The European Court of Auditors said on May 17 that it had identified a number of challenges, including delays, discrimination and incomplete policies, to the integration of migrants from outside the EU into society, where further EU action is needed.
The challenges are set out in a new briefing paper on EU action to support the integration of those living legally in the EU but without EU citizenship, such as people migrating for the purposes of employment, family reunification or research, asylum seekers and refugees. The briefing paper does not cover people residing illegally in the EU.
There are more than 21 million people legally residing in EU territory without EU citizenship.
About four per cent of the EU population are migrants from outside the EU. Every year, some of them become EU nationals. In the period from 2013 to 2016, about 3.2 million migrants from outside the EU acquired citizenship of an EU country. Taking into account second-generation migrants, about 18 per cent of the population residing in the EU has a migrant background.
“The long-term impact of the recent inflow of migrants will depend on how well they are integrated into European society. We have identified seven challenges to their integration that need to be addressed by the member states and the EU,” said Iliana Ivanova, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the briefing paper.
While the integration of migrants is mainly the responsibility of the member states, the EU plays an important role in providing support and incentives. As well as promoting the exchange of good practice, the EU has been providing funding and helping to develop migration and anti-discrimination policies.
The main challenges to integration identified by the auditors are:
Delays – The earlier integration starts, the more likely it is to be successful. But the rules applied to migrants are not the same in all EU countries, a factor leading migrants to move between countries and delaying the start of the integration process. In addition, it sometimes takes a long time to process applications.
Discrimination – Despite EU legislation promoting equal rights and non-discrimination, immigration by people from outside the EU continues to arouse negative feelings for many Europeans. In some EU countries, this has a negative impact on migrant integration.
Funding – Several EU funds can finance integration measures but the total amount being spent is not known. Since 2015, the EU has mobilised more than five billion euro of additional funding to deal with the increase in migration flows, of which more than 100 million euro was allocated to integration.
In 2017, member states declared that in order to integrate migrants, they needed additional resources of about 450 million euro from the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund.
Integration policies should be based on a sound assessment of needs and funded adequately, say the auditors.
Lack of commitment – In 2016, the European Commission developed an action plan with 52 measures at EU level. As of December 2017, 23 actions had not been completed.
In addition, EU countries are also encouraged to develop specific measures to tackle certain areas, but the Commission does not monitor these measures. The effective implementation of the Action Plan measures depends on the member states’ commitment.
Incomplete policies – The majority of member states have integration policies in place within different policy frameworks.
“But these do not systematically address all groups of migrants and do not always tackle all areas of integration. Integration policies should provide a comprehensive framework to support all migrants across all relevant policy areas.”
Lack of monitoring – Most EU countries do not have a complete overview of the number of migrants supported or of the amount spent on integration measures.
“At national level, there are various weaknesses in monitoring. The Commission is currently proposing the creation of dedicated indicators, which may facilitate the development of evidence-based policymaking.”
Complexity – Different EU funds may finance the same type of action for the same target group.
There are more than 400 different entities involved in managing measures for migrant integration in the member states. Most EU countries have a coordination body, but weaknesses exist the in the coordination mechanisms in place.
“Meeting these challenges will require effective, coordinated efforts on the part of all those involved, at EU, national and regional level,” the European Court of Auditors said.