Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

EU reaches out to nationals of migrant origin

  • Migrant women tend to face more obstacles when it comes to jobs, health and education. (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

The European Commission is seeking to better integrate migrants and Europeans with migrant backgrounds into larger society.

The guidelines unveiled on Tuesday (24 November) come on the heels of heated debates over the French concept of secularism.

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"We have to admit that there are and remain risks that extremist organisations prey on the vulnerable and exploit voids left by public services of governmental structures," said commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas.

Schinas said the aim of the latest raft of guidelines, an update from those published in 2016, was "to fill these voids."

It is unclear if any of the EU states will take on the measures proposed, given the lack of any binding legal commitments behind the proposals.

France has seen sharp divides over government policies toward its Muslim minority in the wake of recent terror attacks linked to extremists.

And EU home affairs ministers recently issued a joint-statement that conflates discussions around counter-terrorism and integration.

But the commission argues that integration and inclusion are concepts that cannot be executed from the top down.

"It is not by imposing a Brussels-light diktat that inclusion will happen," noted Schinas.

Ylva Johannson, the EU home affairs commissioner, made similar comments.

"This action plan is here to support member state efforts to be more successful on integration and inclusion," she said, speaking alongside Schinas at a press conference.

"Religion is not a problem. The freedom of religion is part of our common values," she added, noting that, so too, was atheism.

The commission had sought the advice of NGOs and migrants before putting its proposal together.

It also carried out a public consultation, generating the majority of anti-migrant backlash from primarily Slovak responses.

Less than three percent of the people living in Slovakia are migrants, a figure that cuts across Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Poland.

Only 8 percent, or some 34 million out of the EU total population, were born outside the European Union.

And 10 percent of young people born in the EU have at least one foreign-born parent, according to 2017 estimates from the the Paris-based club of wealthy nations, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The commission plan is spread out over a period of six years, ending in 2027 and covers areas like education, job training, health, and housing.

It says that unlike its 2016 proposals covering the same issues, the latest differs in that it also covers EU-born people of migrant origin.

It also wants to narrow in on women and girls, who face greater obstacles to entering the labour market and education.

"I think it also important for example when we offer language courses to make sure that could be combined with child care," said Johannson.

On education, the commission wants to start inclusion lessons in early childhood and will propose a "practical guide" on it sometime next year.

On health, it wants to fund a project to promote health programmes for migrants.

On housing, it seeks to promote non-segregated and affordable housing.

And on jobs, it wants to help ease migrants into the labour market, support entrepreneurs, and have their skills better recognised.

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