«NEW VERSION 2007 ADVICE, EDUCATION AND TRAINING FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS 1. THE PROBLEM Access to advice, education and training is an essential part of ...»
NEW VERSION 2007
ADVICE, EDUCATION AND TRAINING FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS
1. THE PROBLEM
Access to advice, education and training is an essential part of the socio-vocational integration
process of asylum seekers. Newcomers arriving in a new country need basic information on the
host society concerned, including information about how things work, ‘do’s and don’ts’ and
services available. Language training is essential in order to be able to go about everyday life and function independently. Vocational training can enhance existing skills and qualifications and bridge any gaps in the training or experience needed to find eventual employment.
Legal restrictions Of all the disadvantaged groups under the EQUAL Community Initiative, asylum seekers are the least empowered, having no official status in the host country and only limited rights. In many EU Member States, asylum seekers have no or only restricted access to education and training. The Reception Directive encourages the access of asylum seekers to vocational training. Several Member States have lifted their earlier legal restrictions to such access, and are providing opportunities in mainstream education and training institutes or through the development of specific courses. Improvements are also being made to services aimed to inform asylum seekers on education and training possibilities, as well as their subsequent labour market integration.
There are, however, still many asylum seekers in the EU who cannot take part in education and training.
Other restrictions Having just arrived in the host society, asylum seekers do not often have easy access to information and as a result do not know where to find information on language courses and other educational and training opportunities. Counselling and mediation services aiming to assist jobseekers in their job search and develop their professional skills are not accessible to asylum seekers or not tailored to their specific needs. In many Member States, education and training programmes aiming to assist asylum seekers’ integration into the labour market are not available.
These missed opportunities and inconsistencies in the provision of advice, education and training for asylum seekers lead to dependence and as a result, to high costs to support and host asylum seekers.
The shortening of the application process in many countries has made it difficult for asylum seekers to take part in education and training activities that really make a difference.
Organisations providing education and training have had to reduce the duration of their courses and change the content, prioritising what they considered to be key elements to the further integration or reintegration of their participants. Some opt for language skills, whilst others place major efforts on vocational development and practical experiences. These obstacles can be detrimental not only to asylum seekers’ integration into the new society but also to their health and well-being. Education and training can offer opportunities to asylum seekers to not only gain useful and valuable skills, but also promote their human dignity as well as contributing to the host society.
2. POLICY RELEVANCE
THE EUROPEAN NATURE OF THE ISSUE2.1.
European projections1 indicate that population growth in the EU until 2025 will be mainly due to net migration, as the total number of deaths will outnumber the total births from 2010. After 2025 the effects of net migration will cease to outweigh the natural decrease. This will have serious repercussions on the number of employed people in the EU given that the share of population of working age is expected to decrease strongly, from 67.4% in 2004 to 56.7% in 2050, a total fall of 52 million. The decline of the overall population is estimated to start by 2025 but the working population will already start its decrease already by 2011. Some Member States are already experiencing a decline in the working age population, such as Germany, Hungary and Latvia.
The demographic trends will not affect all Member States to the same degree. Some sectors will also be more affected than others. However, there is overall consensus within the EU that these trends should be addressed in a coordinated and effective way.
Although the number of asylum seekers is relatively low in relation to the total EU workforce, many of those requesting protection are often qualified workers with skills that could bring social and economic benefits, and address skills shortages which are occurring across the EU.
EU POLICY FRAMEWORK2.2.
The Asylum Seekers Theme (ETG5) was included in EQUAL at a time when EU policy makers were discussing the directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers, which is one element of the establishment of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). This directive was adopted in January 2003 and the deadline for implementation by Member States was set to February 2005. Article 12 of the directive states that “Member States may allow applicants for asylum access to vocational training irrespective of whether the applicant has access to the labour market”. It will therefore be important to demonstrate to Member States the benefits of allowing asylum seekers such access.
The new Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, and in particular the employment guidelines, are placing emphasis on increasing the competitiveness of the EU and dealing with the demographic evolution by making more effective use of the migrant work force. Third-country nationals can make an important contribution to satisfying current and future labour market needs and therefore ensure economic stability and growth. The Policy Plan on Legal Migration includes a set of proposals and a roadmap to actions and legislative initiatives the European Commission intends to take in this area. It is based on an extensive consultation exercise following the Green Paper on an EU approach to managing economic migration. The Plan envisages the development and updating of existing legislation concerning the entry and residence of migrants, the provision of a legal basis for the European Migration Network and further activities in the area of integration.
The latter includes the implementation of measures via the European Social Fund and the European Year of Equal Opportunities (2007). Even though the integration of asylum seekers, thus making effective use of their potential, may not be formally recognised in the Strategy and the Policy Plan, there is certainly scope for Member States to include them in the European Social Fund integration measures.
In 2005 the Commission adopted the Common Agenda for Integration, a Communication aimed at establishing a coherent European framework for the integration of third country nationals. The Communication meant to strengthen the Common Basic Principles on Integration agreed by JHA Council in November 2004. The latter presents integration as a two-way process, emphasising the need for civic orientation and education, intercultural learning and interaction between migrants and citizens.
