Integration is a two-way process. Obviously, migrants and refugees have to actually want to integrate into society, learning the local language and adapting to the customs and social mores of their host country. Inevitably, they will need to make some changes if they want to fit in.

However, it’s easy to use “integration” as code for “assimilation”, meaning an expectation that migrants should abandon their culture completely and become essentially indistinguishable from anyone else within society. This approach ignores the great diversity that has always existed within Europe (even before the migrant and refugee crisis), and is usually put forward as an excuse simply to keep people out.

So, how can Europe strike the right balance? Should integration support be provided as early as possible in the asylum or migration process? Is language the biggest barrier to integration? How can Europe absorb and integrate new arrivals into society without forcing them to give up their own cultural identities?

In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis will be on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.

After our events in MaltaBudapest, and Brussels, our fourth event took place in Valletta, Malta. Organised in partnership with the Migrant Network and Leading Talks, experts and citizens joined together in a discussion on the challenges of integrating refugees in European societies and spoke about Malta’s approach to integrating migrants and refugees.

Speakers of the event were Silvan Agius, Director of the Human Rights and Integration Directorate at the Maltese Ministry for Social Dialogue and Civil Liberties (currently overseeing Malta’s integration strategy); Dr Maria Pisani, senior lecturer at University of Malta and co-founder of the Integra FoundationMohammed Hassan, founding member of Spark15, a youth refugee organisation in Malta; and Nagmeldeen Arbab, member of the Sudanese Migrants Association.

You can watch a video of the full event here:

How can Europe make it easier for migrants and refugees to integrate? Is language the biggest barrier to integration? Should integration support be provided as early as possible in the asylum or migration process? What are some of the biggest challenges for integrating people into society? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

The Debating Europe “Cities & Refugees” project is co-funded by the European Union’s “Europe for Citizens” program.
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Ann Wuyts
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

115 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. José Bessa da Silva

    Again? Just don’t force them to go where they don’t want to go, nor send they where locals don’t want them to be. Simple isn’t it?

  2. José Bessa da Silva

    Again? Just don’t force them to go where they don’t want to go, nor send them where locals don’t want them to be. Simple isn’t it?

    • Max Berre

      Interesting theory. Especially coming from a guy whose country used to be pretty integrated.

    • Matej Zaggy Zagorc

      Coming from a guy who sees people daily that moved here, have worked and lived here for decades and won’t even speak the language.

    • Andrian Marinov

      True. We dont want muslims especially when we already got enough of them. Leftovers from the 500 years under Ottoman butchery. Dont we first need to learn how to live altogether as one in Europe and recognise each other as equals before we start getting people from the third world? Why is there even a question of integrating refugees? They are refugees, here till the war ends.

    • Jose Quintans

      Adrian Marinov, I absolutely agree.
      Besides that, ‘refugee’ is not a default status for every immigrant, quite the contrary is a legal status that’s granted following a process well defined by UN conventions, which is not being respected.

      UN conventions also state that refugees shall not work in the local markets, and shall not be forced to integrate, and they shall go back to their homelands when the war is over.

      Cyberpol sources state that 50000+ members of ISIS have entered Europe from the East borders, no estimates available about South borders.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Said like a true social justice warrior bigot.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Christos Derventlis We are leaving the pointless EU, not Europe. I strongly believe you should read the title of the page before posting your spam.

    • Christos Derventlis

      Ivan Burrows Again, I am asking: Are you sure you are working at the European Parliament?

    • Ivan Burrows

      Christos Derventlis (Troll) Do you have a problem with it ?

    • Christos Derventlis

      Ivan Burrows No I don’t, but you have a problem with confirming it?

    • Ivan Burrows

      Christos Derventlis (Troll) I should confirm anything to an SJW bigot because ?

