Blog post by Professor Ulrike Brandl (University of Salzburg) and forms part of a series of blog posts examining the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
Objective 16 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration aims to increase the empowerment of migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion. Nine actions are enumerated in order to support the implementation of the goals. These actions aim to make a compromise between the interest of receiving States and migrants and intend to empower migrants but also address receiving societies.
The following blogpost aims to draw conclusions from the first review by analysing State reports and documents submitted by stakeholders with regard to progress made in the achievements of the goals and actions specified in objective 16. The analysis takes the indicators suitable to measure the fulfilment of the objectives into account. It also mentions best practices and critical issues.
1. Reports by stakeholders
Stakeholders’ reports referred to a variety of projects, initiatives and activities aiming to integrate migrants. These reports were mainly influenced by the field of activity of the stakeholders. A summary of the reports reveals that many of the initiatives focus on linguistic integration, on workers’ rights, on the recognition of qualifications and on family reunification.
- Linguistic Integration: Regarding linguistic integration the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe highlighted the Council of Europe’s Action Plan on Refugee and Migrant Children, where linguistic integration is one of the core topics.
- Recognition of qualifications: A further point mentioned in this report is the recognition of qualifications. This very important facet of integration however was not adequately addressed in State reports. According to the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (Lisbon Recognition Convention, CETS 165), which provides in its Art. VII for the recognition of qualifications of refugees, internally displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situations, qualifications of all migrants should be recognised in an appropriate way. The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees (EQPR) and its importance is highlighted as well. This passport is a specially developed format and assessment scheme for refugees, even for those who cannot fully document their qualifications. As the quick and unbureaucratic recognition of qualifications is a key element of integration the conclusions drawn in this report should serve as recommendations for States.
- Family reunification: The Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts referred to the need to increase the access to family reunification. Administrative barriers and obstacles in family reunification proceedings should be abolished. This statement points to the importance of family reunification also mentioned in objectives 5 (i) and 7 (f). The report highlights that family reunification has an extremely positive impact on inclusion and social cohesion.
- Access to social services: The most critical report was submitted by PICUM (Platform Undocumented Migrants). The PICUM report criticises that the eligibility criteria for social services are based on the residence status of individuals. As undocumented migrants to do not fulfil the conditions, the report sees the “risk of fragmenting communities’ and families’ access to services”. According to the report this has led to fatal consequences triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. To exclude undocumented migrants increases the vulnerability of this group. The report also addresses the fact that the EU-report did not mention the New EU Pact on Migration and Asylum and especially its chapter on “supporting integration for more inclusive societies” and to the (at that time still planned) Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for 2021-2027.
- The EU report prepared by the Commission is quite general and only points to progress made with regard to integration. The report refers to numerous activities, there is however neither a direct reference to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum nor to the (at the of the review time still planned) Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for 2021-2027 published by the Commission on 24th November 2020. This is astonishing as integration is a separate chapter in the Pact and the Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027 was in the final phase of drafting when the GCM review report was submitted. Furthermore Chapter 8 of the Pact is a detailed and comprehensive text containing aims and actions to support integration and an evaluation of the previous Action Plan 2016 with a focus on lessons learned.
One key point in the EU report is the fact that many sending countries depend on the contribution of labour migration to their national economies and to poverty alleviation. Therefore, it is seen important to promote cheaper, faster and safer transfer of remittances. Diasporas in the countries of origin should be avoided. Decent and sustainable standards for recruitment and employment of labour migrants should be ensured.
2. Reports submitted by states
Nearly all State reports referred to objective 16. States however did not structure the reports in line with the nine actions contained in objective 16, nor did they mention these actions. This might be the result of the suggested length of the reports contained in the Indicative outline for Member States to review the status of implementation of the GCM at national level and the many details which are listed in the actions.
As already elaborated indicators exist which are suitable to measure the fulfilment of the goals mentioned in objective 16. The indicators for measuring the goals inclusion and social cohesion comprise two main categories. The first category is the level of migrants’ access to social, economic and cultural rights in the receiving state and the second one encompasses references that show the visibility of migrants’ inclusion and their contributions to the positive development of societies of these states.
State reports referred to both categories of indicators. Several reports made a distinction between these categories, others referred to both types of indicators when they mentioned activities carried out. Both approaches are suitable to highlight progress made in supporting integration and detecting deficits. The following insight into State reports starts with an overview over the first category access to rights and then refers to other issues mentioned.
2.1 Level of migrants’ access to social, economic and cultural rights in the receiving state
With regard to the first category several States mentioned the focus on labour rights for migrants and access to education.
- Labour rights: Albania g. pointed to a variety of activities carried out to guarantee rights of workers. According to the report migrants enjoy the same rights as other groups of labour force in Albania. States attracting many more foreign workers than Albania did not make such a detailed reference to worker’s rights as Albania. The Canadian report mentions efforts to ensure that vulnerable migrants and migrant workers are provided with the necessary support. A second important issue in this report is the introduction of a new open work permit authority for temporary foreign workers in 2019.
