Making EU migration & integration funding easier

On 9 November NGOs met with representatives of the European Commission for a discussion on how EU funding can be used for migration integration. Belinda Pyke (Director for Migration & Mobility and Acting Director for Migration & Security Funds) recalled that DG Migration & Home Affairs was restructuring at the start of this year to align priorities of the Juncker Commission (see also the European Agenda on Migration). The Directorate, along with other DGs has been mapping funding possibilities to support measures related to the refugee crisis. The aim is to ensure that Member States, Regional and Local Authorities (RLA), social partners and civil society make the best possible use of all the EU funding available. Ms Pyke was interested to know the experiences of NGOs in managing the crisis, and asked about the involvement of National Equality Bodies as the scope of the Race Equality Directive may also be relevant.

Civil society can play a crucial role in putting pressure on their national governments’ relevant Ministries to apply the Partnership Principle, including Monitoring Committee when preparing and implementing the funding programmes. Ms Pyke wanted feedback from NGOs on their experience of partnership, compared with the description given in the national programmes.

Grzegorz Gajewski (Policy Officer, MFF programming) told that the Commission is paying close attention to the effectiveness of the Partnership Principle for the  Asylum, Migration & Integration Fund (AMIF). AMIF has allowed for some funding for emergency assistance (which was used in the case of Calais) that applied also to assistance of undocumented migrants. Mr Gajewski also mentioned that there is some funding for capacity building, as a part of AMIF’s integration strategy and European Social Fund (ESF) thematic objective 11.

Antoine Savary (Deputy Head of Unit, Legal Migration & Integration) explained that the autumn economic forecast prepared by DG ECFIN (Economic & Financial Affairs) underlined that the economic impact of the refugee crisis on public budget balance should be limited. It can even be positive on economic growth if integration processes go relatively quick and prove successful. Mr Savary also informed that the Commission will, within a few months, launch a call for five million euro for integration, focusing on refugee women, and access to the labour market for refugees and asylum seekers. Another funding (not yet adopted) is planned for 2016, focusing on integration of relocated people.

More information can be found in the Commission’s note on how to support asylum seekers under the ESF and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). It outlines that ESF apply to asylum seekers when they are legally able to participate in the labour market, for vocational training actions, and the education of their children. FEAD is for food and/or basic material assistance and social inclusion activities outside active labour market measures. Member States define who benefits, and may include irregular migrants. The Commission also explains the complementarity of ESF and FEAD with AMIF.

See also a Graphic of ISF/AMIF/Frontex funds usage at different points in the migration flow.

Inputs from civil society

In line with some of the concerns raised by NGOs at the civil dialogue meeting with DG Employment on 29 October, NGOs asked about who are covered by the funds and how easily they are available to NGOs. The European Women’s Lobby informed that they are in a dialogue with the Women’s Refugee Commission in order to strengthen the European Network of Migrant Women. Eurodiaconia informed that their members are already overwhelmed by working on reception services, are struggling to find time for their national advocacy work and therefore too busy to do other activities like monitoring implementation of EU funds for migration. The European Anti-Poverty Network explained that it is hard for them to distinguish between e.g. refugees and undocumented migrants, as they work with all people in need. EAPN also questioned the link with the Europe 2020 Strategy targets.

Several NGOs reiterated that opportunities for funding must be made as easy and accessible as possible, especially for small NGOs, that would need funding upfront. PICUM highlighted the disproportionate amount put into border funding, in comparison to integration. I shared the concerns observed by several EU NGOs that specific funding for refugees and migrants may create tensions, if perceived to be on the expenses of the wellbeing of other vulnerable and marginalised people in need. Ms Pyke agreed that such tensions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ exist and needs to be addressed.