Integration of young refugees in the EU: good practices and challenges

Over 2.5 million people applied for international protection in the 28 EU Member States in 2015 and 2016. Many of those who were granted some form of protection are young people, who are likely to stay and settle in the EU. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights interviewed some of them, as well as professionals working with them in 15 locations across six EU Member States: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Sweden. This report presents the result of FRA’s fieldwork research, focusing on young people between the
ages of 16 and 24.

The report paints a multifaceted picture with many good initiatives and promising practices. It also shows major gaps and challenges, many of which remain unaddressed. It reveals that measures taken in one policy field often affect the degree to which individuals are able to enjoy their rights in other fields.

In addition to that, the report identifies two critical moments, which require much more attention:

  • the transition from asylum applicant to a person granted international protection
  • the transition from childhood to adulthood upon turning 18 years of age.

During such transitions, people experience gaps in rights and services, which risk undermining their pathway to social inclusion. FRA’s research documented challenges relating to such transitions across the eight different but interconnected policy areas this report covers.

Sufficient, consistent and systematic support from lawyers, social workers and guardians emerges from the research as a key factor for successful integration.

It not only promotes the best interests of the child but also helps children and young adults with the multiple challenges they face, in particular during transition to adulthood or when receiving decisions on their legal status.

The report covers the following topics:

  1. Length of asylum procedures
  2. Family reunification
  3. Housing
  4. Social welfare for status holders
  5. Mental health
  6. Education for children
  7. Adult education and vocational training
  8. Vulnerability to crime
Quotations of refugees

Quotations of professionals

Length of asylum procedures

Muslim woman holding a clock.

There are cases that are more complicated and require more investigation and then there are some cases that are easier. What I note is that there are major differences between different nationalities. This is first and foremost what the statistics show. Asylum applicants who come from countries where there usually are no needs for protection often have a relatively quick process. […] And the process is also relatively short for groups who in most cases are granted protection. Syrians for example also have a shorter process than Afghans or Somalis, so there are probably significant differences between different nationalities.
(Asylum authority expert, national level, Sweden)

Family reunification

Silhouettes of refugee family - mother, father and two children.

What obviously has changed – that was [the 2016 amendment] – that you can only submit the application within three months after recognition of asylum […]. Obviously that does have an impact, because people have an immense amount of stress.
(Lawyer, Austria)


One hand holds a key out to an open palm.

A CADA is more ideal and moreover it shows in the results. People who are supported in a CADA have a level of access to protection that is much better than those who are not supported or supervised, and who do not have, how would you say it, all the advantages that those who are in a CADA can have, it goes without saying.
(Local housing authority expert, France)

Social welfare for status holders

A pile of coins held within a hand.

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 disability 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, Italy)

Mental health

A young woman sits on a floor with her head down and her knees up against her chest.

Sleep disorders – the main topic here – nightmares, screaming at night. Everything is simply too tightly packed, 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 problem to be in bunk beds and other people who live so close.
(NGO psychologist, Austria)

Education for children

School children standing in a line reading books.

We’ve seen this very clearly. The pupils who stay in the first accommodation centres [for unaccompanied children] with the same experienced staff, they entered the education system in the right way. They were really taken care of in a completely different way. The rest, those who arrived later, were left to themselves and this was extremely clearly reflected in their school results and attendance […] One of the most important success factors to counteract school drop-outs that we have found is ensuring that the transfers are monitored, and pupils followed up when they have been moved. It’s always a sensitive phase. And we can see that the municipalities appear to have forgotten to look after the pupils’ transfers, have forgotten how important it is to do follow-ups on asylum-seeking pupils in upper secondary schools.
(Education authority expert, Sweden)

Adult education and vocational training

Three young women working together on laptops.

[Residence permits for asylum seekers or protection holders] exist, it’s true, but it’s not the majority, so sometimes it happens that you come across them for the first time, and you have to be able to recognise them; sometimes 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!’ We can’t assume that everyone is aware of the rights connected to the different types of residence permits. Because actually everybody knows that there are some residence permits which don’t allow you to work and hence they are reluctant to employ these people.
(Employment service expert, Milan)

Vulnerability to crime

An eye with the reflection of a raised hand showing in the middle.

