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Time for Europe to get migrant integration right

This Issue Paper prepared for the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights aims to spark the debate on getting integration right by reviewing available, legally binding Council of Europe and EU standards and the needs in key areas of integration: family reunion, long-term residence, language and integration courses, access to employment and services and democratic inclusion through political rights and citizenship.

“In the wake of the arrival of over one million people seeking protection in recent months, European countries share the common, pressing need to get integration right” said Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, while releasing a report on migrant integration.

“After being consumed by short-term imperatives, such as reception and the processing of asylum claims, European governments have to focus now on the long-term goal of promoting the successful integration of migrants” said Commissioner Muižnieks.

The paper provides guidance to governments and parliaments to design and implement successful integration policies. In particular, it highlights the European standards which govern this field and sets forth a number of concrete recommendations to ease migrants’ integration, with a focus on family reunification, residence rights, language and integration courses, access to the labour market and quality education, effective protection from discrimination and political participation.

Among the most important measures highlighted in the paper is the need to uphold the right to family reunification, which “is a recognised human right that should be guaranteed by all European host states. Governments must remove practical obstacles and make rapid migrant family reunion possible” said the Commissioner.

Another measure proposed is to grant long-term residence to foreign citizens who have legally resided in a given European country for at least five years. “States should facilitate long-term residence as a key starting point for full integration and remove any disproportionate obstacles to obtaining this status and equal rights associated with it.”

In addition, the Commissioner calls on European states to offer free language and integration courses to facilitate migrants’ integration. He also recommends easing rules to allow migrants to access the labour market and ensuring quality education of migrant children, robust anti-discrimination laws and effective participation of migrants in political and civic life, including by granting them the right to vote at local and regional levels.

“Migrants are not a threat, but an opportunity. European countries should face up to the challenge of successful integration and see it as a long-term investment in their stable and secure future.”

Via Council of Europe Press Release

Commissioner’s Recommendations:
Integration Policies will fail without more effective anti-discrimination laws, equality bodies and equality policies

All people who experience discrimination should know and use their rights to challenge discrimination. Public authorities have a duty to promote equality and non-discrimination throughout their work. States should:

  • explicitly protect all people from discrimination on the ground of nationality and from multiple discrimination;
  • effectively punish xenophobia, ethnic profiling, hate speech and violence;
  • collect and publish data on discrimination experiences, complaints and cases;
  • expand the powers, staff and resources of national equality bodies and develop more accessible complaints mechanisms at local level and in various areas of life;
  • pilot and expand positive action and equality duties;
  • target information campaigns at vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations.

For more on ‘Integration Policies will fail without more effective anti-discrimination laws, equality bodies and equality policies’, as well as the other key areas of integration, read the Council of Europe’s Issue Paper here.

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