Hundreds of thousands of young people arrived in the European Union in 2015–16.
EU Member States’ asylum, border management, reception, social welfare and educational systems were not always adequately prepared to receive them. The reality on the ground, with thousands of people staying in overcrowded centres and makeshift camps, required action.
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s report ‘Integration of young refugees in the EU’ explores the challenges of young people who fled armed conflict or persecution and arrived in the EU in 2015 and 2016. The report is based on 426 interviews with experts working in the area of asylum and integration, as well as 163 interviews with young people, aged 16 to 24, conducted between October 2017 and June 2018 in 15 regions and cities located in six Member States: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Sweden.
The report describes challenges and good practices identified at the time of the research across different policy fields regulating refugees’ rights as set out in EU asylum law, as well as the difficulties young refugees face when claiming asylum, navigating welfare systems and trying to access housing, education and health services. The report shows how measures taken in one policy field often affect the degree to which individuals are able to enjoy their rights in other fields.
The research identifies two moments requiring sufficient, consistent and systematic support, particularly from lawyers, social workers and guardians, to ensure successful integration:
Unaccompanied children turning 18
Change in people’s legal status once international protection is granted
Hundreds of thousands of young people arrived in the European Union in 2015–16. In Austria, more than 125,000 persons applied for asylum during this time, including some 107,000 – more than 85 % – below the age of 35.
In Austria, the research focused on Vienna and Upper Austria.
Specific challenges during the above-mentioned transition stages primarily affect:
“It took such a long time. I came in 2016, then I waited for such a long time for the first interview, then a negative decision came, but only after one and a half years. I don’t know if I will get a [positive] decision, it’s very difficult. I can’t do anything. I would love to work, but I can’t. I can’t do anything in the city.” (Asylum applicant from Somalia)
“We had simply a note. They [(i.e. police)] told us to fill it out. We then gave our passports; they took our passports and filled out the data which was in the passports. We simply signed and we did not know at all what we were doing there. There was an interpreter, but he did not explain anything to us. We did not ask at all and, as I mentioned, we were new here and we do not know how the system works here. It was all weird to us. We thought if we simply sign everything they want, then everything will be fine.” (Asylum applicant from Syria)
“I have the impression that people who are under 18 years of age aren’t invited to interviews. There’s often the idea – I don’t know if there’s something to it – that it partly has to do with family reunification or with the fact that young people get a special protection, and that it’s a bit easier for the state to issue a negative response, or maybe to deport when they are adult.” (NGO expert)
The following are extracts from relevant FRA opinions:
“The amount of times you email and talk on the phone with various embassies and and and, those are such straining procedures, everything is always questioned, every document that someone submits is doubted, and in this distanced context, foreign authorities and our embassies, who are mostly extremely unwilling, that’s an extremely straining procedure. What obviously has changed – that was the amendment […] – that you can only submit the application within three months after recognition of asylum abroad, obviously that does have an impact because people have an immense amount of stress because they partly live in countries where there are no embassies, because they are closed because the circumstances there are that way, and you need to time it extremely well so that they can do it – and then there is always the problem with embassies, that you don’t get appointments, and, and, and.” (Lawyer)
“But it is a lot more difficult for the group with humanitarian residence. They are often immediately taken out of basic care, it is immediately stopped. Within two weeks, that is a very short time frame and affects many young people who are willing to work and able to work, but who in this short time simply cannot find a job and also no apartment. That’s the problem, and they also don’t have any entitlement to Needs-based Minimum Benefits, that’s the critical point.” (Legal counsellor)
“This room does not only belong to me, it belongs to everyone else also. You cannot say, yes I want to sleep in my room, the room does not belong only to me. The other also, they want also what they want to do. I cannot say - I had school, during that time that I went to school, every night I wanted to go to sleep and they were up very late. I had problems with the others but I could not say, because I myself had school and they did not have school, I have to get up early. They have to understand but - They do understand that, but they do not want that.” (Asylum applicant, stateless)
“Then also these constant legal amendments, the differing execution. Some authorities are simply much more, not so much in Upper Austria, but some are more relaxed when it comes to documents – Others require everything, where I already ask myself, why is that being demanded. Actually it’s not necessary. Then recently we also had information, where I really thought that a system must be behind that, that – so there were different clients from different district authorities, who got the same information, that they only are entitled to 20 euros because of the cap. So always the same amount was mentioned, 20 euros, even though it was different clients. And that they don’t need to file an application for that. Which is of course fatal, because firstly it was not true. They would have been entitled to more. And secondly, I can’t know that beforehand. It’s not easy to calculate a cap. Also if I have computer software, first I need to enter all the data. There it is also tried a little to prevent clients from filing an application in the first place.” (Social assistance focus group participant)
“Sleep disorders – the main topic here – nightmares, screaming at night, everything is simply too dense, there are simply too many people in one room, where others have nightmares at night too, and for people with sleep disorders it’s a huge topic of bunk beds and other people who live so close.” (NGO expert, commenting on first reception facilities)
Counselling by intercultural teams and solid skills assessments effectively facilitated the transition from mandatory education to further training, education or work. This included, for example, competence clearing and counselling provided by the Bildungsdrehscheibe and educational services offered by START Vienna.