One should not make not make hasty conclusions. […] It’s not because one is poor that one will commit a crime … A lot of people find themselves in precarious situations, with no access to housing, etc., and will not commit crime. But the contrary also exists, with no jobs and no access to housing, one can speculate that such a person will more easily steal than someone that has a job and a place to live. It seems to be coherent, logic. But nothing is a given, one should not make any type of determinism that this would push you into committing infractions.
(Law enforcement expert, France)


Good practices


Length of asylum procedures


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Muslim woman holding a clock. Informing applicants on a mobile app

The app is an information portal run by people who have fled to Germany. It is financed by the government and private companies. The app provides replies to questions about life in Germany by means of short videos and articles, on the topics of asylum, housing, health, employment, vocational training, childcare or university studies, among others. A search engine assists with finding services and offers in the immediate surroundings. The app is available in seven languages.

For more information, see Handbook Germany, ‘Germany from A to Z’.

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Speeding up procedures for unaccompanied children in Milan

The police headquarters of Milan, Italy, dedicates one day a week to asylum claims lodged by children. All different administrative steps, which adults have to do separately, can be done in one day, including photo identification, database verification to avoid duplication of the request, and filling in form C3. This preferential treatment is also applied to renewing a residence permit.

Source: Local child protection authority, Milan




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One hand holds a key out to an open palm.Individual housing upon admission to the asylum procedure in Vienna

In Vienna, Austria, the city government explicitly promotes and financially supports individual housing for asylum applicants staying in the reception system of the Land. It is considered the best housing arrangement to foster integration and does not require alternatives to be found when international protection is granted. In addition, public costs for individual housing are lower than for organised facilities. Some 70 % of asylum applicants in Vienna live in individual housing. Asylum applicants transferred to basic care in Vienna are required to go to a central service point and there they get the information on individual housing.

Sources: Experts from organisation providing basic care in Vienna (Fonds Soziales Wien).

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Assigning a proportion of vacant flats to refugees in Luleå

The municipal housing company Lulebo has aimed to make 25 % of all vacant flats available for international protection beneficiaries who are assigned to Luleå (Sweden) as their “municipality for introduction”. First families and then unaccompanied young people have priority. Single adult men will first go to temporary accommodation.

Source: Housing experts, Norrbotten region, Sweden

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Looking at the past: housing schemes for WWII refugees in Austria

In Austria, after the Second World War, the international community granted loans for up to 50 years to municipalities and housing cooperatives to cofinance the construction of homes for refugees. The housing project financed homes for some 5,400 households.

Refugees living there paid rent. Part of the rent was used to pay back the loans and part was deposited in a special fund for assistance to refugees. When a flat became vacant, the authorities assigned it to a new refugee family. Two organisations implemented the project, the Internationale Aufbauhilfe and the Evangelische Verein für Innere Mission. They also managed the loan repayments until 1971, when the newly created Austrian United Nations Refugee Fund took this over. On 21 July 1991, it was replaced by the Fund for the Integration of Refugees, which used part of the income from the housing project for refugee integration activities. The project came to an end in the early 2000s when all loans were paid back. All rights in the housing moved to the municipality or the housing cooperative.

Source: FRA, 2019 [based on various sources, including Yvonne von Stedingk (1970), Die Organisation des Flüchtlingswesens in Österreich seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg, Abhandlungen zu Flüchtlingsfragen, vol. VI, Braumüller Verlag, Vienna]

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Subletting by NGOs

NGOs in Marseille, France, implement a ‘sliding lease’ system. The NGO rents accommodation, which it sublets to a beneficiary. After subletting the accommodation, the NGO also provides overall social and administrative support (e.g. daily budget management, management of administrative procedures). When the beneficiary is sufficiently independent, the NGO ‘slides the lease’ over, and the beneficiary then becomes the tenant.

Source: Évaluation logement initiative altérité.

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Hosting refugees at home

An initiative by Caritas Italy allows interested persons to host an international protection beneficiary at home. The host offers accommodation and food and accompanies the person in their integration efforts. International protection beneficiaries stay with families for six to nine months. Some 1,000 persons have benefited from this project.

