This paper is written by MPG Programme Director Thomas Huddleston for the Council of Europe, acting as independent consultant.
“In the wake of the arrival of over one million people seeking protection in recent months, European countries share the common, pressing need to get integration right” said Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, while releasing a report on migrant integration.
“After being consumed by short-term imperatives, such as reception and the processing of asylum claims, European governments have to focus now on the long-term goal of promoting the successful integration of migrants” said Commissioner Muižnieks.
The paper provides guidance to governments and parliaments to design and implement successful integration policies. In particular, it highlights the European standards which govern this field and sets forth a number of concrete recommendations to ease migrants’ integration, with a focus on family reunification, residence rights, language and integration courses, access to the labour market and quality education, effective protection from discrimination and political participation.
Among the most important measures highlighted in the paper is the need to uphold the right to family reunification, which “is a recognised human right that should be guaranteed by all European host states. Governments must remove practical obstacles and make rapid migrant family reunion possible” said the Commissioner.
Another measure proposed is to grant long-term residence to foreign citizens who have legally resided in a given European country for at least five years. “States should facilitate long-term residence as a key starting point for full integration and remove any disproportionate obstacles to obtaining this status and equal rights associated with it.”
In addition, the Commissioner calls on European states to offer free language and integration courses to facilitate migrants’ integration. He also recommends easing rules to allow migrants to access the labour market and ensuring quality education of migrant children, robust anti-discrimination laws and effective participation of migrants in political and civic life, including by granting them the right to vote at local and regional levels.
“Migrants are not a threat, but an opportunity. European countries should face up to the challenge of successful integration and see it as a long-term investment in their stable and secure future.”