Since the start of the refugee crisis in 2015, lessons can be drawn regarding their integration into communities. Access to the labour market for example, seems to be the quickest way to integrate refugees in our societies. Unfortunately, due to slow asylum-seeking procedures, access to the labour market tends to be delayed. In some cases, procedures can last up to five or six years, during which asylum-seekers do not have the right to work in the host country and have limited access to integration programmes such as language and culture classes. It is therefore crucial to review legal frameworks to speed up asylum-seeking procedures and to allow people to enter integration programmes from day one.
It is essential that clear information is provided to asylum-seekers through ‘one-stop-shops’. In general, many services do support refugees but information is often fragmented, making systems complex to navigate. Moreover, cultural differences and prescribed gender roles that refugees arrive with should be taken into account, without forcing them to change. In this regard, social services could play an important advocacy role in helping women integrate in the labour market. The role of local authorities and civil society has also been recognised as crucial and should be enhanced in the future.
Recognising qualifications and skills is the most important issue to tackle in the short term
Mapping the skills of refugees and migrants is very important and should be done upon their arrival and before an individual plan is established for them. Last June, the European Commission launched the EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals in order to help professionals offering assistance to migrants and refugees to acquire information about skills, qualifications and job experiences. The Tool is not a recognition or authentication tool for qualifications, but it is designed to support assessment, form a basis for offering guidance, identify up-skilling needs and support job searching and job-matching. It is multilingual, available in all EU languages (except Irish) and in Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Sorani, Somali, Tigrinya and Turkish. It is possible to see two languages at the same time on one screen, reducing language barriers between case workers and the people they are assisting.
Integrating young refugees and asylum-seekers into the education and labour market: best practice example
The Youth College in Austria is a successful example of support for young people turning 18 that improves their chances of integrating into the labour market. It has 1,000 young migrant students aged between 15 and 21 attending a variety of classes and offers a large portfolio of studies with over 50 courses. An initial assessment is conducted with the student, and different options are presented to meet the student’s educational and professional goals. Some students enrol in the General Education course (German, English, Mathematics, ICT) in order to complete compulsory schooling or to look for an apprenticeship. Those who are already proficient in German are prepared for continuing their education or to start their careers.
Integration of migrants and refugees should start from day one and it is important that asylum-seeking procedures do not hinder the possibility to take part in integration programmes, and most of all, that they are shortened. In order to be successful, integration policies should not only target refugees but also locals in a vulnerable situation, such as the long-term unemployed and Roma. Finally, it is crucial to involve all actors, including social partners, NGOs, civil society, public and private institutions as well as employers. Such partnerships could really improve refugees and migrants’ integration into the labour market and their foster social inclusion.