- Access to education: This is another important factor with regard to reach the targets mentioned in objective 16. Ireland g. highlighted integration in the education system as a model of good practice, which was also mentioned in the 2018 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report. Malta as well referred to the importance of access to education in detail.
As access to education is a right guaranteed by several international treaties, the factual access is obligatory and there is no need to refer to it specifically, see e g. the Belgian report stating that “All minors, regardless of their residence permits, have access to education at all times”. It is instead important to address access to higher education, to language training and to additional support for those in need of help meeting the challenges of active and successful participation in education.
- Voting rights: The only report which stresses access to voting rights is the Belgium This report reveals that third country nationals are allowed to vote under certain conditions in municipal elections since 2016. In the genesis of the GCM political participation was mentioned in the Zero Draft, but already deleted in the Zero Draft Plus. Thus, States were not required to include access to political rights into their reports. Voting rights however are an important step to deepen the integration of third country nationals.
2.2 Visibility of migrants’ inclusion and their contribution to the positive development of societies of receiving states
2.2.1 Measuring integration
There is no reference to indexing the integration of third country nationals in the Compact. The intention to promote participation of States in the Migrant Integration Policy Index was contained in the Zero Draft but then eliminated. It was obviously seen to be too difficult to measure integration.
Germany regularly elaborates an integration index or integration barometer. This index shows the intensity of integration. Canada also referred to the question of measuring integration. According to the report, which cites Gallup’s second international Migrant Acceptance Index survey conducted in 2019, Canada is leading the world on the acceptance of migrants with the highest score of all countries surveyed. The German and Canadian examples show that indexing seems to be a good instrument to make the integration climate visible. Also, the EU Action Plan on Integration 2021-2027 contains the target to develop or update monitoring systems. A new Eurobarometer on integration shall be launched. This indexing should help to identify key challenges and make progress visible.
2.2.2 Compromise between interests and specific integration support
Most State reports did not explicitly refer to the intention to make a compromise between empowerment of migrants and interests of receiving societies. The few reports which mentioned the necessity to reach such a compromise based their strategy on the whole-of-society approach. This approach plays a central role in the recent EU plans and actions to foster integration as well, but was not mentioned in the EU report.
Only the German and Canadian report referred to the necessity to reach a compromise in some detail. The Canadian report is interesting with regard to the reference to the perceptions of the receiving society. The report states that “research shows that while Canadians tend to be in favour of immigration on a national level, they are less likely to see the benefits personally, at the community level.” This statement allows the conclusion that the intention to reach compromise between interests is much more difficult on the regional level, where the receiving society feels directly affected.
The long and detailed German report indicates the National Action Plan for Integration adopted in 2018 as an example of good practice. The Action Plan is the result of a process involving over 300 stakeholders, including more than 75 migrant organizations. The Plan is based on the five phases of a typical migration and integration process: prior to migration, upon arrival, incorporation, growing together and cohesion. The part on pre-departure preparation is particularly interesting and detailed. The structure of the report and the reference to the phases of migration could serve as a good example for future State reports.
The following reports highlight measures but do not specifically refer to the necessity to reach a compromise between interests. Spain pointed to the fact that inclusion and cohesion related activities are traditional priorities in national migratory strategies and that the renewal of the national strategy for citizenship and integration is a high priority target. The Belgium report is an example where specific integration measures are mentioned. These are civic integration courses consisting of social orientation, language lessons and career orientation elements. The measures are accessible for persons holding documents for long-term regular residence in Belgium. Canada mentioned the “Immigration Matters” communications campaign in 2018. The report also underlines the utility of a communication guide that governments and key partners, including civil society and businesses, can use in promoting a balanced narrative on migration and migrants. Azerbaijan highlighted that an “Open Door Day” citizen forum and other awareness raising events took place and that conferences at national level were organized. Also, Moldova made detailed statements about integration measures.
2.2.3 Reference to specific national events and specific (geo)political situations
Several state reports focussed on specific national events and on the specific (geo)political situation which had influence on objective 16. The following examples show that States decided to include these events and their specific reactions into their reports. States obviously see the necessity to mention these events and to emphasize their importance. This could be taken into account when indicative outlines for State reports are elaborated.
- Diaspora and the consequences for States of origin: The consequences of the return of own nationals are an issue in several reports. A number of State reports refer to the need to foster their reintegration. Serbia g. mentioned the consequences of Serbian diaspora and the challenges faced by Serbia with the admission and reintegration of nationals living abroad and their descendants. Preparation for reintegration includes learning of the Serbian language. Also Uzbekistan highlighted the difficulties with the reintegration of Uzbek nationals returning to their State of origin. Moldova mentioned the requests made by many European States for readmission of Moldovan nationals.
