Delays and serious challenges integrating young refugees who have fled war and persecution risk creating a lost generation, according to a report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).
While the identifies some good practices, it urges EU member states to learn from each other to give these young people an adequate chance in life.
The report draws on interviews across 15 locations in six EU countries: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Sweden.
“The EU and its member states work hard to address migration across Europe, facing serious challenges to integrate the arrivals, particularly young people. But these challenges are not insurmountable,” FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty said in a media statement by the agency.
“Diverse examples highlight how smart and thoughtful policy decisions can go a long way towards overcoming obstacles. Policymakers at both national and EU level need to embrace such strategies to allow this generation become full members of our society.”
Based on interviews with over 160 refugees and 400 frontline workers, FRA’s ‘Integration of young refugees in the EU’ report identifies serious obstacles in existing migrant integration approaches for young people aged between 16 and 24. It also highlights good, local policy initiatives from each country.
Examples include financial support for individual housing of asylum applicants who are part of the reception system, in Vienna, Austria; fast-track integration support to enter the labour market in Sweden; a Youth Guarantee financial assistance scheme available for young refugees in France; and a mobile app in seven languages on life in Germany.
FRA called on EU countries to speed up asylum procedures. “An average of two years to complete the asylum procedure and get a residence permit underlines the need for sufficient financial and human resources to process claims on time. It would allow applicants with a high chance of approval start their integration as early as possible.”
It also called for limiting family reunification bureaucracy. Family members had to take expensive trips through war-torn regions to reach the nearest embassy in a neighbouring country to apply. Swift and affordable family reunification rules are needed, the agency said.
It called for providing proper housing: “Some people lived on the streets throughout the asylum procedure. Refugee housing policies should cope with peak arrivals, and meet education and employment needs to minimise disruption due to relocations.”
Mental healthcare should be improved, the agency said.
“Already traumatised refugees are not able to sleep, drink or eat as they wait to be processed. This calls for swift and efficient identification, referral and treatment of mental health issues, including training for frontline workers.”
Education should be enhanced, FRA said.
Some children have to wait one year to attend compulsory school. “Children need to be in mainstream education systems as early as possible.”
Asylum applicants should be granted early access to education, vocational training and employment to prevent criminals pushing them into a life of crime, FRA said.
(Photo: J Owens/VOA)