Source: Caritas Italiana.

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Cooperating with housing agencies

In Upper Austria, the housing agency Vöckla-Ager works together with NGOs that provide social support and counselling for migrants and refugees, to link them with landlords. The rental contract is concluded directly between the landlord and the tenant. The tenant benefits because the housing agency helps to find affordable housing and checks the landlord, which protects the tenant from rental fraud. Benefits for landlords are fourfold: assurance that the tenant is backed by an organisation; legal counselling on rental law; no need to search for a tenant; and availability of the housing agency in case of any problem. This service is provided for free, as the housing agency is a subsidised programme.

Source: Vöckla-Ager

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Establishing a contact point for future tenants and landlords

The programme Mehr Wohnungen für Flüchtlinge in Bremen, Germany (“more flats for refugees in Bremen”), an initiative by a non-profit organisation, brings landlords together with asylum applicants and status holders interested in renting housing. It offers advice to both parties and an opportunity for interested landlords to register flats, houses, student rooms in shared flats or individual rooms in a host family for rent. It is funded by Bremen Senate for Social Affairs, Youth, Women, Integration and Sports.

Source: Bremen city website

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Bringing together tenants and landlords

Boplats is a housing agency wholly owned by the City of Gothenburg, Sweden. It lists both publicly and privately owned housing available in the region. The agency provides customer service and organises fairs and seminars to help bring tenants and landlords together. However, the waiting time for a flat is on average eight to 10 years.

Source: Boplats

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Decentralising the provision of accommodation in small facilities in Italy

Following pilot projects by the Ministry of the Interior, the Italian Association of Municipalities and UNHCR, Law No. 189/2002 created a decentralised accommodation system for asylum applicants and international protection beneficiaries. It was referred to as the SPRAR system. Interested municipalities could request funding to open facilities, which would offer not only accommodation and food, but various other forms of support. Municipalities often cooperated with civil society organisations. SPRAR facilities were usually on a small scale and distributed over the territory, to avoid marginalisation. In December 2018, the system was renamed SIPROIMI and exclusively reserved for international protection beneficiaries and unaccompanied children, relegating asylum applicants to reception centres.


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Promoting exchange and dialogue in Berlin

‘Berlin creates new neighbourhoods’ (Berlin entwickelt neue Nachbarschaften – BENN) is an integration management programme at 20 locations in Berlin, Germany, with relatively large refugee accommodation facilities. The regional administration of Berlin has set it up in close cooperation with the respective district administrations. The project runs between 2017 and 2021 and is financed by federal, regional and communal funds within the framework of the investment pact Soziale Integration im Quartier and the urban development programme Soziale Stadt. The project aims at community building by promoting exchange and dialogue between long-established and new residents; it fosters active citizenship, empowers new residents to realise their ideas on shaping the neighbourhood and connects individual volunteers with associations, institutions and public authorities. A local BENN team organises participation processes and supports community services’ work.

Source: BENN, Berlin, Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing

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Applying the Youth Guarantee to young refugees

The Youth Guarantee (garantie jeunes) is a nationwide scheme for 16- to 25-year-old people living in precarious conditions in France. The youth employment agencies (missions locales) run it. Recipients may benefit for a maximum of one year from:

  • a supplement of € 480 per month;
  • training on various topics, as needed, enabling them to handle issues related to administration, health, transport, culture, etc. independently, and supporting their educational or professional integration.

Youth employment agencies may offer specific support measures for beneficiaries of international protection, depending on the location; for example, language training is offered in Paris. The supplement facilitates access to housing, and, therefore, provides some stability. However, young beneficiaries of international protection had limited access to the guarantee, interviewed experts found.

Sources: Ministry of Employment and Mission Locale Rennes

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Offering language classes and counselling

The municipality of Athens launched a pilot programme for refugee integration named Curing the Limbo, co-funded by the EU. It covers refugees who have been granted asylum in Greece since 2015 and speak Greek, English, Arabic, Farsi or French. The target group is offered language classes and training on computer skills and audio-visual arts, and takes part in one-to-one career counselling, including on how to find and rent affordable homes.

