How does Ukraine define integration? What were the main achievements and challenges of the previous Action Plan on integration of refugees and persons in need of complementary protection in Ukraine? These were some of the questions addressed by the MIEUX+ team and experts during the capacities and needs assessment mission organised on-site for the ongoing Action in Ukraine.

The first on-site mission since the beginning of the pandemic for MIEUX+ laid the groundwork for the EU experts who will develop, together with the State Migration Service (SMS), an Action Plan on Integration, Standard Operating Procedures for Social Integration Centres and recommendations for integration courses in Ukraine.

Throughout the mission, meetings were held with representatives from our partner institution and various other organisations, including UNHCR Ukraine, EU Delegation in Ukraine, Ministry of Economy and Trade,  the Ministry of Education and Science, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, Ministry for Communities and Territories Development of Ukraine, NGO Rokada, NGO Right to Protection, Afghan Asylum Seekers Community, Yahotyn City Council, Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University and representatives of private sector to serve as a starting point for the ongoing Action.  

Experts from Italy, Lithuania and Poland as well as colleagues from ICMPD in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) and ICMPD Ukraine joined the team during the mission. Working for a variety of Ministries and Refugees Reception Centre in their home country in the European Union (Ministry of Interior of Italy, Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy of Poland), experts will work closely with the partner institution in the upcoming months on deliverables that will help them strengthen their capacities on the area of integration.

Integration of migrants in Ukraine

Since 10 years ago, Ukraine offers two forms of protection to populations who have fled persecution and war in their own countries and have sought asylum in Ukraine: refugee status and complementary protection. In 2020, there were few more than 2200 refugees and persons with complementary protection, and around 2300 asylum seekers.

When it comes to integration to their destination country, refugees and persons in need of complementary protection have managed to learn the local language, find a job or start a business. However, others have faced challenges reflecting the lack of political priority given to refugees. Many of them, as well as persons in need of complementary protection, have limited social assistance, access to healthcare systems, few language and integration courses, amongst other difficulties.

Despite the ongoing efforts from the State Migration Service and other authorities, migrants have expressed their interest in getting socially integrated to the Ukrainian society. This has led the State Migration Service to request support from MIEUX+ to strengthen their capacities on the area of integration, the support from MIEUX+. By bringing the EU expertise, specifically from Italy, Lithuania and Poland, this Action will focus on setting up the scene in terms of assessment, actions and future measures to improve the integration of migrants in Ukraine.

Setting up the scene by meeting with a variety of stakeholders on-site

The mission started with an introductory meeting with representatives of the State Migration Service, partner of the Ukraine II Action, to discuss the project as well as its approach and milestones. It served as a basis for the diversity of meetings with the other stakeholders also working on integration of refugees and persons with complementary protection.

To better assess the existing efforts on the subject matter, meetings were organised with representatives of UNHCR Ukraine and local NGOs who shared their experience and suggestions on how to improve the measures to help refugees and persons in need of complementary protection to socially integrate to the Ukrainian society. They have also facilitated consultations with the beneficiary populations who expressed their personal stories and experience of life and integration in their host country.

Since integration is a cross-cutting issue requiring the attention from migration services but not only, the MIEUX+ team met with the Ministries of Economy and Trade, Ministry of Education of Science and Ministry and Communities and Territories Development. They have discussed how integration can be placed as a priority on their agenda and how coordination and communication with the State Migration Service can be improved. Ministries have also agreed to join and actively contribute to the technical working group for the development of the Action Plan on integration.

Moving towards the local efforts on integration, NGOs working with regional projects discussed with the team and experts what are the main challenges they have been encountering. To bring a local governmental perspective to the topic, Yahotyn City Council representatives invited the MIEUX+ team and experts to present their existing efforts on integration of refugees in Yahotyn city and region.

Finally, meetings with the EU Delegation in Ukraine and the EU Advisory Mission to Ukraine were also part of the agenda of the mission to ensure the EU’s strategy on the topic and for the region are fully aligned with the ongoing Action.

What is next?

The mission enabled the space for exchange across a variety of stakeholders working on the area of integration of refugees and persons with complementary protection in Ukraine.

Adopting the Team Europe approach, MIEUX+ will continue to work with the EU experts abovementioned on the report of the mission’s findings. The fruitful discussions on existing efforts, challenges and roles of stakeholders will now be translated into a capacities and needs assessment report, leading to the development of the Action Plan on Integration, Standard Operating Procedures for Social Integration Centres and recommendations for integration courses.

If sanitary conditions allow, next month MIEUX+ experts will also visit Odesa to assess integration efforts at local level in Ukraine and with the support from MIEUX+ team and SMS will convene the technical working group on the development of the Action Plan on Integration. By involving local experts from leading think tanks in Ukraine MIEUX+ expert team will also map ongoing integration efforts in Ukraine and will share various integration practices and experiences in the EU Member States with Ukrainian counterparts.

Stay tuned for more information about this Action!