Holistic approach to the Integration of Migrants and Refugees – part I

The successful integration of migrants is one of the most discussed topics in many immigration countries. As emphasised in the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, a successful integration and inclusion policy is an essential part of a well-managed and effective migration and asylum policy.

From 2009 to 2023, MIEUX+ has shared European expertise and supported public administrations to strengthen their capacities on the topic of migrant and refugee integration, by implementing projects in Cabo Verde, Mexico and Morocco. During this current phase, interest in the topic of integration has increased significantly, and MIEUX+ projects in Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Jordan and Uganda focus on this issue. 

The MIEUX+ team joined forces with the University for Continuing Education in Krems, Austria, to develop an online course “Holistic Approach to the Integration of Migrants and Refugees”. Through 18 modules addressing the multidimensional nature of migrant integration, this online course enables learners to familiarise with key concepts, reviewing successful practices from other governmental authorities to develop their own integration programmes.

The cornerstone of the course is a series of video interviews with public officials working on integration issues across European Member States and partner countries, such as Costa Rica. While the MIEUX+ team plans to launch the course at the end of 2023, two articles will provide you with a glimpse of promising practices uncovered in the video interviews.

This first article features success stories from Southern European countries such as Croatia, Italy, Malta and Spain.

Croatia: private businesses providing vocational training for migrants

Croatia sets an example in labour market inclusion of the migrant population through vocational training and adult education programmes.

The Sanatorium Ćorluka in Zagreb is a nursing home, which acts as a private healthcare institution.
It has been among the first Croatian private businesses to have introduced on-the-job training programmes by the Croatian Employment Services.

Since 2018, a dozen people with international refugee status have undertaken vocational training and compensatory education classes to obtain their diplomas with new skills recognised. Some of them, after successfully finishing the vocational training course, began full-time jobs, working as nurses, assistants, caregivers, chefs and sous-chefs in the nursing home.

Sanatorium Ćorluka has used State incentives for employing asylum beneficiaries, with the help of funds from the European Social Fund and through cooperation with the Croatian Employment Service, the Public Open University and the College of the Croatian Chamber of Trades.

Croatian civil society has played an indispensable role, by linking the communication and contact of employers with State authorities and migrants themselves.

Italy: establishing the National Office against Racial Discrimination

In Italy, fostering a non-discriminatory culture is key to ensuring social integration. In 2003, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers funded the National Office Against Racial Discrimination (UNAR) to enact social integration policies through non-discriminatory action plans and inter-institutional activities.

The main assignment of the office is the prevention of racial discrimination, by promoting Action Plans and National Strategies, and monitoring and reporting on the situation within the country.
UNAR coordinates awareness-raising campaigns, creates toolkits for media outlets, and arranges training activities in schools, local administrations, the police and other public institutions.

Legal assistance is also provided to victims of discrimination through private consultations, and provision of a freephone number to report incidences of racial abuse.

Malta: training migrants as cultural mediators in healthcare

The healthcare sector plays an important role in migrant integration in Malta. The Migrant Health Liaison Office is dedicated to addressing the health needs of different population groups. It also aims to empower migrants on how to be responsible for their own health, and to train health professionals and government representatives on cultural differences.

 In recent years, a one-week training programme for cultural mediators has been developed and offered to migrants interested in becoming cultural mediators. So far, over two hundred migrants have been awarded a certificate from this training programme to work with the migrant population in health centres, hospitals and in education activities.

 Today, the Migrant Health Liaison Office has its own team of cultural mediators, from the migrant population, who assist in bridging the language divide.

Spain: highlighting local entities and interinstitutional cooperation

Spain emphasises the importance of investing in the reception of people, to create trust between migrants and the institutions.

The Barcelona City Council introduced the Support Service for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAEIR) in the aftermath of the Second World War. This service is essential to ensure that migrant integration starts off on the right foot.

Employees aid proactively, firstly providing general information about the city and then accompanying migrants through the legal process of asylum claims. Moreover, the SAEIR takes care of the recognition of foreign qualifications, offers advice on training and education programmes, and helps with employment issues.

The SAIER works together with different entities in the city that are already specialised in immigration and reception issues, such as schools, interpreters, charities and the Red Cross.

Coming soon

The insights into Croatia, Italy, Malta and Spain by migration professionals have the potential to serve as valuable lessons for others, offering practical strategies that can be applied and replicated in similar contexts.

The MIEUX+ team also interviewed experts from Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and Luxembourg. Their insights will be included in a second article to follow soon.

The online course will be available for MIEUX+ partners later this year. Stay tuned for more information!