Source: City of Athens, Curing the Limbo

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Sponsoring young adults in Bremen

The initiative SchlüsselBund (key chain) connects housing sponsors with young adult asylum applicants and refugees. Interested residents with a spare room or flat offer housing and guidance to a young migrant. The aim is to support the young adult on their way to independent living. The sponsorship programme is funded by youth welfare authorities. The youth welfare authority and the implementing organisation remain points of contact for the duration of the sponsorship. Participants may benefit from advisory services and seminars that deal with legal questions and practical challenges. The sponsor and the young adult receive financial support from the authorities.

Source: SchlüsselBund

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Helping in arranging housing in Norrbotten

In the region Norrbotten in Sweden, when children with protection status turn 18, social workers move them to flats that they can sublet from social services. The subletting through social services is a guarantee for landlords. Case officers from the municipality regularly visit and support these young persons. After one year, the person usually has the lease transferred to them. Before they turn 18, children and social workers have a talk about the practical implications of reaching adulthood in Sweden, for example in relation to the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, as well as individual responsibility to manage their education and continue their activities in sports associations or other physical activities. If the unaccompanied child is assessed as needing extra help during the transition, social services appoint a contact person, to whom the child can turn to for social support.

Source: Local focus group on housing, Norrbotten, Sweden


Social welfare for status holders


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A pile of coins held within a hand.Providing information on social assistance at municipal level

The municipality of Vänersborg (Västra Götaland, Sweden) has set up a refugee reception unit where refugees assigned to or choosing to live in the municipality are informed of various benefits they can apply for. The unit has drop-in hours twice a week. The Migration Agency refers people to the unit once they are granted international protection. They are assigned a contact person for advice and support (råd- och stödkontakt), who maintains contact during the two-year introduction programme at the Public Employment Services (Arbetsförmedlingen). The contact person is a social worker, who also administers the protection status holders’ income support, if needed. The contact person provides support in practical matters, for example enrolling in a Swedish language class, registering children at school, getting a bank account and a bank card or finding suitable furniture, or simply showing the person around town.

Source: Vänersborg

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Guidance facilitating issuance of social security numbers in Greece

Persons in need of international protection have difficulty obtaining social security numbers (AMKAs), the Greek Ombudsman found. In response, the Ministry of Migration Policy and the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity issued a circular in February 2018 clarifying a number of things, which improved access to health benefits and services: The residence permit for international protection and the asylum application card comply with the requirements for the type of documents needed to issue an AMKA to foreign nationals. There is no need for an employment relationship or the provision of services or work, or affiliation to a social security body or health institution. It is not mandatory for unaccompanied children to indicate the AMKA of a representative or guardian. This circular was complemented by a new one issued in June 2019, which was, however, revoked in July 2019. Following the revocation and in the absence of new guidance, the first circular is not implemented, even though it is in force.

Sources: Greece, Circular 31547/9662/13.2.2018 on the issuance of AMKA to beneficiaries and applicants of international protection; Greek Ombudsman (2018); Circular 80320/28107/1857/20.6.2019; Revocation announcement Φ.80320/οικ.31355/Δ18.2084

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Adapting the language to the target group in Sweden

In Västra Götaland, the region’s public housing agency (Boplats) has started to provide information in Arabic, Somali and other common languages since the arrivals of 2015. The social services have revised their written and spoken language to make it more accessible and less bureaucratic. They use a programme called Klarspråk (plain language) to adjust the texts used to explain decisions. These changes have improved the clients’ ability to understand the grounds on which they have been granted or denied social support such as income support.

Sources: Social welfare authority expert, Västra Götaland, and Boplats


Mental health


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A young woman sits on a floor with her head down and her knees up against her chest.Counselling and information provided to young refugees in Bremen

The ‘advice café’ (Beratungscafé) for young refugees in Bremen, Germany, offers young persons support and advice concerning day-today matters. This may include help in doing homework, applying for a job, housing or social benefits, or reading or writing official correspondence, e.g. invoices for electricity or mobile phones. For legal matters, young refugees are referred to other services. The café is integrated into a more general set of offers to young persons with and without a refugee background, including for example the Youth Meet-up (Jugendtreff). The project specifically supports young persons phasing out – or never having benefited from – youth welfare support, independently of their status as asylum applicant or beneficiary of international protection. The project has relied on volunteers’ activity and secured institutional funding from the City of Bremen since 2018.

