FRA Opinions SIMPS

Strengthening the coordination of national integration action plans and strategies

National migrant integration action plans and strategies differ widely across the EU in terms of their guiding principles, measures, and monitoring and evaluation. These variations reflect national specificities, administrative traditions and migration histories. Over the past 10 years, Member States’ representatives have discussed these diverse approaches in the network of the National Contact Points on Integration, coordinated by the European Commission. However, national differences remain in implementing guidance provided by the Council of the European Union’s Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the EU and other relevant policy documents. In this regard, the Commission announced in its June 2016 Action Plan on integration that the network will be upgraded into a European Integration Network, with a stronger coordination role and a mutual learning mandate.

Not all Member States consistently apply the Common Basic Principle that refers to integration as a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents. There is a positive trend, however, with more EU Member States’ national action plans and strategies addressing not only migrants but also the host society.

Across all countries, FRA’s research revealed little evidence of action plans and strategies with a particular focus on women or gender issues. Academic research indicates that women with migrant backgrounds face multiple or intersectional discrimination in many areas of social life, including employment and education, and particularly face barriers in accessing healthcare services.

FRA’s research identified a number of important promising initiatives developed and implemented at local level. They are designed to serve the needs of local communities, but provide lessons that could usefully guide the formulation and targeting of broader national policies.

Promoting participation and equal treatment by raising rights awareness and implementing nondiscrimination legislation

Equality and non-discrimination are core values enshrined in the Treaties and the Charter and implemented in EU legislation. EU law prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality only in the particular context of free movement of persons; thus, third-country nationals can invoke provisions concerning non-discrimination in Articles 18 and 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in only a limited number of cases. This means that, while migrants are protected from discrimination on the basis of ethnic or racial origin, in 16 Member States they are not protected against discrimination on the basis of their nationality or migrant, refugee or foreigner status. Given that fundamental rights and equality are the basis of the EU and among the shared values common to the Member States (Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Article 21 of the Charter), this may function as an obstacle to the enjoyment of equality and fundamental rights.

Data collection by the Equality Bodies in the Member States is usually limited to cases of discrimination on grounds of racial/ethnic origin. Few or no data exist in most EU Member States on discrimination-related complaints submitted by third-country nationals on grounds other than ethnic or racial origin. The actual number of complaints submitted by third-country nationals to Equality Bodies is very small compared with the experiences and incidents of perceived discrimination and victimisation as recorded by FRA surveys. Underreporting is a serious concern and can be linked to a lack of rights’ awareness and to mistrust of the authorities. It is therefore necessary to develop more systematic outreach and awareness-raising activities to make sure people are aware of their rights and to build their trust in the capacity of the administration and the public authorities to protect them.

Effective policy implementation requires systematic monitoring, assessment and review. The data collected indicate that only around half of Member States carry out some form of periodic assessment or review of national integration action plans or strategies. Even when these reviews are carried out, they are not always based on commonly agreed EU standards and indicators to monitor integration policies. Eleven EU Member States use the Zaragoza indicators, agreed upon by the EU Member States in 2010 to measure outcomes of integration policies. However, nine Member States have adopted indicators additional to the Zaragoza indicators, including examples referring directly to fundamental rights, such as discrimination or victimisation experiences. Improving the outcomes of integration policies is important to achieving the goals of the EU2020 Strategy for inclusive growth, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals of fighting exclusion and promoting human rights. Furthermore, the research identified gaps in collection of statistical data, which often did not include breakdown by gender.

Fewer than half of EU Member States have action plans or strategies that explicitly address descendants of migrants, although statistical evidence from Eurostat and international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlights their disadvantaged position. Member States may, however, include measures and actions for this group under general youth or other sectoral policies. Social exclusion risks the potential alienation of youth of migrant descent, with consequences for social cohesion, intolerance, discrimination and the rise of extremism.

Promoting societal participation in and through education

Evidence provided by national-level research and studies in about half of the EU Member States indicates de facto segregation of migrant children at school. Moreover, studies show that, even when the residential concentration is not high, some schools, particularly primary schools, tend to be more segregated than the neighbourhoods they serve. This means that, even in schools in more diverse neighbourhoods, parents tend to enrol their children in schools with children of their own ethnic background.

Outreach to migrant parents is an established and systematic policy in a handful of Member States, while projects in a further 10 Member States implement such initiatives. Such policies range from involving and engaging migrant and refugee parents and families in the life of schools, informing and raising awareness about education of their children to supporting them in learning the Member State’s national language and enabling them to assist and support their children in the education process. It is therefore an important aspect of policies promoting the participation and socialisation of their children within the school community and implementing better their fundamental right to education. The other 13 Member States do not implement such measures. The involvement of migrant families and parents in local and school communities should begin during the early stages of reception, to avoid marginalisation and consequent alienation of children and young people of migrant background. This support can take the form of early language learning.

Most EU Member States acknowledge in their policy documents the need for more inclusive education to reflect diversity in society. Seventeen Member States include references to cultural diversity as a guiding principle or as part of curricular subjects, although in only five Member States do education systems make intercultural education a dedicated subject within the national curriculum.

Encouraging participation in trade unions and in the public sphere

Trade unions generally encourage and promote the membership of migrant workers. In four Member States, membership rates of immigrant workers are comparable with those of nationals, or higher, and in most Member States, trade unions make considerable efforts to attract migrant workers as members. The exceptions are six central European Member States with very small and/or new immigrant communities.

In relation to the employment of migrants in the public sector, FRA’s research found that 19 EU Member States provide equal access to the public sector for third-country nationals. Eight of these take concrete actions to increase diversity in the public sector and to encourage the recruitment of third-country nationals or citizens with migrant backgrounds.

Supporting integration through language learning

Most EU Member States, acknowledging that learning the national language is a necessary precondition for access to employment and successful overall integration, provide language support classes for immigrants and refugees. There is a strong trend to introduce such language support modules throughout the EU. However, only a handful of EU Member States follow a needs-based approach to language learning by opening courses to all residents with limited language proficiency, including citizens of migrant background. Several Member States exclude EU citizens from other Member States and third-country nationals who are temporary residents or seasonal workers. In addition, several central European Member States provide access to such courses only for beneficiaries of humanitarian protection.

Language and integration courses can be voluntary or compulsory. Compulsory language courses are usually, but not always, free of charge. Language-learning programmes are rarely linked to employment, and jobspecific or on-the-job language training courses are not common.

Promoting participation in political life

Participation in political life is a major driver of integration and most EU Member States do not limit access of third-country nationals to membership of political parties. Almost half of the EU Member States give legally resident third-country nationals voting and election rights at local level, and most Member States allow or encourage migrants to be involved in consultation processes. An increasing number of Member States provide more favourable conditions for naturalisation to those descendants of migrants who were born and/or educated in the country.