Integrating refugees in Europe
With the current immigration of refugees, Europe is facing major challenges. However, if sound integration and participation concepts are developed in time and across disciplines, the humanitarian crisis can also provide many opportunities. Many Christians are currently involved in a wide range of activities to support refugees: from voluntary activities in the dioceses, to the launch of youth work initiatives, to offering language and integration classes, and also professional and political training.
Implementation of EU regulations and directives
The Common European Asylum System comprises the Asylum Procedures Directive, the Reception Conditions Directive, the Qualification Directive, the Dublin III Regulation, and the EURODAC Regulation which governs Europe-wide fingerprint matching of asylum seekers and persons without a residence permit. But how can integration of refugees succeed at all if Member States do not transpose these provisions properly into their own national legislation?
On 23 September 2015, the European Commission announced forty decisions to instigate infringement proceedings against several Member States in the context of the European Asylum System. The Reception Conditions Directive (cf. Directive 2013/33/EU) should have been transposed by 20 July 2015. Germany is one of the nineteen Member States which did not implement it before deadline.
On 10 February 2016, the European Commission issued reasoned opinions in nine cases for incomplete or defective implementation of the Common European Asylum System. The decisions concern Germany (two cases), Estonia, Slovenia (two cases), Greece, France, Italy and Latvia.
The Reception Conditions Directive sets out common minimum standards in the Member States for the reception of people applying for international protection. They cover access to accommodation, food, health care, education and employment as well as medical and psychological care. The Directive also limits the detention of people in need of protection, especially minors.
Article 14 of the Reception Conditions Directive governs the school education and further education of minors. If a minor has applied for international protection, access to the education system must not be postponed for more than three months. In addition, Article 16 governs vocational training and Article 24 covers the framework for unaccompanied minors. To ensure the integration of refugees across Europe, it is vital that the Reception Conditions Directive be transposed consistently throughout Europe
EU aid programmes for the integration of refugees
Comprehensive integration concepts need to be developed in a timely manner and in the framework of the subsidiarity principle at European, national, regional and municipal level, targeting all aspects of integration. It is important here that EU law should be transposed by the Member States and that EU programmes are fully utilised. In addition, EU programmes such as Erasmus plus, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) must be taken into consideration for the integration of refugees. They should receive appropriately financial extension in the context of the mid-term review of the 2014–2020 Multi-annual Financial Framework.
Language classes must be made available to all refugees, regardless of their status in the asylum procedure. Although accommodation centres should not be regarded as acceptable long-term solutions, in these circumstances also there should be solid provision of access to education and language and integration classes (inspired by Article14 of the Reception Conditions Directive). In particular, opportunities for non-formal education in the area of youth and adult education must also be expanded. This includes political education, in order to counteract right-wing extremism. In addition, qualification schemes for voluntary workers must be further developed, and offers for group work, leisure activities and intercultural encounters with refugees must be extended and the protection of their rights assured.
It has also been suggested that a European platform should be set up for exchanging examples of best practices for the integration of refugees. The platform could be made up of EU Commissioners, delegates of the European Parliament, national ministers of education, youth and employment, and representatives of the Church, civil society, entrepreneurs, trade unions and science. This could result in stronger networking in the context of the integration of refugees throughout Europe.
Head of the European Office for Catholic Youth and Adult Education
Further suggestions can be found in the Catholic European Office’s Position Paper on the Integration of Refugees in Europe
Translated from the original text in German