Mechanisms to Integrate Migrants

Article by Yagmur T.

(10 mins read).

It is commonly known that both Italy and countries in the EU receive so many refugees and migrants constantly. However, neither Italy nor the EU could adopt necessary policies to integrate the migrants into all dimensions of life in the receiver country. Learning a new language and culture, finding accommodation and proper work, becoming a part of the local society, in other words, adapting to new life in a new country is not easy. This is why many refugees and migrants need specific policies that will support their integration into the receiver society, and also some additional support programs that can be provided by the states, municipalities, or NGOs. For this reason, we are going to discuss what mechanisms could be used to integrate refugees and migrants better both in Italy and generally in the EU.

As well as providing refugees and migrants a proper and safe life in the receiving country, enabling them to contribute to their new host countries – as workers, as tax-payers, and as consumers are important. However, receiving countries vary greatly in terms of their ability – and even desire – to integrate migrants into their economies, social systems, and political structures. Suggestions and recommendations for these countries are listed below….

Providing integration services as soon as possible for those asylum applicants who are most likely to be granted permission to stay

Supporting migrants on their path to integrate as soon as they arrive, regardless of legal status, with a comprehensive approach combining, for example, language and skills training and professional integration; involving migrants, research institutions, and local organizations with experience in receiving newcomers are all crucial.

Locating migrants according to their education and skills, and jobs a region offers

When determining where to send migrants, it’s crucial to think about where they can find employment that fits their talents. Migrants are assigned to localities based on their overall profile, which includes their level of education and job experience. Also, building a locally accessible database of migrant talents; enforcing anti-discrimination laws; creating strong networks with the private sector to encourage integration; providing assistance to entrepreneurship (coaching, microfinance, and strengthening of business network) would be quite useful in the path of integration as well. At this point, it is necessary to pay attention that different refugees and migrants require different levels of support – for instance, those with degrees have different training needs than those without a degree.

Ensuring access to adequate housing

For all vulnerable populations, social housing is scarce. Overcrowding and inadequate housing are more common among migrants. Migrant integration is limited by the concentration of migrant communities and restricted access to decent housing. This problem can be eliminated by ensuring equitable policies for accessing both social and private housing by providing financial and advisory assistance to migrants and ensuring non-discriminatory treatment by landlords and so on.

Making sure that refugee and migrant children have access to education
Especially unaccompanied minors have little or no formal education  and need appropriate support to catch up with native-born children. Besides this, social workers must provide intensive case management, educational assistance, language training, career and educational counseling, mental health care, and social integration assistance. Also, improving social mix in schools, strengthening the capacity of orientation services in schools; improving routes to tertiary education for migrants, increasing awareness of early childhood education and care are necessary steps that must be taken for the future of the society.

Employment and professional growth

Allowing asylum seekers to work is often disapproved by the receiving countries because it exposes the asylum system to misuse. As a result, they frequently insist that specific conditions be completed before asylum seekers can officially work, such as a prior waiting time. However, not working could decrease their capacity to integrate into the long run, as their skills may diminish and their employment history may have gaps. The legal authorities must take this into account as well. 

Furthermore, many people fled their native countries without any documentation of their qualifications. Countries can help these people by assessing and documenting the education, skills, and experiences of newcomers.

Ensuring their access to health care (both physical and mental)

Poor health has an impact on a migrant’s ability to find work, learn the local language, interact with public institutions, and perform well in school – all of these are essential for successful integration. Many of them are vulnerable to mental health issues like anxiety and depression as a result of their traumatic and violent experiences back home.  Host countries should assess newcomers’ mental health alongside their physical health, provide necessary treatment to migrants, and ensure that they can use it.

Building on civil society to integrate migrants

Employers, charities, immigrant associations, community-based organizations, and trade unions all have a role to play in helping refugees integrate. Implementing government legislation, organizing mentorship programs, assessing migrant abilities, and welcoming newcomers to the community can be listed as a few examples.

Improving the coordination of integration policies across Italy and the EU 

As integration programs are typically designed, implemented, and evaluated at several levels of government, they necessitate strong coordination mechanisms. Many of the European cities reported a lack of adequate coordination with central governments. To solve this, roles and responsibilities must be clearly identified through institutional mapping. Besides, fostering communication at all levels to improve mutual knowledge of integration practices is also necessary.

Improving the coherence of integration policies to determine the needs of migrants

Policies promoting integration necessitate an integrated approach (housing, education, employment, health). Limited access to services may result in a lack of consistency between them. Language courses, for example, may not be accessible by public transportation or scheduled at hours incompatible with child day-care facilities.  Consulting and involving local migrant communities are the keys here.

 Closing the spatial gap between migrants and native-born people

Migrant spatial segregation is common and likely to increase in many cities. Integration is limited by two fundamental and mutually reinforcing barriers: segregation and discrimination. Ensuring that all residents have equal access to high-quality public services; investing in shared public areas (libraries, cultural centers, and squares); encouraging civil society action for integration would be helpful to eliminate the negative effects of spatial segregation.

Increasing the capacity of civil services to respond to the needs of migrants

Local civil servants may not be equipped with the necessary skills to provide equal access to the same services for migrants and former residents. It could be due to language barriers, but it could also be due to preconceived notions and a lack of experience dealing with migrants. This is why providing training on supporting migrant integration to all municipal departments (including teachers, social workers, police, and employment services); assuring equal treatment in civil service, and also hiring public officials with a migrant background could be useful for the better integration.

Improving data collection to determine the efficient integration policies

Gathering data to monitor the effectiveness of integration policies and develop these policies in case it’s needed is important. For this reason, introducing monitoring mechanisms into city integration action plans, tracking the outcomes of municipal integration efforts; increasing qualitative data gathering, and taking into account the perspectives of migrants and host communities would help to improve taking the necessary steps for further integration.

Aligning social welfare services with migrant needs

Statistics show that when compared to nationals, migrants use fewer social services (such as healthcare and free school meals) and are more likely to be unaware of their rights. This is why, adapting social services to address the barriers that migrants face (language barriers,  lack of internet access); identifying people with special needs (unaccompanied children or people with disabilities), and ensuring access to at least basic social welfare services, including for those who do not fulfill residence criteria are important.

As it is mentioned above, there are many dimensions of migrant integration, and many possible ways to provide migrants better life chances as well as increasing their contribution to their host country. This is why all the organizations and institutions should do their best for preparing a better and more peaceful future both for the migrants and also for the local community.

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