation and solidarity among all levels of government and underlines the key role of civil society organisations in the handling of refugee integration, it also stresses the importance of protecting and supporting individual engagements – civil society, trade unions, employers’ organisations and private entities – especially in humanitarian crises.
The Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the European Social Fund (ESF), should be adjusted according to how much Member States have to shoulder the responsibility and cost of integrating refugees, the opinion concludes.28/2016
For more information, please contact:
Caroline ALIBERT-DEPREZ, EESC Press Unit
Tel: + 32 2 546 9406 / +32 475 75 32 02