“The university offers very nice things, like integration programmes, sample courses, and so on. Only our [asylum holders with secondary school qualification] can’t make use of any of that, because the Job centre says: you need to be available for the labour market and you only get primary care if you are available for the job market. That’s why you can’t be students, because as soon as you are students, you are not available for the labour market anymore. And my evaluation is that now with the refugees the same thing happens as in the 1990s with the refugees from Bosnia, that they are employed far beneath their actual qualification, because they don’t get the chance – or only a very limited chance – that they find work in an area in which they are trained.” (Teacher)
“The first term in the polytechnic school was difficult; the people were unfriendly to me. The teachers were all right but the students were unfriendly. The teacher then spoke to the police and next term it was alright. They always said something bad to me and sometimes also attacked my body. Once during the break I wanted to walk in-between two tables and a student came and pushed one table to the other and I was in-between, and I had such pain. And nobody sees it, other children play or went outside. And I did like this [doubles over in pain] and he said to the other students: hey, she has her period today. Hoho, everyone laughs. And I have no evidence or witnesses that he did that and I couldn’t say anything. Then I told my councillor.” (Unaccompanied child)
“Here in [city in Upper Austria], there are many youths, for instance Afghans, who sell drugs. I cannot imagine that they create the drugs themselves. They are simply exploited.” (Subsidiary-protection status holder from Syria)
“I do have the impression that the police, when they come to us, to the quarters, they are extremely unfriendly and somehow also condescending, and you also notice that here the interpreting support is missing, and that they still somehow make fun of them, you can tell by the way they speak.” (NGO expert)
“I was insulted at in McDonalds at [train station in Vienna]. They insulted me in English, I understood it. They said: the Blacks should get out of Austria. There are so many here.” (Asylum applicant from Somalia)
[…] EU Member States should ensure that support of relevant professionals, including social workers, guardians and youth welfare authorities, but also teachers and staff of reception facilities, is available to young asylum applicants and beneficiaries of international protection. Such support may play a key role in addressing risk factors that make them vulnerable to crime. […]
Hundreds of thousands of young people arrived in the European Union in 2015–16. In France, more than 147,000 persons applied for asylum during this time, including more than 111,000 – 3 in 4 persons – below the age of 35.
In France, the research focused on Hauts-de-France, Ȋle-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur.
While good practices exist in nearly all thematic areas, one of the main challenges to integration remains the low capacity of accommodation facilities – for unaccompanied children, asylum applicants and beneficiaries of international protection alike – with negative implications on education, access to work, as well as vulnerability to crime as victims. Unaccompanied children have faced specific challenges in connection with age assessments and procedures to verify if the child is unaccompanied (procédure d’évaluation de la minorité et de l’isolement familial).
Social support has been crucial to overcoming difficulties of access and integration obstacles more generally. However, specific challenges during the above-mentioned transition stages primarily affect:
“It is a system that is extremely perverse: meaning that people are asked to integrate, but they are not given the opportunity to do so. [...] There is this compartmentalization: there is the phase before where everything is blocked when they have requested asylum, as if it was an illness, and the phase after when anything is possible but you have got too far behind. When you have waited 2 years and done nothing during these two years, you have not given the person the ability to be able to do something." (NGO expert)
"I went there to try to get an appointment for the Prefecture, but since there were lots of people and everything, I spent at least 3 to 4 weeks sleeping outside [the PADA] try to get into the association and get an appointment. […]” (Refugee from Central Africa)
“And there is also the idea that in the process of reunification, ultimately it is still the French embassies and consulates in the countries of origin that have the final say. So, we have to deal with the contexts, and for example for 7 months the embassy in Kabul has been closed." (Social worker)
“I did not know. I did not know where to do it, where to go. It was really […] and I was also focused on school. I went straight to school, school certificate and everything, I had a lot of things on my mind, in addition to my mother and everything, and I did not know where to go. She (my mother's friend) accompanied us, for example, to the Prefecture, that's why I did not know at first. And also, I did not know people who could advise me, we had only her." (Subsidiary protection status holder from Syria)
"You have a housing stock that cannot absorb all the flows, with the migration pressure that we have seen. And today we can have situations of people who unfortunately have not been accommodated at all throughout the procedure.” (Local housing and social welfare authority expert)
"Of the 10 kids I currently have in class, I have 6 of them who are supported by Child Welfare because they are children, and who took a very long time to be recognized as children, and who slept on the street for a certain period of time, and once they were recognized as children, as part of the winter [accommodation/tenancy] protection system (trêve hivernale) an emergency shelter was set up, they are therefore accommodated in premises which are not adapted." (Teacher)
“They sent us to another hotel where we stayed for about 6 months, and during those 6 months we felt like we were in a sort of prison, even though it was a hotel. The conditions which we were in were not acceptable. For example, we were given food, we were given transport tickets, and that's all. There was no school, there were no other contact” (Unaccompanied child asylum applicant from Afghanistan)
"A major issue is that for beneficiaries of international protection, accessing measures of general legal framework is often very difficult because they do not speak French. So a major issue is: how do we make measures of general legal framework work so that they are genuinely useful to them." (Asylum authority expert)
