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New policy brief: ‘Caught by surprise? How underdeveloped refugee integration policies will impede the integration of those displaced by the war in Ukraine’

NIEM’s policy brief entitled ‘Caught by surprise? How underdeveloped refugee integration policies will impede the integration of those displaced by the war in Ukraine’—is now available online. Authored by Alexander Wolffhardt from the Migration Policy Group, the brief examines the effects of EU Member States’ integration policy frameworks upon the long-term integration prospects of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, drawing on NIEM data. 

While acknowledging that the newly introduced provisions under the EU temporary protection directive are distinct from the legal framework in place for those BIPs who receive protection as a result of a positive asylum procedure, the brief makes the point that the status of countries’ overall refugee integration frameworks clearly has repercussions for the ability of member states to adapt to the new circumstances of a massive refugee movement from Ukraine. 


In doing so, the following findings are identified: 

  • Most countries’ refugee integration frameworks are not adequately prepared for the large-scale arrival of refugees, in particular, those which have seen the largest number of arrivals; 
  • This becomes evident, among others, in a lack of national integration strategies for beneficiaries of international protection and of cross-sectoral mainstreaming of refugee integration;  
  • Support for local and regional authorities as well as support for civil society organisations is underdeveloped in most countries; 
  • The lack of preparedness is evident not only in the general integration infrastructure but also in sectors, including: 
  • Language learning — Support for learning the new language is not provided in all countries; and where it is, publicly sponsored language learning courses are often insufficient; 
  • Employment — beyond enjoying equal access to the labour market, dedicated support to BIPs to find employment – and efforts to create a level playing field for BIPs – remain patchy across countries; 
  • Health – Even in the area of health, where access to a system of health coverage is widely assured, the provision of supportive policies which help BIPs to actually receive the health assistance they need remains deeply problematic in many countries. 


In conclusion, the brief outlines two potential future scenarios on how the activation of the EU temporary protection directive will impact the EU asylum and integration debate. While in the first scenario the situation will be marked by further entrenched positions in the CEAS reform debate, in the second scenario a reset would lead to better harmonised refugee integration policies in the EU. Policy shortcomings will become painfully visible as integration challenges on the ground mount in the coming months. As a result, and with a sustained high level of commitment to protecting those who fled the war in Ukraine, member states most affected would have to invest heavily in the upscaling or creation of public refugee integration policies, not the least to relieve civil society from carrying a major burden in the effort. 

Download the full policy brief here

About the Migration Policy Group (MPG)

MPG is an independent think-and-do-tank based in Brussels. MPG’s purpose is rooted in its ability to inspire networks to provide evidence-based projects, research and campaigns in the areas of integration, migration and anti-discrimination.