28.6.2017 Kotoutumisraportin esittely Euroopan neuvoston parlamentaarisessa yleiskokouksessa

Presentation of Report
Rapporteur Susanna Huovinen

Integration of refugees in times of critical pressure: learning from recent experience and examples of best practice

Mr President, dear colleagues

I feel privileged to act as the rapporteur for this report on best practices for integration.

Our entire continent has been and will be facing big challenges. The war in Syria and the unstable situation in Iraq and Afghanistan are driving people to seek security from Europe. Also in many African countries high youth unemployment, fear of terrorism and a lack of future prospects are driving people to move. We will also see more and more climate refugees. The refugee crisis will continue as long as our neighbouring areas face poverty, oppression and instability. That is the reality, even if the populist and nationalist movements of Europe would argue to the contrary. We have a responsibility to help people in need and to act in a humane and fair way.

This report looks at the situation that many of our countries are in today: asylum applications have been processed rapidly. In the end a large number of people will stay – some permanently. It is in the interest of all refugees and European societies that the people who stay are effectively integrated. Unfortunately, as the Commissioner for Human rights states in his latest Issue paper our governments have not even started to work on a co-ordinated European response to meet these new integration needs. Yet evidence shows that poorly managed integration can lead to marginalization from education and work. At worst, it can also lead to feelings of disconnectedness or even radicalization.

Mr President,

In my intervention, I will highlight four main findings of my report. Firstly, integration is a complex and long process requiring the commitment of decision-makers, authorities, civil society and refugees alike. The success of integration is hampered if our societies tolerate hostility, suspicion and hate speech towards refugees. In this matter, our responsibility as decision-makers is paramount. Or in the words of the Commissioner for Human rights: the adoption and success of integration policies is highly dependent on mainstream public support and continued political will.

Secondly, Member States should ensure the effective legal basis for integration and that coordination works. At a hearing in my own country, as well as during my fact-finding visits I noticed, that a lack of coordination causes unnecessary problems for the public authorities, NGO’s and refugees. It is important to know who does what. When carried out in proactive, broad-based co-operation, overlapping work and time-consuming handling of issues can be avoided. Failure to do so creates a risk of ignoring important steps of integration.

As a positive example of coordination I would like to mention the Portuguese model in which the need to pass people from pillar to post ended by establishing so called ”One-stop shops”. This model is also available for all Portuguese citizens.

In the One-stop shops, the offices of different authorities are under the same roof. During one visit, many things can be initiated. Assistance, support and counselling is offered to address all the challenges refugees face. As adults take care of matters, children are attended to. Interpretation is available in more than 60 languages. This mode of action saves the resources of the authorities and speeds up the process.

Thirdly, integration should start as early as possible. For example, mapping people’s skills, the basis for language training and the need for social and health services can be taken care of at the reception stage. With so many new arrivals, the processing times for asylum applications have been delayed. The long inactive waiting times is not in anyone’s interest. I understand that the systems of many countries were not designed to integrate such large numbers of refugees. This is why coordination and close cooperation with NGOs is emphasized.

I would like to raise good examples from Berlin of how local authorities, together with other actors, organized events for young refugees in which young people learned about educational opportunities. Companies were involved and presented their work and offered internship opportunities as an introduction to working life. Every chance to work, train and experiment is important. At the same time, we must ensure that refugees’ skills and input are not exploited. In the worst case, a polarized labour market can lead to more division within our societies.

My fourth and last point, Mr President, concerns children and young people. Over the last few years, an unforeseen number of unaccompanied minors have arrived in Europe. It is our responsibility to take care of them. Tightening the criteria for family reunification does not promote good integration. The family is every person’s safe haven. Why would it not be the same for a child coming to a foreign country, a foreign culture? In any case, these children and young people need our special attention. We must build structured, long-term measures and support networks for them all the way to adulthood. No child or young person should be left alone in Europe.

Mr President,

Naturally, the report cannot be include everything. When learning more on the subject, I felt that some issues merit their own report. However, I believe that the issues and concrete examples raised in my report will help to plan measures in different countries. The questionnaire, added as an information note to the report, received answers from 36 countries. The many examples have generated great interest. If we want to succeed in this demanding task of ours, we must learn from each other.

I would like to thank the German and Portuguese delegations for organising excellent fact-finding visits and for the opportunity to explore the subject on a broad basis. I would also like to thank the committee’s secretariat for their good cooperation, assistance and support, as well as all those who have given their time and expertise for the benefit of my report. Lastly, I would like to thank my colleagues Ms. Centemero and Mr. Le Borgn’ in their roles as rapporteurs for opinion for their invaluable contribution to strengthening the draft resolution. I look forward to an interesting and fruitful discussion.

Thank you, Mr President!

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