"People who are over 25 years old, they have the RSA (revenu de solidarité active) and they ask for housing immediately. And for me there is no RSA, so it's very, very difficult." (Refugee from Afghanistan)
"These are people who have been staying in the streets, who stay on the street for a while, and who arrive at the CADA (Centre d’accueil pour demandeurs d’asile) really tired, physically and psychologically exhausted, because the administration is complicated, and because they give them the run-around a bit, too." (NGO expert)
“The hardest thing was waiting. For sure, the waiting was very difficult, if I speak for myself personally, it threw me into a whirlwind where I could neither eat nor drink, I was just waiting." (Asylum applicant from Eastern Africa)
"There is a big impact, because we can only receive and support these young people to the extent that we are certain that they are children, and not on the basis of a claim. Meaning the schooling process can only start when we have a temporary placement order or a juvenile court order." (Local education authority expert)
“We see it every year. And we have kids who, when they are approaching 17 years and 8 months or 9 months, they are freaked out. They are less and less… because they are thinking about: Right, I will find myself on the streets'. The teachers warn them.” (Teacher)
“I know a lot of people here who did the same thing as me, who returned to a class 2 or 3 years lower, who were forced to redo all the years of high school [...].” (Unaccompanied child refugee from Syria)
"Because in the DNA [National reception system] there is absolutely nothing at the level of language learning. Everything will depend on the CADA [Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers], the partnerships of the social workers there, and the desire of each of these. It is really do-it-yourself.” (NGO expert)
"It [the receipt] means nothing to the company. It means nothing, because the residence permit is much more reassuring. Companies are used to seeing them. Whereas they are not at all familiar with receipts. The fact that there are these renewals to be done every three months or six months, it depends, it's not at all something that encourages the company to hire." (Employment services)
“I wanted to continue studying, but now I cannot. Because for a start, if I study, who will feed me?" (Refugee from Western Africa) "A young man from Eritrea…I know that when I met him he told me he was a hairdresser, so I asked him: and in fact, no, he had no contract, so he worked all day, 10 hours a day without a contract and he was paid almost nothing in fact. So, he was being completely exploited, and in addition to that he told me that the manager was very nasty with him, that it was going very, very badly." (Social/vocational integration adviser)
“Sleeping on the street itself is also an important vulnerability factor, for everyone but even more so for children and women. It is very much centred around the train station at night, and in particular there are unaccompanied children who have had to sleep on the streets, unaccompanied children who had also order of placement from the children's court, but who nevertheless slept on the streets, and when they slept at the station they were approached with offers of money, but in exchange for sexual services.” (NGO expert)
“In fact, what is really annoying for young people is that they do not have [...] they have no help when they are under 25. So because of that they have to work illegally let's say, and when you work illegally, well they take advantage [of you]. Sometimes you are not paid, sometimes you are poorly paid, sometimes you are ill-treated [...] So yes." (Refugee from Syria)
Hundreds of thousands of young people arrived in the European Union in 2015–16. In Germany, of 1.16 million asylum applicants, nearly one million – some 85 % – were below the age of 35.
In Germany, the research focused on Berlin, Bremen and Lower Saxony.
Compared to other Member States, FRA’s research found that Germany stands out as having the most comprehensive policy to integrate asylum applicants and beneficiaries of international protection into the higher education system. Concerns regarding integration prospects relate to lengthy asylum procedures and legal and practical barriers to family reunification for beneficiaries of international protection.
Specific challenges affect:
“From my point of view, there is an important sense of helplessness, so people try to receive information from various places which provide different information, this leads to confusion or to wrong ideas.” (NGO expert)
“This is not an experience, it is suffering [...] a struggle because you need to wait between 30 and 40 days to register, they give you a number and this number needs to be shown on the screen. The screen works every day from 8.00 until 18.00. I remained 35 days like this [...] waiting for the number to show up.” (Refugee from Syria)
“[I]n my experience [the country of origin] has very often an impact on the asylum decision […]. If I have a country of origin which usually does not infer subsidiary protection and refugee status or national ban on deportation, I reject the application more easily. Yes, because the adolescent is protected because he is a minor. Until he turns 18, it is not possible to deport him anyhow.” (NGO expert)
EU Member States should examine asylum claims within a reasonable time period, allowing sufficient time to prepare a case and to seek legal and other assistance, including in times of large numbers of arrivals. To do so, they should ensure that sufficient financial and human resources, using qualified professionals, can be made available at short notice so as not to exceed the time limits set out in EU law.
Factors contributing to lengthy proceedings should be minimised, in particular if the factor lies within the remit of the authority and if the applicant is a child. Appropriate resources to quickly appoint competent guardians should be ensured. The guardianship system should be an integral part of the national child protection system, and must operate within the national legal child protection framework.
EU Member States should ensure that applicants with good prospects of receiving protection can already start their integration process during the asylum procedure to make the transition from being an applicant to being a status holder as easy as possible. This should include participation in language classes and effective access to education, healthcare, vocational training and the labour market as early as possible.