- Specific national situations:
Armenia referred to the start of an integration policy in 2016 and a plan of action for its implementation. In 2019, however, when the government initiated the drafting of the ‘2021-2031 Strategy of the Migration Policy of the Republic of Armenia on Regulation of Integration and Reintegration Issues’ the numbers of foreign citizens was already much higher than estimated in the 2016 policy. The report does not reveal the causes of increased immigration. As the State report then mentions a multi stakeholder project ‘Increased resilience of Syrian Armenians and host population’ the conclusion that many Syrians live in Armenia might be legitimate.
Canada is the only State reporting about the needs of Venezuelan migrants and refugees.
Serbia pointed to the fact that the majority of applicants for protection are migrants in transit to Western Europe. They are – according to the report – “refusing both to regulate their stay in Serbia and to benefit from AVRR programs”. The report especially refers to the huge efforts invested in Serbia to support migrants. There is however no mention why despite these efforts obviously most migrants continue their journey to other States. The report also mentions that refugees from former SFRY and IDPs from Kosovo and Metohija enjoy the same rights as nationals.
Serbia also points to the importance of functioning remittances’ transfers as a traditional way of sending money from Serbian emigrants abroad.
The report submitted by the United Kingdom is already based on the situation after Brexit. The report refers to the UK’s new points-based immigration system (starting in January 2021) which is designed “to attract the workers that the UK economy needs to o thrive”. The United Kingdom also mentioned that a new immigration route for British National (Overseas) citizens in Hong Kong will be introduced, which will provide the opportunity to live, work and study in the UK. This reaction is a consequence of the imposition by the Chinese Government of a national security law on Hong Kong.
The Turkish report does not explicitly refer to the high numbers of Syrians living in Turkey. The report as such is quite detailed. With regard to objective 16 the report mentions the Harmonization Strategy Document and the National Action Plan. Turkey reports about the aim to reach social acceptance of migrants and a culture of co-existence. This is interesting as the wording of the report differs from the language of other reports. Though the Turkish report does not really mention this discrepancy the use of the term co-existence seems to be slightly different from inclusion or integration.
The report highlights several difficulties faced by Turkey. One point is the failure to adapt the migrant populations to urban life, which – according to the report – “may both result in extensive unemployment and poverty, and cause tensions among social sectors, destruction of the sense of belonging and confidence, rise in crime rates and spatial distinctions between social groups”.
2.3 Inclusion and integration in times of Covid-19
Of course, the measures adopted to fight the Covid-19 pandemic played a crucial role in the review process. Some State reports referred to these measures and their influence on integration and inclusion. In general, however, State reports did not devote great efforts to report about restrictions although they might have had an influence on the progress of integration measures.
Armenia highlighted that as a consequence of travel restrictions many labour migrants have either returned to or not departed from Armenia and that this situation is a challenge concerning the already high level of unemployment. Canada especially pointed to the measures in place to protect migrant workers.
The PICUM report – already mentioned above – criticises that undocumented migrants do not have access to health care and that this has even worse consequences triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The review of measures undertaken to implement objective 16 reveals a number of interesting conclusions. Several stakeholder reports were quite critical and revealed serious deficits. Several reports point to the necessity to improve linguistic integration, to strengthen workers’ rights, to improve the recognition of qualifications and support family reunification.
As already mentioned the EU report points to progress made with regard to integration and refers to activities. It is not detectable why there is no reference to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum nor to the Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for 2021-2027.
Regarding reports submitted by States, a high willingness to adopt measure to support inclusion and integration and also to report about these measures can be detected. States however mainly mentioned measures to support integration and not to guarantee rights which are already binding legal obligations. This approach is comprehensible as the implementation of international human rights obligations is supervised by the responsible organs established for that purpose. Only workers’ rights and the right to education were dealt with in several reports.
Objective 16 does not refer to specific integration measures. State reports show that States were quite constructive in this area. It is also clearly visible that the special situation in certain States and the geopolitical situation had an enormous influence on measures adopted and also on the wording of the reports submitted. The measures adopted by States vary according to the objectives of the integration policy. In certain areas integration requirements may also result in excluding persons from migration and may e. g. build an impediment for family reunification.
 In the review forum for the UNECE region (the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe region includes 56 countries in Europe, North America, Caucasus, Central Asia and Western Asia) in November 2020 objective 16 was discussed together with objectives 14, 15, 19, 20 and 22 in roundtable 1. Stakeholders, 14 States from the UNECE region and other actors contributed to the first review round. The regional review rounds are held in preparation for the International Migration Review Forum, which is scheduled to take place every four years. The first forum will be held in 2022. In general, we can see that States and stakeholders referred to the goals mentioned in objective 16 in three ways. Some reported just superfluous or even not, some in a more detailed but still in a programmatic way and another group in a detailed way revealing experiences gained during the first period.
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