    • Christos Derventlis

      I’m sorry Ivan Burrows , but if you continue to express publicly statements like “Multiculturalism is a dangerous lie”, I will have to report you to the European Parliament . Of course, you are free to express all your views, but if an EU employee has such views and promotes them publicly, I think their department should know.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Christos Derventlis (Troll) lol, you are funny.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Christos Derventlis ( Troll) There you go comrade, I’ve changed it just for you lol

    • Christos Derventlis

      Ivan Burrows Not getting into more discussion. Have a good, brightly blue european day! 🇪🇺

    • Max Berre

      Maybe the whole affair has gotten quite predictable. But I can’t lie, the popcorn is so tasty

    • Barbara Szela Lesniak

      Christos Derventlis Do you really expect EU employees to share just one – the proper one, in your view, opinion on everything? If that’s not totalitarian system then what is it? The sick thing is that you’re accepting multiculturalism but you’re not able to accept views different from yours. Anyone granted you the right to impose your views on other EU people? And please, don’t talk about Polexit. Learn history instead.

    • Christos Derventlis

      Barbara Szela Lesniak I am just saying that it is unacceptable for a person to work for the european union on the one hand (and have all the benefits – salary, vacation, insurance, maybe less tax etc.) and to criticize the union from its core on the other hand. Isn’t it obvious that there is a conflict of interests here? Surely, we all do have our views and we SHOULD be able to express them – but expressing them also has consequences. I cannot work at a puppy mill and present myself as the absolute volunteer in dog shelters. I mean nothing more, nothing less. And let’s be honest: you would not hire someone who wants to see you fail. As clear as that.

    • Christos Derventlis

      Athanasios Tempridis για να μιλάμε όμορφα, δε γνωριζόμαστε κ από χθες

    • Jose Quintans

      Christos Derventlis, Cyberpol sources state that 50000+ members of ISIS have entered Europe from the East borders, no estimates available about South borders.

      How does that fit in your ideology?

      You shall choose, Europe or chaos, before we have to go through hell to save our homeland.

    • Jose Quintans

      Barbara Szela Lesniak, I liked how you highlighted one of the sick contradictions of the leftists “you’re accepting multiculturalism but you’re not able to accept views different from yours”.

      The Polish army saved Europe once, and Poland is now bravely standing for the Europeans.

      God bless Europe.

    • Jose Quintans

      Christos Derventlis, Ivan Burrows has the right to work in the EU and criticize it from inside.

      Indeed it is a healthy thing to hear critic voices, e.g. UK business culture is quite different from continental Europe, and we could learn so much from them in that regard.

      God bless Europe.

    • Paul X

      @Christos Derventlis

      If you believe it is unacceptable for someone working within the EU to be critical of its policies and actions then god help us all….you do know what totalitarian government is I assume?

    • Karolina

      He’s a completely unreliable name caller that posts propaganda lines of no substance. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The embodiment of a troll. He might be getting paid by the Kremlin to do it. The Russians hate the EU because it prevents them from making money out of Eastern Europe. They don;t debate. They just try to cause confusion and brainwash with random propaganda-style lines like that.

    • bert van santen

      Xenophobic comments…………..
      Tell Your “solution” to the families victims of Berlin, Manchester, Brussel, Oslo Paris etc.

  3. Ivan Burrows

    Asking that question just proves you have no idea what Islam is, Muslims are not required to ‘integrate’, they expect the country they are in to conform to their Islamic ideology. Multiculturalism is a dangerous lie.

    • Christos Derventlis

      Are you sure you are working at the European Parliament?

    • Ivan Burrows

      Christos Derventlis (Troll) What has that got to do with the story or my post ?

    • Anestis Samos

      Ivan Burrows According to the EU-lovers, you DO NOT have a place to the EU instrumentalities unless you believe in and accept the extermination οf nations and the islamization of our continent.Be aware of the Coudenhove-Kalergi project for Europe…Friendly…

    • Christos Derventlis

      Anestis Samos I don’t know about the rest EU-lovers, but THIS EU lover (me) has never said that. I have clearly stated what I meant in another comment.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Christos Derventlis No you haven’t, all you have done is insult & troll people who do not share your love of the failed European experiment.

    • Anestis Samos

      Christos Derventlis I am quite sure I did not mention anything about you, did I..?

    • Christos Derventlis

      Anestis Samos Nope, you didn’t, at least directly. That’s why I made my position clear and separated myself from those you were referring to :)

    • Max Berre

      pretty sure that is the case in the more modern countries in europe.