“They [young people] have no motivation any more [...] in the beginning, the young people were so motivated. They wanted to attend three courses a day. Learn German as fast as possible [...] if you have waited for too long, for two years, and you are still not sure if you will see your family again, when you will see them again, what motivates you to learn the language? For whom? For your social worker? No.” (NGO integration manager and lawyer)
“I feel like I can watch them becoming old and grey and skinny. […] And we know of […] clients who went back [to Syria] because they said: ‘I can no longer bear the separation.’” (Lawyer)
“[My parents] went to Lebanon from Syria. It [the journey] was a torture for them [...]. They finally reached the embassy but turned back to Syria with big disappointment because the child is 18 years old now. [...] [Travelling] to Turkey was extremely dangerous [...] they travelled while Idlib was under inten sive bombing, they stayed 11 days there [at the border, not being able to enter Turkey]. I suffered a lot during those 10 days. They tried to cross borders but they could not until we paid smugglers [...] to transfer the family from Idlib to Turkey, two months ago [...] the costs were high but more importantly the journey was not safe [...]” (Subsidiary protection status holder from Syria)
“My mother and my father found it very difficult, for example, the bathrooms were at the end of the buildings [...] the bathrooms were open-pit cabins we used to bathe in, but the men [...] used to peek from the windows or so we used to try to go in the evenings [...] it was really scary [...].” (Child subsidiary protection status holder from Syria)
“I am so annoyed when I read in the media that an adolescent costs so and so many hundred thousand Euros per year, an unaccompanied minor, […] Yes, well, if you [put] them in mass housing facilities, these homes or in flats that are not supervised – they are more expensive and no one looks after them. […] Accommodation in a youth welfare institution costs around € 3500 to € 5000 per month; […] A foster family costs € 500 for alimony plus € 300 to € 600 care allowance for the parents. And still the youth welfare offices prefer it much more to accommodate the children in shared housing, […] The youth welfare office does not have to deal with them anymore. The caretakers manage everything. They receive a lump sum, full stop, and once a year the support conference takes place. Then again, a very committed foster father or foster mother turns up on the doorstep and wants private tuition, wants sport classes, wants that, he needs to learn how to swim, wants this, and wants that. This is simply annoying and time-consuming, although it is much cheaper.” (Guardian)
“I follow these cases [children who had to relocate to another state] from time to time, when teachers come here with someone, and say he doesn’t cope. He does not have an apartment, he does not have any money, he has nothing. This is the aspect where the social welfare system in […] fails. But it is quite intentional, because it is about enforcing the distribution [to other federal states].” (NGO expert)
“[P]articularly because of the language, sometimes we receive letters from the Jobcenter saying that we need to apply this application [...] or a paper is missing [...] I don’t know what papers and I need to ask a person who has experience or went through the same experience in order to tell me what to do [...].” (Subsidiary protection status holder from Syria)
“[H]onestly, I was not informed, I even did not know about the child benefits until my mum arrived. The Jobcenter suspended my salary and told me: if you don’t get child benefit, we don’t give you money. No one informed me about any of this, I needed to go and ask the [social workers] at the shelter but no one came to me and explained things to me […].” (Refugee from Syria)
“[I]f we are living in private housing, this would improve my psychological health a lot, and would show me that this country is easy. But not having private housing, making me feel that this country is very difficult and makes my mum feel desperate/hopeless, and the country it is not easy to live in. [...] I have seen many of my friends, as Arab families who live in private housing, they seem happy and feel at ease and they love the country because they are settled in private housing [...].” (Child subsidiary protection status holder from Syria living with family at a larger housing facility)
“It was very energy draining [...] you need to always wait and wait and wait [...] this caused inner distress, because of the residence, whether we are allowed to stay or we will be deported, will they give us only one year residence? Will we be able to find private housing? Will I adapt? This inner stress controlled most of my reality [...]” (Subsidiary protection status holder from Syria who arrived as an unaccompanied child)
“[T]he long waiting time is not only a long waiting time, which decides about the future, existence of an individual, […] the person is under extreme emotional psychological stress and pressure. But this has to do with the fact that they have no rights and have no access to the educational system, to other systems” (NGO expert)
“[…] I always get top marks. Suddenly, you find yourself unable to overcome this level, you feel like you can’t do it. Something that affects you deeply, it makes you feel like a failure, so it was very hard on me and I wanted to get rid of this feeling […].” (Child from Syria commenting on transition from language to regular classes)
“[We studied] to the 11th grade [...] but we were out of school for three years, there is a gap, we can’t, we forgot everything related to Math and English, everything [...].” (Refugee from Syria)
“I knew no one, I had no German friends nor Syrians, […] so I wasn’t feeling well psychologically […] I felt lonely […] yes, I was going to the library and getting Arabic books […] Sometimes, I stopped eating for days, I just had no appetite. I was doing groceries, cleaning the house, going out […] despite all of this, I was feeling lonely, I don’t know, I felt it was really difficult. […] I came here; I went out from a jail to another jail. I was expecting that I would start school quickly, get friends, and be smiling. This all turned out the opposite, I had no friends, I had no school, and I was always home […]. All things accumulated and pressured me, it was really difficult, I attempted suicide […]”. (Subsidiary protection status holder from Syria)
“They [the school] were trying to direct us towards one direction, vocational training, I did not like this because they trapped us in specific fields in vocational training, in handicrafts, blacksmith, carpenter, painter […] I was doing my high school in Syria, I wanted to continue university and now I downgraded to vocational training and said let’s do salesman, and they [the school] wanted me to do carpenter and blacksmith […].” (Refugee from Syria)
“Actually, it is always the same, foreigners basically have, no matter where they are from, always bad experiences with the police. […] Foreigner themselves coming to us […] is very rare.” (Law enforcement expert)
“The presence of family members plays a big role for this group, but mostly the family is absent. Those who come with family are always less of a problem than those without family.” (Law enforcement expert)
Hundreds of thousands of young people arrived in the European Union in 2015–16. In Greece, more than 61,000 persons applied for asylum in Greece during this time, including some 50,000 – more than 80 % – below the age of 35.
