European Council on Refugees and Exiles, The Way Forward: Europe's Role in the Global Refugee Protection System. Towards the Integration of Refugees in Europe, -, 1 July 2005, https://www.refworld.org/reference/research/ecre/2005/en/17962 [accessed 04 March 2024]
This new paper on refugee integration, which builds on ECRE's 2002 Position on the Integration of Refugees, has benefited from extensive input from ECRE's member agencies, as well as from governmental agencies. Too often the current debate in Europe on refugee integration appears to reflect a belief that integration is a oneway process where the onus is solely on refugees to integrate. It is often focused on concerns that individuals and their communities are failing to live up to the integration expectations held by host societies. This paper reinforces the view that for refugee integration to be successful, there needs to be a dynamic twoway process in place, in which individual refugees on the one hand and government, its institutions and society on the other work together towards building a cohesive society. It makes concrete proposals on how welcoming societies can more effectively be developed and on what steps can be taken to facilitate integration in all its aspects (civic, political, social, economic and cultural).
Key recommendations from the paper include:
* The special needs of refugees should be recognised within a policy of mainstreaming, including the needs of specific groups such as women and children.
* Education should promote respect for differences and better prepare people to live in diverse societies through the adaption teacher training programmes and curricula.
* Governments and politicians should combat myths by highlighting the positive contributions refugees are making to our societies and should take the lead in using accurate terminology when speaking about asylum and immigration matters.
* The media should uphold their responsibility to provide balanced and accurate reporting on asylum issues, and press complaints commission guidelines should be developed and enforced across Europe.
* Refugees should be granted rights similar to those of nationals to improve their integration prospects. This includes facilitating the naturalisation of refugees, for which a minimum period of residence should not be longer than 5 years. It also includes granting refugees the right to vote and stand for election at the local and European levels after a maximum 3 years' residence.
* Refugees (including those with subsidiary forms of protection) should be granted equal access to the labour market.
* A system of recognition of previous experience and qualifications (accreditation of prior learning) should be set up at EU level, as part of the existing process of harmonising qualifications.
* Health care servcies need to take into account cultural differences and the experiences of refugees, through training of health professionals.
* Family reunification for refugees should be facilitated.
* Knowledge of and contact with the many different cultures within a society should be promoted, as part of the creation of a cohesive society.
* Refugees also need to be aware of their responsibilities towards their host countries with regards to adhering to common core values that underlie the cultures of democratic European countries: namely human rights, the principle of equality, the protection of minorities, democracy, the separation of state and church and the rule of law.
While integration policy is principally a responsibility of individual states and should be dealt with at the national level, there is a role for supporting a European approach to the issues of integration. However a paper focused on the European level cannot be a panacea for all integration challenges in all countries and ECRE fully recognises that some recommendations may need to be adapted according to the context of each specific country.
ECRE's policy on the future of European resettlement activities is part of the organisation's development of a series of proposals entitled "The Way Forward Europe's Role in the Global Refugee Protection System", designed to provide constructive recommendations on a number of topical refugee policy issues, contribute to and positively influence the European debate. Other proposals address the issues of developing European resettlement activities, making refugee protection effective in regions of origin, creating fairer and more efficient asylum systems in Europe and the return of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. This body of work will be the central priority for ECRE's advocacy over the next few years, linking in to many of the themes in the EU's Hague Programme of action for the next five years.
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.