  4. Stefania Portici

    il problema di integrazione è sopratutto economico . Se si portano avanti misure di austerità come i criminali ( neoliberisti ed ordoliberisti) stanno facendo materialmente da oltre 10 anni , il popolo è ridotto alla fame e nel prossimo , chiunque sia non vede una persona da integrare o condividere ma una competizione per la sopravvivenza . Sapete che la competizione è vietata nella Costituzione italiana del 1948 ? Grazie ai criminali neoliberisti prima e agli ordoliberisti in seguito hanno riportato la competizione cattiva nel mondo quella che fece scaturire le guerre . Tutto questo è terribile

    • Stefania Portici

      The integration problem is particularly economical. If austerity measures are being pursued, as criminals (neoliberists and ordiberists) have been doing material for more than 10 years, the people are getting hungry and in the next, whoever does not see a person to integrate or share but a survival competition. Do you know that the competition is forbidden in the Italian Constitution of 1948? Thanks to the neoliberal criminals before and the ordoliberists subsequently reported the bad competition in the world that led to the wars. All this is terrible

  5. Viktor Plhak

    Very easy, more immigrants to Germany and after that remain to integrate just German minority. And for real there is no solution, they come for money, not for work or assimilate.

    • Max Berre

      An interesting, but fictional theory that just does not seem to be supported by the economic figures.

    • Dietmar Hartmann

      Max Berre No my dear, if you are able to look at Syrian or Egypt TV, you know more!

  6. Andrea Scacchi

    Ahahah who said that muslims want to integrates? They do not want.They want their laws.. this is not integration.

    • Stefania Portici

      prima dell’integrazione viene il rispetto

  7. Barbara Szela Lesniak

    How can you integrate when sb doesn’t want to? Debating Europe, why don’t you ask or haven’t you asked Europeans if they want or are able to accept Angela Merkel’s guests? What arrogance!

    • Max Berre

      To be fair, MOST of Europe’s leaders wanted to ignore the need to establish order in the European near-abroad. So…. enjoy the consequences of your collective laziness and inaction.

    • Barbara Szela Lesniak

      Isn’t it Angela Merkel who’s personally responsible for inviting any number of non-European immigrants from outside Schengen area, and not only Syrians, evading all procedures, including lack of EU borders protection and checking the immigrants’ identity? In fact, Poland is one very few UE countries that have been standing against this policy and refuse to accept Muslim immigrants; we alrealdy have a big number of Ukrainian refugees to support.

  8. Sonya Gineva

    Integration? Are you kidding? You can integrate only someone who wants to be integrated. The vast majority of these people come to take and take over.

    • Max Berre

      take over, you say?

    • Max Berre

      It’s easy to whine that on the internet. But unless you in the Syrian desert wearing a blue helmet and a rifle, it’ll just be meaningless internet whining

    • Daniel Meternă

      Max Berre you said that you have study an University? What exactly, cleaning windows and bathrooms? Jeez man, wake up! Is not difficult at all, but is became difficult because of the merkel decision, she wants migrants, so, starting from here we can discus anything!

    • Daniel Meternă

      José Bessa da Silva do you know my personal case? So shut up!

  9. Christofer Catilan

    This question has no real answers except pure fiktion :-) It would be worth Nobel prize at least if someone could give a reliable answer. This is called ideological and political speculations with a lot of idealism. Human behaviour is so complex and especially when we have to speculate on ethnic, cultural and religious issues which influence our behaviour.

  10. Franck Legon

    Why can’t the elite understand they don’t want to integrate and we neither don’t want them in ? The international shareholders profits growth through importing customers is not a legitimate reason for overpopulating our already joblacking countries, it will cause interethnic and interreligious fights, increasing poverty will lead to economic classes riots, it’s also a sure way to increase pollution with more people depending on our nocive economic system.

    • Max Berre

      Mostly because the elite don’t concern themselves with fictional internet-conspiracy theories :P

    • Franck Legon

      If you consider the governants willing and anounced policy for economic growth a conspiracy theory, your not even qualified to have an opinion. Try to read some books once.