In Greece, the research focused on Athens and Lesbos.
Despite some good practices supporting fundamental rights across the thematic areas, many challenges have stemmed from the lack of adequate housing, further complicated by the consequences of the economic crisis and the intention of many arrivals to move elsewhere, with negative implications on (mental) health, education, access to work, as well as vulnerability to crime as victims.
Responses addressing difficulties in relation to adequate accommodation and education have often been upset for the reasons outlined below.
“When I arrived in Greece, the police held me directly in […] a detention facility without giving me food or anything. Initially, I stayed in the detention centre for 6 months. Question: Did anyone tell you about your rights to ask for asylum or something else? Answer: No.” (Asylum applicant from Pakistan)
“When I arrived, I was with my family, we were together. My family got documents and left for Athens. I stayed here. Now my family has gone, I've stayed here on my own. I’m on my own for a year now. I still haven't received a reply as to the asylum and I am waiting. I am waiting for a year now for this answer. I’ve been in Greece for two years, here on the island.” (Asylum applicant from Afghanistan)
“Yes it was very difficult because when I needed to apply for the residence permit I had to go to the police but they didn’t accept me. I was sleeping outside the police station for 15 days. And then, they accepted me.” (Refugee from Eritrea)
“This actually doesn’t apply to Greece. Numbers are almost non-existent. That is, based on recent report for the past 1.5 years, 13 people came to Greece. And that was by exception. The process has been dragging on since 2008 when the legal framework was set up.” (Lawyer)
“There is an impact on their psychology. It is a time that they remain in a country with their life put on pause. I mean they put a pause in their life because they expect it to restart after they reunite with their family. Because their trip delays for so long, they do not participate in anything. They wait until the time they move to Germany to reunite with their family and start their life again. This time of waiting has a negative impact on their psychology. We have many examples of infliction of self harm.” (Guardian)
“Basically, it has nothing to do with the location of each facility. It has to do with actions implemented by each facility. I mean, if a facility is in the centre of Athens and implementing certain actions involving the beneficiaries which have an impact on society, this will also have an effect on their integration. For example, if they have a bazaar giving away clothes from donations and if this event is open to everyone or say if they have a film screening at their premises, or a celebration to which the neighbours are invited, this will bring interaction with the locals; these actions favour integration and help make acquaintances with people from the facility.” (Coordinator of an accommodation facility)
“And here’s the irrational thing: once you are legally recognised as having all rights [that Greek citizens have], in practice you lose all your rights. Due to the current emergency situation, asylum seekers are entitled to accommodation and to a series of benefits. Immediately upon their legal recognition as refugees, they lose every right they had before and they enter into a ‘grey area’, where there are huge problems regarding accommodation and employment.” (Social welfare authority)
“In fact, there are no transitional settings. So, children who live in camps are treated like children until just one day before they turn 18, and they are put in the safe zones; however, they might be transferred to another camp area with adult men because suddenly they are considered adults. This is a serious issue, and there are no transitional settings. Because children who are 17-18 years old should continue to be in education in some way, like in post-secondary education, they should be integrated, they should be with their peers; they are in a quite different life stage than an adult.” (Social welfare authority)
“At that time (when he arrived in Greece) I was sick and because of my conditions they give me accommodation. Because I couldn’t sleep at night because there were unexpectedly starting fights and they were making fires…my mind…I was not comfortable…I was all night sitting outside so I could run away if something happened…That’s why they give me accommodation. I was speaking with the psychologist and then they transferred me to [another accommodation].” (Refugee from Eritrea)
“90 Euros is not a sufficient amount. For example, you need to buy shampoo, soap, or sometimes you don’t like the food here (means Kara Tepe) and you want to buy something else. 90 Euros is not enough. Do I get food? Do I give them to buy tickets for the bus? And if I need something else?“ (Asylum applicant from Afghanistan)
“Difficulties exist and what extends the time to resolve the issue, creates a psychological burden. It starts with anger, frustration, sadness, and can end up in depression and wild behaviour.” (Integration focal point)
“Interviewee: “I dealt with many problems. We are all humans. I have survived from the cold and the heat, but this is too difficult for anyone.
