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.
EU Member States should include in their national integration policies specific reference to the fundamental rights that apply to everyone living in the European Union, including the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination. In parallel, they should increase their efforts to raise awareness about fundamental rights and the EU’s values and principles among both the host society and migrants.
To develop a more integrated EU approach to migrant integration, EU Member States should strengthen further the coordination of their national integration policies with the support of the European Commission, as recommended by the June 2016 European Commission Action Plan on integration of third country nationals.
EU Member States should consider strengthening measures to improve mutual understanding, participation and trust between immigrants and the host society, as required for effective integration policies guided by the EU’s Common Basic Principles. The latter define integration as a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents.
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.
EU Member States should ensure that national migrant integration action plans or strategies include mainstreamed as well as specific actions targeting women to foster their equal participation in society, and should systematically monitor their implementation.
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.
The EU and its Member States should collect and share evidence on concrete experiences with local integration initiatives to learn what works in practice, so that national policies can provide more specific guidance to regional and local authorities, improving cooperation across governance levels. In this respect, the Urban Agenda for the EU, an initiative aiming to create new forms of cooperation on urban issues, can provide a framework for better coordination at EU, national and regional/local levels in improving the design and implementation of policies. The Partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees created within the Urban Agenda framework in 2016 is a step towards this direction.
EU Member States should encourage local and regional authorities to promote the participation of representative organisations of migrants in the design and implementation of integration measures in a meaningful way.
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.
EU Member States whose legislation does not protect against discrimination on grounds of nationality should ensure that migrants are not victims of discrimination and do not fall outside the protection provided by legislation. In this regard, they may consider following the example of the 12 Member States that include nationality and/or migrant and refugee or foreigner status among the grounds of protection against discrimination.
EU Member States should step up awarenessraising and information activities, including promotion of legal tools available for obtaining redress, to ensure that everyone – both host society and migrants – is well-informed about their fundamental right to equal treatment and non-discrimination.
In parallel, EU Member States should also reinforce awareness-raising actions against hate crime and hate speech against migrants and their descendants, and so foster community cohesion in the context of a welcoming society.
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.
Integration policies and concrete measures implemented by the EU Member States should be systematically monitored at national and EU levels to assess their impact on the ground. This is important to assess progress towards the accomplishment of goals set by the EU2020 Strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. EU Member States, supported by the EU, should use the Zaragoza indicators and other means to monitor their integration policies, building on the added value of comparability and the exchange of best practices.
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.
Member States need to address more systematically and mainstream policies concerning migrant youth and descendants of migrants, to support the development of their full potential to contribute to the social and economic development of their society. Such policies and measures need to prioritise and encourage the equitable participation of young people of migrant background, without any discrimination, in all areas of social life, including employment, education, and cultural and political life.
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.
Building on the Paris Declaration of 2015, in which education ministers call for promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education, EU Member States should take measures to foster more inclusive education that promotes diversity. In this respect, Member States should make use of EU instruments providing support and funding, such as Erasmus+ and the European Education and Training 2020 programme.
EU Member States should take all necessary steps to avoid the segregation of students with migrant backgrounds in schools or classes, and to address effectively the tendency of parents to enrol their children in schools with students of their own ethnic background. This will require sustained awareness-raising efforts, as well as well-coordinated housing and education policies, to avoid residential segregation and to contribute towards breaking down barriers between communities and enhancing opportunities for social interaction.
Successful integration in school requires the support of parents. Member States’ educational authorities should consider encouraging schools with ethnically and culturally diverse student populations to involve parents from migrant and refugee families actively in school and local community life to foster inclusive and cohesive community relations.
Member States’ educational authorities should provide teachers with adequate intercultural training, including on fundamental rights, to support them in engaging with students with diverse ethnic backgrounds more effectively in school.
EU Member States are encouraged to consider how respect for diversity and fundamental rights are currently reflected in school curricula across different subject areas, and to strengthen human rights education, building on relevant work by the Council of Europe, including the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.
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.
EU Member States should engage with social partners to foster active citizenship, a core element of migrant integration, as well as helping to tackle discrimination and exploitation in employment. They should therefore further support and strengthen such efforts by social partners and share good practice.
EU Member States should consider encouraging the recruitment of migrants and their descendants in the public sector – for example in law enforcement, education and healthcare – to better reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of their societies.
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.
To improve the participation of migrants and their descendants in the labour market and their overall social integration, EU Member States should ensure that general and specific jobrelated language courses are provided free of charge.
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.
EU Member States should consider increasing the participation of migrants and their descendants in decision-making procedures affecting their lives, at a minimum by ensuring that third-country nationals participate actively and in a meaningful way in relevant public consultation processes and relevant consultation bodies.
EU Member States that do not provide voting and/or election rights at regional or local elections should consider the example of the 15 Member States that already provide such rights conditional upon residence length, status or other requirements.
All EU Member States should consider providing more favourable conditions for citizenship acquisition and naturalisation for descendants of migrants who were born and/or educated in the country.