The role of workers' organisations in integrating migrants (refugees) in society and the labour market

From January 26th to January 28th 2018, a working group on the topic "The role of workers' organisations in integrating migrants (refugees) in society and the labour market", organised by FIDESTRA (Associação para a Formação, Investigação e Desenvolvimento Social dos Trabalhadores), with support from the EZA and the European Union, took place in Fátima, Portugal. The working group was part of the EZA project coordination on the topic "Integration of migrants and refugees into the labour market - the role of workers' organisations". 85 representatives of workers' organisations from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland and Austria took part in the working group.

Its purpose was to analyse the integration of immigrants and refugees into host societies, as this is a complex and multi-faceted process.

Large numbers of refugees and the search for Europe, primarily from countries whose economies enable greater prosperity, is an additional problem for complex multicultural and political relations that are identified and analysed within the EZA network of organisations.

As workers' organisations, it was also important to take account of and share common concerns, particularly the unregulated activity in some areas of work and the poor pay conditions in the construction, catering and hotel sectors and in household employment.

We have tried to identify the framework of immigrants and refugees in industrial relations by identifying the behaviour and attitudes of business organisations (and employers), trade unions and the state; and to assess the labour integration of this group, whose number and composition is increasing, and the process of social and labour integration of refugees in the EU, as well as in Portugal.

The monitoring of immigration policy and the recruitment of workers, in particular the legal immigration channels, must be a concern for both politicians and representative workers' associations. It was therefore important and necessary to assess the effectiveness of the measures previously adopted and those provided for in the current legal framework so that they could be better applied in the future.

We know that in Europe today the issue of migration, and in particular the reception of refugees, is one of the most problematic issues in the European social dialogue.

We recognise that the lack of a concerted common policy is the key to racism and xenophobia promoted and exploited by extremist sectors of our societies. It is therefore important to integrate political leaders who can demystify the myths and prejudices surrounding this issue into the debate.

And yet, in order to be able to counter these negative effects and correct this distorted picture of migration, it was deemed important to raise the role of workers' organisations and awareness among workers and to alert trade union management to ensure that the necessary mechanisms are put in place to dismantle these prejudices.

This working group and the objective discussion on this support developed a practical awareness of this issue and encouraged the centres of the workers involved to deal with this issue, to develop training networks and consortiums as well as resources and to promote measures for the effective integration of migrant workers into the labour market and the social integration of refugees.

The social peace in Europe, the cohesion and consolidation of the European project also mean that, and how, Europe, which is currently fragmented on this issue, can deal with this problem.

The working methodology focused on local conditions with the visit to the reception camp of the refugee organisation (CPR) in Lisbon Loures, with which the working group began. The CPR is an independent and pluralistic, non-profit, non-governmental organization inspired by a humanist culture of tolerance and respect for the dignity of other peoples. Its main objective is to promote a more humane and liberal asylum policy at national and international level. It is the "operational partner" of UNHCR for Portugal. On December 12th 2000, the CPR was awarded the "Human Rights Prize" of the Portuguese Parliament.

This visit made it possible to inform the participants of the working group about the work of the CPR and to learn more about Portugal's good practices in the field of asylum policy on the spot.

Rafael Rodriguez Ponga, President of the International Platform for Cooperation and Migration (IPCM), emphasised the importance of integration, humanism in an inviting form and in the field of civil society in peace and the rule of law (democracy, rule of law and human rights).

Piergiorgio Sciaqua, co-president of the EZA, emphasized the sovereignty problems, the concept of tolerance / intolerance, the values of Benedict XVI, the issue of dialogue, the European social pillar, relativism / individualistic ego and the end of illusions / ideologies.

Out of the the round tables, we would like to emphasise: Integration of migrants into the labour market with the following organisations: NKOS - Slovakia; LPSS - Lithuania; IPCM; NSZZ Solidarnosc- Poland; Fundacja Nowy Staw - Poland; EUROMF - Belgium; Feder-Agri - Italy; MCL - Italy; CFTC - France; CEAT - Spain; USO - Spain, FLC - Italy; and CIFOTIE; LOC and FIDESTRA - Portugal.

- NKOS - Slovakia: The organisation does not support high financial support for migrants but access to the labour market (after gaining refugee status). They helped neighbouring Austria because of the large influx of refugees, but this support was temporary. They offered 500 scholarships for Syrian students. They supported migrants who were refugees from a monastery in Syria and who had prepared for their admission and learning of Slovak before they were admitted to Slovakia. Few of the supported migrants returned to Syria, either elderly or those with some limitation that prevented them from adapting. It is argued that a common organisation, a platform for cooperation with third countries, should be created so that, for example, migrants can be prepared/trained before entering the EU.