Interviewer: All these difficulties prevented you from attending language classes or anything else?
Interviewee: All these problems have tired me. I can’t sleep during the night and I am taking pills.
Interviewer: Do you see a doctor?
Interviewee: Yes, a psychologist.
Interviewer: Is he/she helpful?
Interviewee: Yes. But she doesn’t give me enough drugs.” (Asylum applicant from Afghanistan)
“I don’t think she attends school, she lives in the Kara Tepe camp, and her parents won’t allow her to move around unaccompanied. So, she only participates in informal education, doing courses with me in the camp, although she would have performed extremely well if she had attended formal education. Given that she is in the camp and not allowed to go out alone, she does not participate in formal education, so I think that’s important.” (Lesvos focus group on education)
“In the past, when my family was here, I would go to work three times every day, I helped during breakfast, along with the team, we were serving breakfast and I was going to classes. Since my family left, this broke my heart, I can't go to the courses and I can’t help with jobs.” (Asylum applicant from Iran)
“I remember an initiative we tried to have with Iliachtida about a year ago, I think, to find some children interested in learning a trade. I.e. it could be here in Lesvos, in Agiaso. Carpentry was a very popular option. This area is famous for this trade. So, we tried to introduce the trade to small group of children who already had a basic knowledge from their countries so that they could learn these skills. But we faced many bureaucratic barriers, because the children had to have special insurance, had to be accompanied by an adult. So, even such small initiatives failed.” (UNCHR)
“No, but what I have seen is two other women, one was hairdresser and the other seamstress like me. The one who was hairdresser had a three years old kid and it was very difficult for her to go to work and come back to the camp with the child. She worked for three months somewhere and for those three months they paid her only 50 Euros.[…]” (Asylum applicant from Afghanistan)
“All unaccompanied children arriving in Greece at the moment are victims. They present the psychology of the victim. They have fled their country and arrived in a foreign country. They are all victims of smuggling; they have been exploited during their journey from their country to Greece. There is no child that we (in the guardianship network) have met that hasn’t been a victim of their smugglers. Abuse may have been physical or financial, more money that they were asked to give or their life was threatened or they fell victims of financial or sexual abuse or threats to their family. From the time they fled their country these children have been victims.” (Guardian)
“Yes, I have a lot of experiences. When I was in the camp they stole all my things. When your things were stolen and you were going to the police they didn’t accept you even if you knew the person who has stolen your stuff. They [the police] didn’t care about me. And also when I came here [in the city centre]. It happened also 3 days ago, I was in a café. Some Algerians came to me and then one of them was speaking to me and I was paying attention to him and the other stole all my stuff. So there is a lot of problems but we can’t do anything for this […].” (Refugee from Eritrea)
“I was in this camp that has a big tent that we split up with blankets. And my brother there […] on the container for the juveniles. It was like a prison. He was not allowed to go out because he is a minor. Every time I tried to see him, they told me I can’t see him. I watched him through the door. But he could not get out. And my brother told me that they were taking drugs where he stayed. And they said to him many times, "Do you want to try?” There they talk only with the knives, they do not speak with the tongue.” (Asylum applicant from Syria)
Hundreds of thousands of young people arrived in the European Union in 2015–16. In Italy, nearly 204,000 persons applied for asylum during this time, including more than 183,000 – 9 of 10 persons – below the age of 35.
In Italy, the research focused on Milan, Reggio Calabria province and Rome.
Good practices were enacted in nearly all policy fields. In particular, Italy managed to prioritise the processing of unaccompanied children during the asylum procedure. It allowed beneficiaries of international protection to reunite with their families under favourable conditions. Compared to other Member States, Italy has managed to properly support the target group in accessing vocational training. The decentralised accommodation system (SPRAR system) proved to be a good practice able to ensure accommodation and support measures to asylum applicant and international protection beneficiaries. However, since 2018, reception under this scheme (renamed SIPROIMI) has been limited to international protection beneficiaries and unaccompanied children. For the latter category, the SIPROIMI has become the privileged reception system.
The beginning of the integration process was often delayed due to the length of asylum procedures. This also caused psychological distress to asylum seekers. In general, applicants and beneficiaries faced difficulties in accessing asylum procedures, social benefits and housing, mainly due to limited provision of information and cumbersome procedures. They also experienced several barriers to accessing the labour market, despite being entitled to work. The lack of ‘preparatory/introduction programmes’ in mainstream schools was a major barrier to successful integration into the education system.