Source: Fluchtraum Bremen

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Facilitating referral to specialised services in Milan and Rome

The Milan Vulnerabilities Network (Rete Milanese Vulnerabili) facilitates referral to specialised medical services, based on a local protocol. The network has strengthened cooperation among healthcare and social professionals in identifying and treating vulnerable and complex cases among asylum applicants and protection status holders. The network is composed of municipal authorities, NGOs providing housing and psychological support, psychiatric rehabilitation centres, forensic medicine centres, and ethnopsychiatric and neuropsychiatric services. It has been extending its membership to include the regional health service and the different hospitals and public healthcare companies active in the city of Milan.

In Rome, the Local Healthcare Department – Rome 1 (Azienda Sanitaria Locale Roma 1) runs a project called FARI 2. It enhances detection and referral, including by training professionals operating in local healthcare and social services. Each beneficiary of the project will have an individual tailored recovery project, which includes the necessary health and psychological assistance as well as activities to foster inclusion in the labour market.

Sources: Rete Milanese Vulnerabili (2017). Azienda Sanitaria Locale Roma 1 and Ministry of Interior (2019)


Education for children


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School children standing in a line reading books.Using the European Social Fund for targeted education services in Vienna

The "Start Wien – the Youth College" programme, which is co-funded by the European Social Fund, offers tailored language courses and courses in basic education or literacy to 1,000 refugees and subsidiary protection status holders between 15 and 21 years of age. The programme helps them obtain school-leaving certificates and access secondary schools, vocational training or a job. Basic education and language training are also available to those who have completed compulsory schooling in their home country. The programme also allows persons beyond compulsory school age to get a certificate of school completion. It also provides an assessment of abilities.

Source: Education authority expert, Vienna, and the City of Vienna’s Youth College programme

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Providing differentiated ‘preparatory classes’ to older children

In France, UPE2A classes are offered to pupils who have previously been enrolled in school but do not speak French.* Their purpose is language acquisition. Students who have not been enrolled in school before follow UPE2A-NSA (Unité Pédagogique pour Élèves Allophones Arrivants) and MLDS (Mission de Lutte contre le décrochage Scolaire) classes. Some schools offer MoDAc (Module d’Accueil et d’Accompagnement) classes.** The objective of these classes is the acquisition of the French language as well as the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, to allow students to join an ordinary class thereafter. These separate classes are integrated into French state schools.

Sources: France, Ministry of National Education, Circular 12/141 (Circulaire No. 2013– 141), 2 October 2012, and Circular No. 2012-143 (Circulaire No. 2012-143), 2 October 2012. France, focus groups and individual interviews with educational experts.

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Addressing lack of places in school through NGO support

In France, experts described an ad hoc solution adopted to deal with lack of places for newly arrived students in regular French schools: schooling through NGO support. For example, in Marseille, the local education authority in cooperation with two NGOs, called Pep13 and Centre d’Innovation pour l’Emploi et le Reclassement Social (Innovation Centre for Employment and Social Rehabilitation), runs two non-governmental schools that can enrol newly arrived foreign children who arrive during the school year. In Lille, the NGO Centre de la Réconciliation has been operating a ‘solidarity school’ (école solidaire) since September 2017 with 20 volunteer teachers. Not only did experts assess that the quality of education is the same as in state schools, but they highlighted that such schools have the flexibility to adapt to the needs of pupils, which especially benefits students with limited or no previous schooling.

Although these schools are a good way to enable the schooling of more children than the existing capacity of state schools allows, they have fewer training opportunities than state schools.