- LPSS - Lithuania: With regard to the migration movement in Lithuania, there are two groups of migrants:

a) - Immigrants who hold a visa or business visa/work permit, usually displaced persons working for Belgian companies or other multinational companies, for example. Their organisation tries to inform / sensitise employees so that they are informed about their rights / obligations. They mainly support truck drivers who pass on work. However, trade unions cannot support as many people as they would like. They represent only 10% of active workers, mainly because of the prejudices that still exist with regard to the trade unions.

(b) - Refugees, who often arrive illegally in Lithuania, increase the number of migrants from neighbouring Belarus and other countries near the border. There are people who work legally but are not unionised because they are afraid of losing their jobs. The spokesman also mentioned that they also get many migrants who are the result of the refugee quota introduced by the EU. They receive approximately 600 € / month, whereby the minimum wage in Lithuania is 400 € / month.

PICM: The aim of the platform is to support reflection, study/research on this topic and to promote dialogue between the institutions. Much of the work is done via online platforms and is mainly developed by Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy. In his opinion, it is extremely important to be aware that no one can be left alone to solve this problem. The platform therefore focuses on supporting emergency aid and policy changes.

NSZZ Solidarnosc - Poland: Firstly, Poland has always been prepared to accept refugees, the speaker pointed out, and it is also important to implement the whole path taken by Poland, and Solidarnosc helped the population after the Second World War and received an award in Poland. In his opinion, Poland and its people were an exception during the war, and this represents the character of their country. About 12 million Poles live abroad, many of them are refugees who left their country during the war. In the 1980s many immigrated for economic reasons and in the present generation around 2.5 million young people were forced to look for work abroad. Some are back now, perhaps thanks to policy changes and positive reforms in the labour market. Solidarnosc. Poland has always been a strong supporter of refugees, even during the crisis in Chechnya and Ukraine, where there is still a war that is largely ignored. Some 1,800,000 Ukrainian, Belarusian and Moldovan citizens live in Poland, demonstrating Poland's support and welcoming culture. The local government is providing substantial assistance in Syria, including through Caritas Poland, with actions of the mutual aid programme between the families of the two countries. He also said that any migrant working legally in Poland can count on Solidarnosc's support, such as naval workers. In Gdansk it was agreed that the education platform and the migration platform should work more closely together to provide better support for migrant children.

Fundacja Nowy Staw - Poland: The representative of the Foundation said that they have established small centres in Lublin where migrants from different countries live. They initiated a two-year project in which they supported the education of students from Russia, Chechnya and even Asia and contributed to their adaptation. To facilitate this process, work was carried out to promote skills in the labour market (functioning of the Polish labour market, rights, obligations, etc.) and some 120 hours of Polish were taught so that migrants could integrate. This programme also included visits to historical sites and personal advice on developing job-search skills, preparation of application documents, etc. The beneficiaries of this programme were very receptive to language teaching, but their participation in history and cultural events was less successful.

EUROMF - Belgium: The representative of EUROMF first presented the Interreg project, which is based on the identification of a large influx of refugees in Belgium and the associated difficulty of integration into the labour market. He believes that it is extremely important to promote genuine inclusion and to overcome the difficulties arising from fears of terrorist acts; the "Into Care to Be Careless" programme, which involves supporting refugees by promoting skills as service providers and thus integration into the labour market, fulfils these functions. To achieve this, linguistic, cultural and social barriers must be broken down. This project aims to create a truly integrated intervention that sensitises and strengthens employers themselves. Part of the activities will be: Dutch classes that take on and perform these tasks will be provided information on the rights and duties and the development of specific skills, which will always be accompanied by tutors/volunteers. The project started in October 2017 and will continue to operate in a number of areas, including investing in training to enable refugees to get to know the real life habits of Flemish families and to help employers and the general population understand and accept diversity.

Feder-Agri - Italy: The speaker first mentioned that they were very pleased to visit the reception centre in Lisbon during this seminar. In their opinion it would be appropriate to know what percentage of people are integrated into society and the labour market, because if we feel welcome but do not integrate, we can create an even bigger problem. With regard to the situation in Italy, migrants continue to land, minors are referred to reception centres and then to reception until they receive legal working documents. During this time, asylum seekers receive vocational training and learn the Italian language to improve their reception. Feder-Agri is involved in this period of training, which has created a meeting between supply and demand for work. Work must be done to combat ignorance and discrimination. In this spirit, they also thanked the MCL for its help.

CFTC - France: First of all, it was noted that France has been dealing with the problem of immigration for a long time, particularly in the Maghreb countries. France is the fifth country to receive migrants, received some 50 000 applications for asylum, most of them from the Syrian community, and 26 000 were accepted. To facilitate the process, President Macron has made a commitment to respond to the asylum application within six months. The CFTC was able to meet with the other unions and defined that they would finance French lessons for immigrants with the aim of reducing unemployment.

CEAT - Spain: The representative stated that CEAT is a non-profit, independent organisation dedicated to study, research and workers in all sectors. CEAT does not intervene directly with the refugees, but it works and supports the workers who come to Spain for economic reasons, etc. With the first wave of migrants from Latin America there was no relevant problem, but during the second wave the government tried to find work for everyone and there were several problems. In their view, the population affected by the crisis must be supported so that migrant workers have equal rights. The best way to improve conditions for migrants is to create the necessary conditions for legal work. Most jobs were created in agriculture and construction, with 70% of migrant workers working in these areas. CEAT has developed documents to improve the working conditions of migrant workers, in particular through: Living together, social integration, combating illegal and precarious work, protecting the families of workers (behind a worker there is almost always a family with children, the elderly, etc.) in cooperation with local councils, medical and social services.

USO- Spain: First, it was pointed out that, according to the OECD, 40% of immigrants in Spain live in extreme poverty. By 2016, 2 million and 200 thousand Spaniards were living outside Spain. Racism, xenophobia and unemployment have increased in recent years. It is important not to forget that immigrants are not just workers, but fragile people who do not have money and information. The USO intends to support integration in various Spanish areas through language teaching, training and always with the support of tutors.

FLC - Italy: According to Paolo Cesana, FLC has developed training and education processes for refugees as well as protection and social integration. About 5 million migrants were received in Italy, 22% from Romania, 5.4% from China, 4.6% from Ukraine, and 52% from other countries. Many of these migrants are entrepreneurs and are integrated. There are also about 20,000 marriages between foreigners and Italians. They also welcome the role of organisations. Last year, 60,000 citizens acquired Italian citizenship, which shows the Italian system's will to integrate. It also supports the financial stability of families in other countries and contributions to the Italian pension system. There is a polarisation in the labour market where men work in the construction sector, while women work in areas where support is provided for people/nursing.

CIFOTIE - Portugal: The representative of CIFOTIE pointed out that Portugal's position did not promote the reception of refugees. He pointed out that migration in Portugal had two key moments: PALOP migrants and migrants from the rest of Europe, especially those with high professional qualifications.

FIDESTRA- Portugal: The President of FIDESTRA first pointed out the limitations of a political system and the popularity of the elections by addressing the concerns of voters. He said that we should operate in a security society where we should only fight illegality and create a truly inclusive and inclusive society. In their opinion, revulsion or poor acceptance of refugees is due to several factors such as lack of education and health facilities. Effective promotion of well-being in Europe should continue to be the objective. It is important to develop a humanized analysis and not only for local communities, but primarily for politics, so that they can see not only "figures", but also life and human aspects. Common objectives based on the values of solidarity and subsidiarity are of the utmost importance here.

Some structuring ideas:

_ It is extremely important and useful to learn from the past and the good practices of the organisations represented in this working group.

_ The reception and integration process must begin before the arrival of migrants in the host country in order to prepare for adaptation to changes.

_ Training and capacity building should be tailored to citizens to meet and listen to their needs and prepare them for the labour market.

_ We need to understand how important it is to feel truly welcome and integrated, whether at home or looking for a better future abroad.

_ Humanised work must be strengthened, respect for differences must be maintained and quality of life must be promoted, without forgetting the mental health which is often forgotten in these processes of change, which require long periods of adaptation.

_ Illegal immigrants must not be confused with immigrants without documents, because we are dealing with people seeking help who have not committed any crime, but simply do not have access to their documents.

_ See migration movements as an opportunity and not as a problem.

In conclusion to this working group, we recall that the development cooperation member organisations have been dealing with the existing migration issues in their countries for a long time and in particular those who are members of the IPCM can offer added value and strengthen and influence reception policies in their countries, thus contributing to European social dialogue and effectively promoting the integration of refugees/migrants into the labour market.

The discussion on the problems of integrating migrants and refugees into the labour market, the exchange of best practices from the various participating countries and the difficulties and proposed solutions can help to draw the attention of policy-makers at national level to the necessary inputs, in order to build a coherent common migration policy based on the values of solidarity and subsidiarity, without undermining European cohesion and without allowing the insecurity of European citizens to take root in the EU or extremist and populist movements to use this situation to grow and destroy the European project.

We conclude that the existence of these spaces and moments of exchange of good practices and the real experience based on all the organisations represented in this seminar are extremely important and useful so that our European project, based on PEACE, can grow and prosper sustainably.

 

 

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