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25th Jun 2017

No immigration without integration, says EU commissioner

  • Brussels is seeking ways to integrate third-country immigrants coming to the EU (Photo: European Commission)

As roughly 1.5 million immigrants settle in the EU territory each year, Brussels is set to open up its coffers, providing €825 million over the next seven year to cope with the integration challenges presented by these numbers.

"There can be no immigration without integration", EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said on Thursday (11 May) as the bloc's integration ministers met in the German city of Potsdam to discuss the topical issue, closely intertwined with inter-cultural and inter-religious problems in some EU states.

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Earlier this week, the European Commission gave its blessing to twelve projects, suggesting innovative ways of integrating newcomers from outside the EU.

Among the initiatives - worth €4 million - is a brand-new multi-faith approach trying to counter exclusion of migrant communities by "familiarising religious leaders", including Islamic preachers, with the core of European values and the multicultural and multi-faith environment in the EU".

Another, the so-called one-stop-shop project, foresees socio-cultural mediators, serving as a link between immigrants and their new environment.

In addition, commissioner Frattini has presented the second version of the bloc's 'handbook on integration,' listing various practices across Europe and designed to help EU capitals or local authorities to draw up their integration policies.

In order to broaden an immigrant's housing choices – for example - a municipality in Sicily offers a contribution of up to 50 percent of the expenses for renovation and repairs to landlords who agree to rent out properties to immigrants at set low prices for at least five years.

Meanwhile, in France, to foster economic integration, retired persons act as mentors to young migrants, with 18,000 youths currently in a mentoring situation. Similarly, in Germany there is a network of female mentors who provide professional orientation for young immigrant women leaving school.

Legislative steps

In the weeks to come, the practical toolbox is to be strengthened with several legislative steps linked to international migration, as seven million illegal immigrants are believed to be in EU territory, while an additional 500,000 arrive each year.

Next Wednesday (16 May), Mr Frattini is expected to table a paper on how to promote legal ways of seeking a job in Europe, as well as a piece of law suggesting EU-wide sanctions for companies which hire illegal third-country immigrants.

Later this year, a new package to be called "active participation" will follow, with Mr Frattini saying in Potsdam that "the rights and obligations of immigrants could be derived from this new package".

According to the commissioner, "if an immigrant has a two-year contract, he will be required to learn the local language and the institutional framework of a given country. Those, who stay longer, would have to pass an additional set of requirements prior to receiving permanent residence in a host country."

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