Integration efforts may be upset at two specific stages, including:
“The length of the procedure to obtain a residence permit, to receive or face an auditioning with the Commission is a crucial issue because [...] it is a system that encourages the creation of vulnerability, since it causes for an indeterminate time a feeling of uncertainty to these people and this does not help them imagining their individual project in Italy and this means that they do not invest in learning Italian or in creating social bonds. […]” (Expert taking part in national focus group)
“I wasn’t helped by anyone […] The only information I received was from the guys I met in the park, they are the ones who told me that I had to go to the police headquarters to apply for asylum […]” (Subsidiary protection status holder from Afghanistan)
“I never asked for information about the procedure, I wouldn’t know where to go, where to ask.” (Subsidiary protection status holder from Somalia)
“Being transferred when turning 18 is a serious problem. The centre’s staff perceives that all work that has been done goes wasted […] the children don’t understand and neither do we because laws and rules cannot define a person’s life.” (Guardian)
“You need to have a regular and long-term work contract to rent private accommodation that’s why I haven’t looked. Many guys have to leave the reception centre and they can’t find a solution, this is a problem, and they end up living on the streets. Because they leave the reception centre without having a job and therefore they can’t afford to pay rent and they end up on the streets [...]” (Subsidiary protection status holder from Afghanistan)
“As far as I know subsidiary and international protection holders have the same rights as Italian citizens and they are therefore entitled to all forms of social benefits. This thing isn’t widely known and so – despite the fact that it’s required by the law – in practice they can face many obstacles.” (NGO expert)
“Barriers exist and they mainly concern language proficiency because this unfortunately is one of the issues less coped with, that is the presence of cultural mediators/interpreters in public services […].” (NGO expert)
“The child who had lost a leg was a minor. As long as he was in hospital there was no way for him to get a residence permit […]. The hospital could not give him a declaration of hospitality […] and to this day he still doesn’t have a disabil¬ity allowance, and without that you can’t get a prosthesis other than by paying for it […]. From a legal point of view there was no way out.” (NGO legal assistant)
“We had a service user who was lynched. Two or three years ago he had an episode of decompensation, he destroyed some cars and they had to take him away because the people were about to kill him […] Mental health issues, whether you’re in the care of specialised services or not, lead to a double form of stigmatisation, due to belonging to a category (that of migrants) and that of people in suffering.” (Local housing authority expert)
“[…] There is a real lack of awareness on behalf of social health workers and this should be tackled. It would be fundamental to have policies of this kind, because this is the real starting point […] another crucial aspect is that of providing sufficiently specialized training allowing professionals to recognise early risk signals for mental health issues.“ (Local social welfare authority expert)
“[I]f you arrive aged 16 and you don’t speak Italian, you can’t access public state schools […] you have to have some requisites […] I would venture to say that even in those years of mandatory education it’s like this. We have asylum seekers and protection holders who are at the age of mandatory education who have not managed to access state schools because these have a tendency to refuse access.” (Language teacher)
“I have obtained the lower secondary-school grade, but I am not sure I will continue because working and attending school at the same time is not easy. I am not sure I can continue studying [...] If a person lives on his own and has to earn a living, it is crucial to find a job. If you find a job to live, you can consider going to school. But if you don’t have a job, you’d better forget school.” (Humanitarian protection status holder from Western Africa)
“[Residence permits for asylum seekers or protection holders] exist, it’s true, but it’s not the majority, so some¬times it happens that the employer comes across them for the first time and is not able to recognise them; some¬times they [employers] ask you: ‘Is this OK to work? It’s not written here! It doesn’t say residence permit for work reasons, he can’t work!’[...].” (Employment service expert)
“It’s hard to have someone coming to one of our teams to publicly condemn a crime, whether is theft or violence, I don’t have enough facts and statistics to answer […] (because) there is lack of trust from these people towards the institution.” (Police officer)
“I have this friend, we used to live together in a reception centre for unaccompanied, he turned 18 and he didn’t have anything. He wanted to eat, he wasn’t working [...] if somebody says to you, I’ll give you money, come here and do this, it’s easy, and it’s what you need. He worked with them and then the police stopped him and now he’s in prison for drug dealing. […]” (Subsidiary-protection status holder from Central Africa)
Hundreds of thousands of young people arrived in the European Union in 2015–16. In Sweden, nearly 179,000 persons applied for asylum during this time, including some 148,000 persons – more than 82 % – below the age of 35.
In Sweden, the research focused on Norrbotten and Västra Götaland.
"When people do not start their integration from day one, this will create passivity. When asylum-seekers have to spend years in asylum accommodation centres, they cannot practice their occupation and their skills may become dated." (Integration expert)
"Then I said to the interpreter that he didn’t interpret everything I said. And then the case officer asked him; 'Why are you not interpreting everything the guy is saying. He talks for a long time and you just translate it with a few words.' So, the interpreter said that the guy only repeats what he said before. And that was certainly not true. So, that led to problems." (Young man with subsidiary protection status from Syria)
Municipal “introduction support” units for families reunifying with their unaccompanied child, which alleviate the children’s burden of having to guide their family members in daily life (Göteborg).
