Towards an EU Action Plan on Integration of Third-Country Nationals

On 21 March Belinda Pyke, Director of Migration and Mobility in the European Commission presented their work on an EU Action Plan on the integration of third-country nationals to civil society organisations, local and regional authorities and other stakeholders.

As a background Ms Pyke’s informed that four percent of the EU’s population are third country nationals (TCN). Although we currently have a refugee flow, traditionally most come regular ways to the EU. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has developed Indicators of Immigrant Integration and the European Commission’s ‘Employment and Social Development’ review includes figures of migration and mobility in the EU. Most migrants apply for status in Denmark, Sweden, Austria, and Hungary although few stay there. The majority comes from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Pakistan. While relocation programmes is meant to allocate TCNs to different Member States, many countries have little or no experience of welcoming refugees. Labour market integration takes particularly long time for refugees as they spend long periods in reception camps and might lack documents of prior education and skills. Female migrants face specific barrier to access the job market, especially when they enter through family reunification.

The EU can support Member States by promoting integration but have no power to harmonise integration through EU law (set out in Article 79(4) of the Treaty of the Function of the European Union). Among the actions the European Commission has taken to make integration work are Common Basic Principles set in 2005, an Agenda for Integration, assigned National Contact Points, a European Migration Forum, and set up an internal Inter-Service Group. Read more here.

Although EUs funds are not adequate to meet all needs, there are several opportunities that has not yet been fully utilised. In November last year we meet with Ms Pykes that told about the European Commission’s funding for migration integration. These will be outlined as a part of the activities of the Integration Action Plan.

The European Commission foresee its Action Plan to be published in April or May. Ms Pyke’s intention is to include all TCNs, even if some integration tools are specific for certain groups many apply to all. The plan will emphasise the rights of refugees and migrants as well as their obligations to respect European values, democracy and human rights. It proposes five phases for integration:

  1. Pre-departure stage (e.g. in resettlement)
  2. Arrival/early integration
  3. Integration into education and vocational training
  4. Labour market integration (including self-employment/entrepreneurship)
  5. Active Participation and social inclusion

Each phase have specific objectives and concrete actions, and outlines coordination between actors, aspects of gender and vulnerable situations, funding, evidence and indicators. It will also include specific actions for refugees. Mr Pyke made the point that all phases are multi-dimensional and interlinked, activities wont be tailored as one model fits all, integration is a two way process also directed towards the receiving society. Actions could for example be about calls for proposals, direct management of funding or peer learning and exchange of practices between states, regional and local authorities.

Civil society gave some initial inputs, such as the need to include inter-fair dialogue, addressing racism and discrimination, early interventions, housing and resources for service provision of shelters for homeless refugees and migrants, access to services also for undocumented migrants, and the right for NGOs to provide such services. Ms Pyke concluded with saying that while she understand our concerns she is afraid that the gap will remain between our expectations and what the European Commission can deliver.