The European Commission recently presented a new action plan for integration and inclusion of newcomers in Europe. ICMC Europe and the SHARE Network welcome the plan and urge policy-makers to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable migrant groups.
On 24 November, the European Commission presented its 2021-2027 action plan on integration and inclusion. The plan aims to promote newcomers’ participation in European society and address barriers that can hinder their integration. It sees successful integration and inclusion as an essential part of an effective migration and asylum policy.
ICMC Europe and the SHARE Network welcomed the new plan and commended its commitment to engage a broad range of actors, particularly migrants, refugees, and host communities. It also saluted the plan’s commitment to promoting new ‘digital integration’ services in response to COVID-19.
However, the organizations also urged European policy-makers to pay attention to newcomers’ reception and settlement, including specific measures for those arriving via protection programs. “For refugees, unaccompanied children and victims of torture and/or trafficking, the purpose of integration support and services must be clearly understood as ensuring durable protection,” reads the ICMC Europe/SHARE Network’s submission to a European Commission online consultation earlier in the year.
The plan’s main action points include providing inclusive education and training, improving employment opportunities and recognition of migrants’ skills, promoting access to health services, including mental health, and improving access to adequate and affordable housing.
Compared to the 2016 action plan, the new plan places increased emphasis on fostering partnerships for integration, tackling racism and discrimination, and creating digital tools to cultivate integration in the COVID-19 age.
National governments are responsible for creating and implementing the plan’s social policies on their territories. The EU will provide funding and guidance and will foster partnerships between migrants, host communities, social and economic partners, civil society organizations, local and regional authorities, and the private sector.
ICMC Europe and the SHARE Network contributed several recommendations to the action plan through the European Commission’s 12-week-long online consultation.
In their submission, they recommended that the Commission view integration as a two-way process that includes migrants and host communities. They advocated for European Commission and EU Member States support to the strengthening of inclusive territories and the expansion of competencies in smaller towns and rural communities to increase their integration capacity. They recommended that the EU consider legal residency and citizenship as essential conditions to integration.
The submission emphasizes the need for an inclusive approach to integration policies that involve key actors from a variety of backgrounds. “The SHARE Network is currently beginning a new program to pilot and evaluate migration and refugee participation and co-design approaches for integration and inclusion, and we would be most happy to support the expansion of such practices within the EU,” reads the submission.
ICMC Europe and the SHARE Network drew their recommendations based on experiences gathered through the Network’s activities. Founded by ICMC Europe in 2012, the SHARE Network promotes refugee inclusion partnerships in local communities across Europe. It provides a platform for representatives of various areas, including civil society, local, regional, and national governments, and the private sector to exchange on and learn about resettlement. The Network advocates for more and better resettlement in Europe and has engaged over 3,000 stakeholders from 27 EU countries in dialogue, capacity-building, and advocacy over the past eight years.