The Eastern Partnership Migration and Asylum Panel meeting on Economic Integration of Migrants took place in Warsaw on 14-15 December 2017. The event was co-hosted by Poland and Georgia with the support of the European Commission (DG HOME) and the UN Migration Agency (IOM), Mission in Ukraine. The experts from the EU Member States, six Eastern Partnership countries, the European Institutions, UN agencies, OSCE, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), exchanged views on the effectiveness of the existing policy frameworks and tools in the sphere of economic integration at both the EU and national levels.
The growing immigrant population in the EU as well as in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) states determines the need to develop more comprehensive and effective policy measures in the sphere of economic integration of migrants. Currently, there are around 20 million third country nationals in the EU – or 4% of the total EU population. Seventy five per cent of them are in Germany, Spain, Italy, France and the UK. While in countries such as Poland, Romania or Slovakia third country nationals consist less than 0.5% of the population, in Spain, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Austria, Latvia and Estonia they make up to 5% of population.
The EaP countries have both roles of countries of origin and destination, but to different extents, although most of them have a negative migration balance. The recent changes in migration trends are gradually transforming them from origin countries to receiving countries, which brings new challenges.
Access to national labour markets in the hosting states plays a vital role for ensuring the well-being of migrants and also could be beneficial for the national economies and hosting societies in general. Recognizing the challenging nature of integration, various EU institutions, international organizations as well as global and regional institutions provide their technical and financial support to national governments in developing and implementing appropriate policies and practical measures.
The issue of migrants’ integration appeared in the agenda of the Global Compact for Migration being currently developed by the UN Member States. The Article 39 of the New-York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, adopted in 2016, reinforced the commitment of the United Nations Member States to combat xenophobia, racism and discrimination against refugees and migrants. The signatory states committed to take measures to improve their integration and inclusion, with particular reference to access to education, health care, justice and language trainings.
As stressed by the European Commission representatives during the EaP Panel meeting, the migrant integration is mostly national competence, and there is no common approach to the integration issues at the European level. However, there is a broad consensus on the following aspects: the integration process should begin as early as possible; the language issue is essential; the labour market integration is a fundamental step in the integration process. Putting in place specific programmes on labour market integration (including language and vocational training) is helpful; the exchange with host society is fundamental as integration is a two-way process, from migrants to the host society and from the host society to migrants. Following an overview of national practices in the field of economic integration of migrants in EU member states and EaP countries, prepared by IOM Ukraine, the experts discussed current migration trends, recent developments in the EU integration policy, facilitation and measuring of migrants’ economic integration, protection of migrant workers from abuse and exploitation. The importance of education as well as recognition of qualifications and skills for successful integration and the role of civil society in building and harnessing the potential of the migration-development nexus were also in the focus of the meeting.
The meeting participants suggested that few issues, such as pre-departure measures, accessibility of information on the rights of economic migrants and their obligations, protection of migrant workers from abuse and exploitation and the role of various counselling organizations, need to be reinforced.
On the second day of the meeting, attendees took part in the interactive session based on the method of appreciative inquiry. Among the main goals of the practical exercises was to formulate concrete positive examples from professional experiences of the participants, to understand what factors lead to success and what can be learned from that experience for the current issue at stake. In addition, the overall goal of the interactive session was to enhance networking between the participants in order to facilitate their cooperation and exchange in the future.