Policy Plan on Legal Migration, DG Justice, Freedom and Security, December 2005. Based on Eurostat data and projections.
The Social Inclusion Process is another important EU policy process which highlights the exclusion faced by migrants and aims to promote their social integration. It emphasises that the improved integration of immigrants requires building the capacity of those who work with them and improving the quality of services and support geared towards their insertion into the labour market. Asylum seekers are not included in the European Employment Strategy but Member States are increasingly promoting the integration of all disadvantaged groups, including migrant workers and ethnic minorities.
The ETG5 is concerned with identifying good practice and policy lessons from EQUAL which affect the social and vocational integration of asylum seekers in the EU. The education and training of asylum seekers is a relatively new area and there are marked differences in national regulatory frameworks with regard to access to courses and programmes. Activities for this target group had earlier mainly focused on providing for basic needs such as accommodation, food, and healthcare, and most of the literature on asylum has focused on policy, legislation and procedures.
3. NEW SOLUTIONS: GOOD PRACTICE FROM EQUAL
3.1. FACTORS THAT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE Nearly 85% of the 61 EQUAL partnerships operating in Round 2 are implementing activities in the area of advice, education and training. This includes general orientation and face-to-face counselling, activities to encourage empowerment and self-confidence of asylum seekers, education, training programmes and courses, on-the-job training and skills assessments.
Asylum seekers, as well as practitioners and organisations working with asylum seekers, are clearly benefiting from the EQUAL programme. The target numbers have been exceeded for many of the interventions implemented by the DPs, especially in the field of language courses.
Several DPs have therefore started additional courses compared to their original plan. Innovative projects have been developed within various areas, often in modular form combining counselling, guidance and advice on the labour market and other courses. Some have also developed training packages and methods including on-the-job training, study visits, competency programmes and awareness raising activities. The following key success factors for promoting the provision of
advice, education and training for asylum seekers have been identified:
Integrating language teaching into a vocational programme and/or on-the-job training is not only cost-effective: it is also empowering for asylum seekers and speeds up their eventual integration. Many DP activities have combined language training with the acquisition of other skills such as computing or in the context of vocational training programmes.
The development of specific vocational programmes for asylum seekers facilitates the learning process and enables them to better “profile” themselves on the labour market.
Several DPs have described programmes which are targeted at the individual needs of asylum seekers as especially positive. The courses, methods and modules are tailored according to individual needs using flexible training methods and subjects.
Traineeships and other forms of work placements are a first and important step to integration into the labour market which can also lead to “real ” employment.
Overall, the motivation of asylum seekers participating in education and training activities is very high. Many had passed a long period of inactivity which affected their self-esteem and made them feel excluded from society. In particular, the direct involvement of asylum seekers in developing and running the activities has proved positive in terms of creating new models of empowerment for the target group. Positive outcomes for asylum seekers observed by DPs include improved language skills, health, self-esteem and motivation, less isolation and improved knowledge about the host society and increased integration.
3.2. GOOD PRACTICE FROM EQUAL The European Thematic Group (ETG5) on Asylum Seekers organised in November 2003 a practice event on Advice, Education and Training which saw the active participation of nearly all Development Partnerships active under Round 1. Following a first call for good practices followed by initial validation by the ETG5, this event provided an opportunity for DPs to present and share successful examples of good practice, methods and processes concerning the advice, education and training of asylum seekers, and to compare them with other DP activities, while identifying complementarities and synergies between them.
The Swedish authority responsible for EQUAL, called the ESF Council, is planning a European Asylum Policy Forum on 22-24 May 2007 in the city of Malmö. One of the three main seminars and several workshops will be dedicated to the presentation and discussions on EQUAL good practices in the area of Advice, Education and Training. Specific attention will be placed on the extent to which the EQUAL practices have contributed to the adoption of measures at Member State level that go beyond the minimum standards of the Reception Directive. Several EQUAL partnerships will be invited to showcase at the event.
The work undertaken under the sub-theme of advice, education and training has revealed the
following key principles for successful practices:
Language training combined with a vocational programme and/or on-the-job training is an effective way to speed-up the integration process.
Learning the language of a host country is an important element of integration, as it allows asylum seekers to become self-reliant in the host society and to communicate with those around them. Evidence from DP practices shows that asylum seekers learn a language quicker when their linguistic skills are directly applied in the context of vocational training or in a work environment. Civic education, including intercultural learning, also helps asylum seekers to better understand the host society.
For example, the EPIMA DP (Austria) helped young asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors, to learn German in combination with vocational training and practical work experiences. The group of 14 young people (between 16 and 23) could not speak any German when they arrived in Austria and felt excluded and little understood. Thanks to the specific module-based courses they have been able to master the language and, more importantly, learn all essential words and expression in the vocational area of their interest, such as car mechanics or hairdressing. Through the on-the-job training, they had a chance to further improve their language and to learn new vocational skills. Multi-media classes allowed them to communicate with people all over the world. The training module has given participants the possibility to integrate in the host community and to prepare themselves for entering the labour market in sectors they are interested in.