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Successful Longer-Term Integration of Asylum Seekers and Migrants in Europe Requires Whole-of-Society Approach

Press Release
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Successful Longer-Term Integration of Asylum Seekers and Migrants in Europe Requires Whole-of-Society Approach

WASHINGTON — With the most acute pressures of the migration and refugee crisis behind them, European countries now have the breathing space they need to think through the longer-term integration of these recent arrivals. Even as the crisis exposed deep cracks in the European project and further inflamed fears among some Europeans about the fast pace of societal change, some countries and sectors of society remain optimistic that newcomers will inject vital human capital into aging workforces. But the potential benefits of immigration are neither clear-cut nor inevitable: they will require huge investments and creativity from every level of government, employers, social partners and communities themselves. 

A new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report, Towards a Whole-of-Society Approach to Receiving and Settling Newcomers in Europe, examines the new integration challenges that Europe faces in the context of broader societal challenges such as political fragmentation, uncertainty and social unrest. The report authors, MPI President Emeritus Demetrios G. Papademetriou and Senior Policy Analyst Meghan Benton, assess where integration has worked—and where it hasn’t—and analyze the prognosis for the most recent cohort of newcomers. The report also sets out the main policy tradeoffs inherent to these challenges and identifies the most promising approaches to integration policy and programming.

History suggests the integration of newcomers into European labor markets—and communities—will be neither straightforward nor complete, in part because most of the new arrivals do not have the skills sought by employers, and often arrive with poor host-country language proficiency and limited education. Although some groups of immigrants have historically performed remarkably well, the general story across the continent is one of persistent socioeconomic gaps between natives and migrants, the authors note. The segregation of migrant and minority groups in housing, schools and services continues to fuel both anxiety about immigration and various forms of discrimination, and also makes it harder for newcomers and their children to thrive.

Still, the authors find reason for some optimism. “Many countries in Europe are old hands at the integration game, and the region can draw from rich collective experience and knowledge of what works,” they write. “Policymakers who are able to make strategic, farsighted investments; balance experimentation and new methods with a rigorous commitment to evaluation; enlist new actors (especially employers and other social partners) in supporting immigrant integration; and avail themselves of new technologies and innovations will be on strong footing to transform this crisis into an opportunity.”

The report, commissioned by Vision Europe, a consortium of leading foundations and think tanks seeking to address some of the most pressing public policy challenges confronting Europe, is available at: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/towards-whole-society-approach-receiving-and-settling-newcomers-europe

For more MPI research on Europe, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/regions/europe.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels.