Promoting the integration of migrants and refugees in the society and the labour market of the European Union

From 22 to 24 February 2019, a seminar was held in Paris on the “Promoting the integration of migrants and refugees in the society and the labour market of the European Union”. It was organized by FIDESTRA (Workers’ Training, Research and Social Development Association), in cooperation with the International Platform for Co-operation and Migration (IPCM). The seminar was supported by EZA and the European Union.

Today, migratory movements are an indisputable and unavoidable reality, with Europe being one of the regions in the world that receives more immigrants.

Globalization, new technologies and social networks enable new types of relationships that foster migration. In this context of globalization, the right to “go” has been won, but not always the right to “stay”.

In the host countries, integration has become a problem: the radicalization of immigrants intensifies and the emergence of political parties and xenophobic movements amongst the native population increases.

Analysing how EU member states can help develop strategies to address the reality of the migration situation, and facing the challenges of both European immigration policy and the situation of immigrants already residing in home countries, is a priority.

It is therefore important to design lines of action ranging from the reception of new immigrants, refugees, or those already resident/employed in the host countries.

These facts mean that migratory movements an issue that must be analysed in detail in order to find proposals for approaches and solutions capable of dealing with this new reality and also capable of developing inclusive migration policies free of social conflict and maintaining security in European host countries.

In short, seeking the best formulas of co-existence, based on respect for the human being who arrives and who is already present, on the legality of the host society and people’s freedom, was the focus of this International Seminar, held in Paris, 21 on 23 February 2019. It was organized by FIDESTRA (Workers’ Training, Research and Social Development Association) in collaboration with IPCM (International Platform for Co-operation and Migration), EZA (European Centre for Workers’ Questions) and European Union financial support. The subject was:


Development of the programme/Seminar

To respond to the issues in question, the international seminar was attended by 52 representatives of workers’ organizations from 13 European countries: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

The programme enabled seminar participants to reflect on the importance of strengthening employment inclusion policies (considering that employment is one of the main elements supporting integration), to find out about social and employment projects to enhance integration (which are being implemented in different European countries), to identify the common or individual problems that exist in this common space, as well as point out approaches to integration and present some proposals that aim to promote the process of social and employment integration for migrants and refugees.

The forum for debate and exchange during these two working days, which involved testimony from immigrants, also alerted political power (a relevant position on the eve of European elections) to the importance of this issue of migratory movements, in the construction of a social, more just and cohesive Europe.

The Seminar was open to the Media in order to spread the message and create a multiplier effect.

From the discussion of the themes, we highlight the problems identified, and the solutions/projects underway:

“The integration of migrants in society and employment as a means of fostering European Social Dialogue”

The right to work is an essential condition in order to lead a dignified life. A reception policy that includes the right to work prevents, on the one hand, exclusion in the host society and, on the other hand, facilitates reintegration that everyone needs when returning to their home country.

The idea applied to all workers’ organizations and participants/speakers present. It should be remembered that social dialogue has proven to be a very useful tool in promoting specific working policies that will reduce the gap in employment levels between the European population and the foreign, immigrant population.

To foster European social dialogue is to exercise solidarity!

“How to foster the reception of immigrants who come to Europe to achieve various migratory objectives, to promote the process of integration in

host countries.” National examples fostering European Social Dialogue

In this round table, 3 countries (Belgium, Greece and Germany) presented national examples that foster European Social Dialogue, highlighting as common problems:

_ The lack of training in some of the jobs done by immigrants;

_ The lack of knowledge of the host country’s language and, consequently, the lack of familiarity with employment and social rights;

_ The labour exploitation to which they are subjected, in particular in sectors such as agriculture and home support - a branch of foreign labour employment in some European countries;

_ The closure of its borders. The Greek representative asked, “Where is the solidarity between countries?”

Projects/actions/recommendations to respond to identified problems:

_ Belgium - FAMILIEHULP - A project developed in Flanders and Brussels which started in 2017. “We believe that having a job is the best way to integrate people”.

_ provide training in home support areas for people with dementia; cleaning services provided for the elderly. Professions of utmost importance to society as a response to a lack of formal carers may be an option for migrants seeking work.

- increase language training by helping to reduce communication gaps and thus improve integration and improve the services provided by professionals to older people, for example;

_ Designing innovative strategies - the creation of websites, brochures using storytelling tools with the collaboration of journalism students;

_ Develop an “influence perception” model at 8 levels: start by questioning the migrants if they intend to work in the areas of care; if the answer is affirmative, appoint a volunteer who will work as a buddy and help in this first phase of integration, developing an empathic relationship, developing communication skills and, above all else, making the person not feel alone in this process.

Greece - DAKE “Many people in Greece are not aware of the real size of the migratory crisis. Since the beginning of 2015, about 1.8 million people have crossed the border between Turkey and Greece.”

Actions: The Greek Employment Institute has created two programmes to deal with this situation:

“I-Ref-SOS” - aimed at young refugees to work on their communication skills in the local language;

“Bridges” - is a guide and also an online platform that enables learning about different European civilizations.

They are also preparing two new programmes addressing the knowledge of European culture aimed at migrants arriving in Greece, on the one hand, and on the other, a programme aimed at the local community to enhance cultural knowledge and understanding of the culture of migrants and refugees who come to our country.

Germany - NHB - “Through our organization, we have tried to help foreign workers who are in difficult or even ‘exploitative’ situations, but they have had difficulty participating in the training courses we offer because they work too many hours.”

To respond to this situation, the “Self-Help Project” Actions were created and implemented: The opportunity to take German classes is an important tool for their integration and defence of their rights as workers, in addition to them being able to perceive which job is contractual and to do their job better.

We make efforts to communicate useful information to these workers (especially formal female caregivers), through actions in churches, supermarkets, etc. Up to now we have been able to involve 120 caregivers from Eastern countries through German courses (taught during lunch hour), encouraging reflection on living conditions, training for the duties they perform, information on workers' rights.

“The social and employment integration of migrants, normalization of employment rights, social protection systems and public services in host countries” - the French example

At the opening conference on Friday afternoon, Joseph Thouvenel (CFTC and Vice-President of EZA) addressed in his speech the issue of the integration of migrants, stating “there is a duty of solidarity to integrate them. However, it is necessary to know how migrants entered France, whether in a legal or illegal way. This is crucial for us to know who are supporting.

When addressing the issue of support for migrants, the first gesture is always a humanitarian gesture.

Migrants should be aware that when there are rights, there are also duties. Every migrant who comes to France must respect the culture and rules of French society: this is essential for integration to take place. Otherwise, true integration will never occur.


Those who do not accept these conditions will have to be told that they cannot integrate into French society. Values ​​such as equality between men and women are essential to be respected, and as you know, this does not happen in many societies, so migrants who do not accept this or other rules and values ​​in French society are not welcome. It's like saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in France, do as the French do.”

And in Europe, be European. It’s an important message to replicate.

“Implement measures that are effective in the integration of migrants, whether in terms of knowledge of the French language, in vocational training or in the knowledge of French society: these are important conditions for the true social integration of migrants.”

“Examples of social and work integration achieved by migrants, the dynamism of entrepreneurial migrants, a tool for European Social Dialogue”

In this round table, 3 Portuguese immigrants, who have been living in France for a long time, gave personal testimony, identifying the difficulties experienced at the time of arrival and describing their integration process.

_ Language is the first problem highlighted.

_ Uprooting, arriving somewhere unknown is another difficulty.

This often goes with a lack of work, contract and legal framework.

Overcoming these barriers is critical. This requires language learning.

Attaining legal status in the country of entry, because only then can an employment contract be provided. Associativism and the importance of immigrant associations, in this case Lusophone, is very important in the promotion of social integration.

This question arose concerning the opportunity to return to the home country:

“Our children are born on French soil, they are French, speak the language perfectly, have forgotten or never managed to master Portuguese, have a stable job and some have already formed a French family.

Return and turn my children into immigrants in Portugal?” This issue should be considered by Europe and sending countries when evaluating the return in the medium or long term with current immigrants.

This issue immediately leads to the need on the part of the sending countries to rethink the need to reinforce the learning of home languages in the host countries, particularly for the second generations of immigrants. Without this first step, there is hardly any return.

“Coordination and action mechanisms for the reception of refugees and migrants at risk of social exclusion and promotion of inclusion in the host society"

The closing conference on the first day was delivered by PAR - Refugee Support Platform

In these rapid and vertiginous migratory movements experienced in Europe, linguistic imprecision is a serious mistake.

We talk about migrants, community workers in employment mobility and refugees, without differentiating the causes and consequences of these different movements.

It was this context of clarifying concepts (because they require different responses), that FIDESTRA and PICM invited a representative of PAR. Mário Rui André explained:

Refugees are people who need to leave their country for fear of being persecuted because they feel that their lives are at risk for some reason: religious, political and climate-related.

Immigrants - people who move country in search of better opportunities. There are mechanisms for hosting and integrating refugees through co-ordination mechanisms: International, European and National/regional/local;

- Mechanisms of departure or transition countries and the host countries. National strategies - Co-ordinate the ports of entry, security and institutional reception.

Port of entry (internal administration/SEF) co-ordinates bureaucratic procedures related to refugee status. SGMAI co-ordinates institutional shelter and transition centres.

Advantages: it facilitates the conditions of families and employment skills. Disadvantages: it can become a long-term response, enhancing integration difficulties in local communities;

Regional and local co-ordination (aimed at integrating into local communities) requires good resource management, decentralization and the involvement of local authorities;

Reception in communities: - municipalities/social and territorial network (Caritas, UMP, ICN, JRS) to respond to the global refugee crisis. Local communities have facilitators who assist in the integration process;

In Portugal:

Thirty-three municipalities were covered and there is a variability of financing between municipalities. In relation to education, 19 establishments were included. As for the EU’s relocation program, 45,895, refugees were accommodated in the EU, of these 1,674 in Portugal.

In relation to PAR data, 144 families were supported - 676 ​​people, with the support of 92 host institutions.

What learning/proposals:

- political consideration

- consolidate the role of local authorities,

- involve companies,

_ clarify the role of civil society organizations;

- more consistent and clearer FAMI criteria for integrated policy strategies.

“In terms of reception, we should hear from the refugees concerning what did not go well. If they are not heard, we will continue to commit the same


“The importance of strengthening employment inclusion policies as a means of social inclusion. National examples that foster social dialogue, the role of trade unions and

workers’ organizations”

At the opening conference on Saturday, representatives of 3 major European unions, from countries with different views and attitudes towards migration, opened the sessions.

_ Bulgaria - PODKREPA

“Building walls, isolating and trying to avoid immigration in the long run will be futile. Today, the Great Wall of China is a tourist attraction!

Bulgaria is on the front line: it is the external border of southern Europe, bordering Turkey.” Veselin Mitov - Vice President of EZA

Trade union strategies that are being carried out:

_ contacting those who leave so they can get in touch with other unions in order not to lose contact with Bulgaria and solve their daily problems, such as housing, for example. This only occurs with workers legally resident in the host countries, providing assistance through union networks.

But there are 30% provisionally and irregularly active in the employment markets.

- create synergies with all government agencies, employment agencies, labour inspection, employers, other unions, mutual aid networks with NGOs.

_ Vocational guidance - Training is the key resource for the integration of immigrants. An example of a successful programme is Fairmobility, working with Bulgarian people in Germany through awareness-raising actions for workers' rights, information leaflets, language learning and legal and work-related support in their native language.

- launch campaigns to combat racism and xenophobia in many Western European countries.

- help reduce bureaucracy by trying to reduce the time required to recognize their skills.

- Creation of Policies in collaboration with the host country union in order to increase their skills and to improve skills to respond to the jobs that are applied for in the host country

Hungary - MOSZ - immigration from neighbouring countries and the problems this poses:

“The strange political situation in Ukraine has resulted in immigration to Hungary and a negative impact.”

Unions have a problem, since these people are hired by agencies and therefore are in a special situation with different legal status from other workers.

Immigrant workers depend on these agencies and Hungarian workers have better contracts.

Employment agencies operate under different standards and with the worst contracts. Problems such as language barriers also lead to immigrants being afraid of being expelled to their country.

_ The employer, agency, and worker triangle is a complex structure, with less tendency or inclination to defend rights and with minimum security.

It is difficult to manage all these workers in the Hungarian employment market. They operate as a national legal network and have 100 employment lawyers. These are temporary contracts and these workers’ fear prevents them from reporting hazardous working situations.

“This is a problem for Hungary and the EU as a whole. How do you solve the problem of these people in such a fragile situation?

Regarding the Hungarian Government's Position on Immigration: Everyone knows what exists at the moment: fences at the borders. But it is the only European government that has created a framework to help persecuted Christians in times of crisis.”

Poland - NSZZ Solidarność

“The issue of migration is a complex and complicated process in Poland, but we know that the best way to integrate someone is to give them work. And in this process, unions play a key role”. Jozef Mozolewski, Vice-President of EZA

Poland has more than 11 million emigrants, of whom 2.5 million are highly qualified. In France, only 1 million.

But on the other hand, it should be recalled and emphasized that in 2018 there are 3 million Ukrainians in Poland who are in legal and registered work. The numbers for the shadow economy are unknown.

Immigrants do not come alone: the family comes too. Today 21,000 foreign children are in the Polish educational system, from daycare to university.

_Solidarnoscz tried to carry out monitoring, a survey of the Poles who immigrated in order to attempt to ascertain the conditions in which they live.

On the other hand, citizens arriving from other countries in search of work in Poland are not interested in union membership: they are often afraid that this will be detrimental to them. Through an important initiative, Solidarnoscz was able to see the Law passed that permits migrants to join a union whenever their status is legal in the country and employment market.

A legislative victory that is not so effective on the ground.

It is important and mandatory for trade unions to ensure the right to the same remuneration as a Polish or Ukrainian worker who performs the same work. Foreign citizens should not be excluded from existing employment legislation.

This conference demonstrates that Europe has rhythms and positions concerning very different migratory movements: a result of the current political power in each country.

However, it is also important to emphasize the importance of having, in this EZA network, structures of workers' representatives, which help and contribute in their countries to mitigating more extreme positions in relation to migratory movements, as well as the capacity and the fundamental role played by which trade unions in implementing measures that favour the integration of the immigrant population into the employment market.

“The importance of the participation of immigrants in the public sphere as a means of full integration in the host society”

The full integration of migrants involves the ability to participate and intervene in the public sphere, just like any other citizen in the host country.

At the closing conference, effective measures to promote the civic integration of immigrants and refugees, in accordance with the principles developed by the European Union, were examined, with a central focus on the participation of immigrants in the public sphere, in which they have an active role as citizens with equal rights and duties.

“Social dialogue has proved to be an indispensable instrument for promoting specific policies for the integration of migrant workers,” said Sanches Ruivo, a second-generation immigrant and currently a Councillor on Paris City Council - Conseiller-délégué for European Affairs.

It is also important to emphasize the importance that National Members of Parliament can and should have when elected by emigration circles. They are the face of the sending country, immigrants’ interlocutors when national emigration policies are being defined. Portugal is a good example, given that it has 4 deputies elected by emigration circles in its National Parliament. (Elected by the Portuguese emigrant community)

Carlos Alberto Gonçalves - Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Portuguese Communities - Deputy - Europe constituency, highlighted this matter of representational legitimacy.

Pedro Mota Soares, of the European Affairs Committee [GP Coordinator] - Portuguese National Deputy and candidate for the forthcoming Elections to the European Parliament, pointed out, in general and concerning migratory movements and Europe in particular, that: “We are facing a migratory and political crisis, with the Shengen agreement being called into question and with extremist parties gaining ground.”

He stressed that the Shengen agreement is extremely important, a major breakthrough whose cancellation he is not prepared to support. This would mean a closed Europe of barriers, when what we advocate is an open Europe.

Open, but with security and peace.

The best way to deal with threats is not to close doors but to create co-operation mechanisms, security services to share information, etc.

The words of the President of the European Commission stand out - “Europe no longer has monetary borders. The only border is the external one.

That’s what we have to take care of.”

From the Opening and Closing Session, we can highlight:

Piergiorgio Sciacqua - Co-President of EZA and 1st Vice President of PICM

“Walls are not the solution. We have to look for global rather than individual solutions. Solutions stem from problem-solving and the ability to find solutions. We cannot deny the global problem of social injustice with such a different distribution of basic resources. It is an unfair distribution.”

One of the answers by way of solution is to commit to education as citizenship.

This is the key to overcoming the challenge of co-existence between people of different nationalities, religion, language, culture, etc. by taking advantage of the wealth that cultural diversity offers us in its full potential and which will be the future of Europe.

The idea of ​​carrying out political work has been reinforced and must be carried out by our organizations: “Two months into the European Parliament elections, there are a number of decisions and ways of looking at issues. Some for and against. We need to strengthen the work at the EZA level in order to achieve maximum employment in order to keep abreast of the importance of globalization.

It is important not to forget that European solidarity must be maintained and strengthened; countries like Italy and Greece are being abandoned.”

Seminar Results, Resolutions and Future Directions:

- Participants at the seminar reflected on the importance of strengthening employment market inclusion policies, as employment is one of the main elements for integration.

Consequences/implications for the day-to-day work of workers’ organizations and Seminar participants:

- On the basis of the presentation of the specific situations of different countries and the sharing of experiences of ongoing projects, it is possible to develop strategies to deal with the migration situation. Each participating organization has the tools to replicate some projects in their countries or regions.

Application of Results

- The clarification and correct information on the subject, which is essential for creating security for European citizens and de-constructing myths and misconceptions about migratory movements, was ensured by the speakers' speeches in their opening lectures.

Participants and workers' organizations must in their countries and in particular concerning the most resistant sectors concerning a common immigration policy for Europe, use the data collected to influence political power and public opinion in general.

Multiplier effect

- This was achieved through the impact of the international seminar via social networks (see attached press review). It can therefore be stated that the message was not limited just to participants but went “beyond borders”. Nowadays, we must be aware that the Media and social networks are a powerful vehicle of information, a message transmitter through just a simple “click”.