Integration

Over its two-year implementation ReSOMA will focus on three areas: asylum, migration and integration. At the beginning of each year, partners will identify 3 key policy topics per area based on the on-going debate at EU level and within Member States.

The identification follows a two-fold approach as it looks both at the current EU agenda (top-down) and the policy needs at local and national level that are not currently addressed at EU level (bottom-up).

Once the 9 topics have been identified, project partners will gather evidence on these topics by involving researchers, policymakers, and practitioners and engage them in several cycles of consultations that will enable them to connect with one another and will result in a number of publications.

Topics

Frequently, integration policies suffer from being patchy and incomplete. A comprehensive approach to integration tries to fill the gaps, through mainstreaming integration as a long-term objective across policy fields, emphasizing potentials and including the receiving society. Municipalities are well-placed to innovate and implement such a comprehensive approach. As a ReSOMA discussion brief will argue, EU programmes will provide new opportunities to support a comprehensive approach at the local level in the 2021 to 2027 funding period. More clarity, however, is needed about those elements of a holistic approach.

Since 2015, the EU institutions are increasingly trying to respond and communicate to public opinion about developments and facts on EU migration policies. Information about policy developments spread through Europe’s fragmented media landscape, alongside highly mediatised stories of migrant arrivals and living conditions in and outside Europe, incidents of crime and acts of terrorism and the use of fake news and disinformation for political purposes.

Private sponsorship programmes (PSPs) are alternative legal pathways of migration, which include presence of private engagement as well as the governmental involvement. They are aimed at supporting migrants’ arrival and integration into the destination society and have recently been implemented in different ways across the European Union.

Most undocumented migrants have arrived via regular channels and have subsequently fallen into an irregular situation, for instance by overstaying permits or as a consequence of bureaucratic obstacles. While ‘the irregular migrant’ as a rights holder remains an invisible category for official Member State and EU policies, this does not take away from the fact that all migrants – irrespective of their status –  obtain the same set of basic human rights as all citizens, deriving not only from International/European treaties, but also from national constitution, legislation and court decisions. Nonetheless, many undocumented migrants are denied access to public healthcare, adequate housing and accommodation, education, and essential social security. The lack of formalised separation between service provision and immigration control, whether in law, or in practice, directly impacts the social inclusion work of local and regional actors and authorities in fulfilling their commitments and responsibilities to protect the fundamental rights of undocumented people. Furthermore, local service providers are dependent on National and EU funding in order to remain operational. However, with narrowing definitions of those entitled to benefit of the services implemented through funding provided (often implicitly and/or explicitly excluding undocumented migrants), the gap in services has become an increasing reality and threat. The criminalisation of undocumented migrants exacerbates their social exclusion and pushes them to live in even more precarious positions. At the same time, it blocks the channels that provide migrants with a degree of solidarity and social inclusion and increases vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.

Mainstreaming refers to the systematic implementation of policies and measures in all areas relevant for immigrant integration and across levels of government – be it housing, education, qualification, social services or health. All authorities and organisations providing public services become responsible for contributing to immigrant integration and for adapting their activities to the needs of a diverse society. Mainstreaming requires a common policy framework, cross-sectoral planning and implementation, efficient coordination and shared commitment. Comprehensive integration action plans or -strategies are typical instruments to achieve its objectives.

On European level, the Commission encourages mainstreaming by promoting it as a Common Basic Principle for Immigrant Integration, and through the inclusion of integration-related objectives in a range of EU policies and funding programmes. Under the impression of the 2015/16 arrivals, the 2016 Action Plan on the integration of third country nationals of the European Commission and its ongoing implementation has marked a new high point of efforts at mainstreaming the response across EU policy fields, in line with the cross-cutting character of the challenge at hand. With the current preparations and negotiations on the 2021 to 2027 funding and programme framework, elections to the European Parliament and a new incoming Commission in 2019, key decisions about the priority of immigrant integration on the EU agenda are due in the near future.

Cities are where targeted integration measures and public services are provided to a vast majority of immigrants in the EU. Whether services are adequate, respond to needs and are available across all relevant issue areas (like housing, social services, education,…), is a key determinant for long-term integration. However, the ability of local authorities to deliver services depends on their national contexts, such as cities’ legal competencies in different policy fields, the strength of the welfare state, the efficiency of coordination with the national or regional levels of government, and cities’ financial capacities.

In this context, EU policies and programmes offer multiple opportunities to improve, or widen the scope, of services provided to immigrants by cities. Next to targeted means (e.g. under the EU migration and integration policy), immigrants may gain from programmes linked to EU cohesion and other policies, as they are implemented in Member States. The 2015/16 arrivals brought to the fore issues like direct access to funds for cities, timely reaction to newly arising needs or eligibility criteria. Moreover, EU law directly impacts on the de-facto access immigrants have to key services, such as EU directives on the status of refugees or anti-discrimination. Currently, the Urban Agenda for the EU is a major joint initiative of the Commission, Member States and cities to render EU policies responsive to the needs of the local level, and for strengthened participation of cities in EU policy-making. In addition, decisions on the 2021 to 2027 financial and programme framework will determine the availability of EU means to support the provision of services and integration measures on city level.

Expert Interviews

Astrid Mattes- Migration Researcher from the Austrian Academy of Sciences

Monthly Expert Interview: Better regulation supporting social inclusion of the undocumented 

Ricardo Zapata - Director of the interdisciplinary Research group on Immigration- Pompeu Fabra University- Barcelona

Monthly Expert Interview: Policy Mainstreaming of Immigrant Integration. 

Marco Martiniello- Research Director at the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research

Monthly Expert Interview: Cities as Service providers

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