Sources: Education experts, Marseille


Adult education and vocational training


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Three young women working together on laptops.Providing integration support to enter the labour market

In Sweden, in 2015, the government initiated an integration programme called “fast tracks” (Snabbspåret) to support newly arrived protection status holders who have professional skills and education needed on the Swedish labour market. The “fast tracks” include language training, early assessment of each person’s skills and education, faster validation of non-Swedish education and degrees, special language training focused on the professional language of different professions, trainee jobs in combination with language training, job matching and supplementary education if needed. There are fast tracks for many professions, for example teachers, doctors, nurses, and electrical and mechanical engineers.

Sources: Sweden, Ministry of Employment, 'Fast track – a quicker introduction of newly arrived immigrants’; and Labour-INT, ‘From arrival to work – fast tracks – a quicker introduction of newly arrived refugees and migrant’

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Offering professional training contracts in France

The Hébergement, Orientation, Parcours vers l’emploi des réfugiés (HOPE) programme was set up in 2017 as a pilot programme for 200 beneficiaries, by the National Agency for Adult Vocational Training (Agence nationale pour la formation professionnelle des adultes – AFPA), the state and approved operators (opérateurs de compétence). It provides international protection beneficiaries and asylum applicants with (work-related) language training and professional training through a work-study scheme (professional training contract). The programme provides accommodation and food throughout the course as well as administrative, social, professional, medical and other support. In 2018, 1,500 trainees followed the programme and almost all had signed a professional training contract.

Sources: AFPA ‘L'insertion professionnelle au coeur de l'intégration des réfugiés: le livre blanc’ and ‘Hope: l'essentiel en chiffres’

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Accompanying young adults in Austria

JUST Integration, a foundation set up by Austrian Economic Chambers (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich – WKO) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund – ÖGB), supports and advises young adult beneficiaries of international protection. Advisors map the young adults’ previous knowledge and interests, develop an education programme for them and support their integration into internships.

Source: JUST Integration

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Offering entry qualification measure in Germany

The entry qualification measure (Einstiegsqualifizierung), enables individuals who are no longer subject to general compulsory schooling to pursue a 6- to 12-month internship with an employer with the purpose of transferring into vocational training at the end of the programme. The measure is open to adolescents and young adults more generally; individuals with a protection status have unrestricted access; asylum applicants can participate after three months of stay and if approval is granted by the immigration authority. Participants receive a small remuneration, for which employers can be (partially) refunded by the employment agency or job centre responsible. The programme encourages the participants’ attendance at vocational school. Participants may also be granted vocational training support (Ausbildungsbegleitende Hilfen), such as tutoring in German or other subjects.

Source: Bundesagentur für Arbeit (2017), Germany, Sozialgesetzbuch III, Section 54a. Ibid., Section 75.


Vulnerability to crime


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An eye with the reflection of a raised hand showing in the middle.Establishing refugee contact officers in Austria and Sweden

In Upper Austria, the police initiated the Competence and Situation Centre Migration (Kompetenz- und Lagezentrum Migration) in cooperation with NGOs that operated reception centres, and trained 180 police officers to be ‘refugee contact officers’. They regularly visit reception centres, educate the staff on safety awareness and provide asylum seekers with information about the criminal justice system and criminal law and victim protection.* Similar initiatives have been implemented in Viennaand in Västra Götaland in Sweden.

Sources: Interviews with law enforcement experts in Austria and Sweden

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Supporting refugees and migrants with addictions

The Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA) in Athens, Greece, runs a programme aimed specifically at providing information, counselling, psychological support and relapse prevention services to immigrants and refugees with addictions. This can also have a crime prevention effect. The KETHEA Mosaic programme also provides psychological support and other preventative activities for children, to reduce the factors that lead to addiction and impede social integration. Experts also train professionals working with migrants. In cooperation with the International Organization for Migration, the programme runs intervention and prevention programmes in reception facilities.

Source: Kethea

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Organising cross-departmental case conferences

Law enforcement experts in Bremen, Germany highlighted the practice of organising cross-departmental meetings on cases of children in conflict with the law, to consider at an early stage whether or not to provide tailored support measures. Such measures are usually pedagogical, but may also, depending on the case, involve change of accommodation or drug rehabilitation. The conferences bring together the case manager, youth welfare authority, police and, where appropriate, teachers or migration authorities.

Source: Law enforcement authority, Bremen, Germany