“I can say that the new maintenance requirement that was added with [the introduction of] the temporary law has made investigations on family reunification more complicated. I know that case workers, who I have talked to, spend a lot of time looking at evidence on whether persons have sufficient funds, if their incomes are enough to cover the maintenance requirement and so on.” (Asylum expert, national level)
“Their families are either in refugee camps or in conflict areas. They [the families] turn to the person that’s sitting here in safety: ‘You're having it all, and we're under all this suffering’. […] It's breaking these people down, psychologically breaking them down. They can’t cope. I think I could say that 90 percent of those persons I’ve met in this situation have said: ‘I can’t focus. I can’t learn the language. I can’t go to school. I attend school just to get the Introduction benefit, but I don't understand what the teacher is saying’.” (Integration expert)
“The social services didn’t have any possibility to monitor the foster homes. They had to give the children a place to sleep. So, you found horrible, incredible stuff [...]. However, a year later, the social services found time to monitor these families. [...]. According to the law, each accommodation must be monitored and approved.” (Guardianship expert)
“Later on, when so many arrived, a lot of staff was hired really quick. They weren’t prepared for what they were supposed to do, and this was of course quite difficult. The staff was unprepared and unaccustomed with their tasks. Sometimes, their only qualification was that they could speak the same language as some of the unaccompanied children.” (Local social work expert)
“They place these people in smaller villages and earn money from housing them for a shorter period. And then they close down the accommodation centre and the Migration Agency decides to move them far away from there. In the worst case, a person can be taken out of school in the middle of the semester in the middle of their ongoing education and be placed somewhere else.” (Education expert)
“I think that the best thing during the whole asylum process was when I could live with a family. It helped me a great deal, because I believe you succeed both with the language and to get to know society and the culture and so on. I think that’s the best you can get when you come here as a youth.” (A boy with subsidiary-protection status from Afghanistan)
“The children who have been here for a longer period of time and who have been waiting for a long time have heard the information so many times that they are starting to understand it. But the children who come here now, no. It’s too much information from different people. So, I would say that they’ve got difficulties to take in the information. That’s my opinion. It’s of course depending a bit on age and background.” (Local social work expert)
“I applied for housing allowance (bostadsbidrag) and was granted it. It continued to come until my first residence permit expired and I renewed it. Nobody had told me that I needed to re-apply for the housing allowance as well. Then I had to pay the rent myself for three months. I was wondering why I had to pay the whole sum and I didn’t have any money left. When I asked, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, they told me that you’ve got to re-apply. Well, I didn’t know that.” (Woman with subsidiary protection from Syria)
“When they have been placed in the Migration Agency’s asylum accommodation centres, they receive significantly less money. And then it has been difficult for them to get to their school from the accommodation centre. If the school is situated in another municipality, you won’t get money for a bus card to the other municipality where the school is situated. So, it has been hard for them to attend school.” (NGO expert)
“Every boy I know has trouble sleeping. Many of them have been to the healthcare centre and have been prescribed sleeping pills. Many of the boys have visited the social counsellors at school for support.” (NGO expert)
“Those who already have a bad mental health status when they arrive, as many have, those who are relocated for example, they are already broken when they arrive. They have already been thrown from one place to another and have begun in new schools several times. They don’t have high expectations either on us or on themselves.” (Teacher)
“It was really sad when my friends started school and I wasn’t allowed to because I was over 18 when I arrived. I went to the upper secondary schools and thought that they might accept me, but they didn’t.” (A young man with subsidiary protection status from Syria)
“I really wished to continue to study at the school I attended before I turned 18, but when I turned 18 I was definitely not allowed to continue my studies. They said: ‘Well, you have to wait until you are granted a residence permit’. And then when I had my residence permit they said: ‘No, now you’ve gotta wait until you turn 20 and then you can start studying Swedish for Immigrants instead’. So, I’ve been out of school for over a year and then I could start Swedish for Immigrants.” (Woman with subsidiary protection status from Syria)
We have also experienced that the union has been a problem, that they say; “no, you can’t be an intern here because then you will take the job from someone else”. So, there are many obstacles. If you don’t have the four last digits [in your social security number], then they say; “Well, how are we going to pay you?” So there are complications and hitches, but they’re possible to resolve. (NGO expert)
I had a public counsel at the Migration Agency. When I wanted to talk to her about the ID-card from Afghanistan, she said: ‘we don’t accept this ID-card’ I really wanted to work, but I couldn’t, according to my legal counsel. […] I really want to study and work at the same time, but I´m not allowed to do so. (Asylum applicant from Afghanistan)
No, I don’t think that employers are reluctant to hire newly arrived persons. What was difficult for me was that I had no experience. So, for me to be able to find a job, I’d have to start with an internship. Not a regular job. Because I have applied for many different jobs, but they have said no because I didn’t have any experience. (Child refugee from Syria)
Well, I have no personal identification number for example. This other person has an identification number. So, it’s like he can trust that person more. There’s a difference. It’s a big difference. They may think that ‘this person has no personal identification number. He has nothing. This person has a personal identification number, he knows something. (Child asylum applicant from Somalia)
“In this neighbourhood there are big families and they have too small flats, so the youths don’t get peace and quiet to study because they have many younger siblings. They cannot be at home – it’s too crowded – so they hang around the street corners and in stairwells. Then they form gangs and it’s easy for criminals to recruit them.” (Local housing expert)
“The most relevant factor that put the target group at risk of becoming involved in crime is if you of different reasons don’t get them to attend school.” (Guardianship expert)