  11. Max Berre

    The easiest way to do that would be to focus on the economic and labour-market part of it. Active Labour-Market-Policy, basically.

  12. Paweł Kunio

    It is not about making it easier to integrate. Real integration is tough process. Like require speaking the mother tongue to get the citizenship as very basic requirement etc.

  13. Silvano Benedetti

    We don’t need them and, we do not want them, as integration is impossible, since Islam it is not a religion but it is a LAW !! And we do not want to change our LAW just to please them !!!

  14. Doru Beldiman

    Europe should help to push for those governments to eliminate corruption in their countries. Why Europe waited so long to make a move against ISIS?

  15. Peter Samuel Legon

    They don’t want to integrate, we will have to become more primitive to allow for them. Women’s Lib will be hit especially hard, as will free speech and debate.

  16. Octavian Cadar

    They will never be completely integrated into european society, the hard part is the deferrences between our culture and the number of them. I want to give you an example, all strongly minorities who’s maintain their culture speaking the same languace beetwen them being many persons in a area, marry people from the same minority. One single solution that could make them to assimilate and intagrate them is education, but they must be spread in that way , majority could assimilate them.

  17. Jude De Froissard

    Why do you absolutely want them to integrate. …are you part of a plan to bring them and take advantage of the bad situation where they come from?…nobody likes to be a refugee.. They want their country back and their way living.

  18. jakov

    First step to integrate in Europe for them is to convert to Christianity.

  19. Franck Legon

    Expect or hope for integration is a lie. Why: 1- Every study in the matter will show you that the more people of a foreign culture in a country, the less they integrate. Because they don’t need it, above an amount of individuals from same origin they have a comunity of their own, so don’t need to integrate the original country comunity. 2-The quantity of foreigners already living here outreaches the limit under which integration occures. How: The french story: In the fifties, hundreds thousands imigrants with arabic-moslem culture from the former colony came for work and setlled, with a thirst for integration for them and their children going on in the sixties. While groing up to 2 millions in the seventies, 3 in the eighties, they began to form a comunity, blocks, whole suburbs areas, where the newcomers didn’t need to integrate to french culture. 4 millions in the nineties, 5 in the 2000’s, up to six now. What do we see happens ? The new imigrants from arabic-moslem areas don’t integrate anymore, they ask for change in french law to comply with their original culture. More, they separate (or de-integrate), french born from the 3rd and 4th generation of 50’s settlers crave for their “origins and religious rights”, go salafists; proselyth and disrespectful of french law, about peoples egality, with jews, women, non-believers. All of the 168 deaths from islamic terrorism in France for this past year have been killed by 3rd or 4th generation “de-integrated” french born young men claiming islam reign and war against their own country. The only thing that will occure with imigration in EU is comunautarization, divided peoples. So what’s the point in letting them in ? -More customers to support economic growth at the shareholders only profit. -Pressure the salaries down. – Less democracy, services and comfort demanding people. -Divided people easy to manipulate by turning economical-political problems debate to media teased interethnic, interracial and interreligious problems. -Religion rise: religion is accepting a law coming from the top of the pyramid as it’s holly and can’t be discussed, as opposed to democracy that intends to make the exact opposite, religion is a tool for the ruling ones in any time and place in history.

  20. Iosif Cristian

    That’s easy Buy tickets to send them back home … I for one I’m ready to donate for this just cause!

  21. Athanasios Tempridis

    i dont want to integrate them I WANT TO GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY RIGHT NOW. OMG with this stupid policy (open no borders-no borders) you will bring chaos and civil wars in Europe

  22. Sari Bruno

    The point is that many of them don´t really wish to integrate in the sense as we understand integration. Some of them follow Sharia law, or Islamic law; the outcome of which is a state within the state. On the other hand, the best way to integrate is employment and education; but even in this case it is first and most of all the person himself who has to be interested to integrate and accept to live here respecting our rules.

  23. catherine benning

    How can Europe make it easier for migrants and refugees to integrate?

    They should not make it easy. They should not take them in under any circumstances. And should return those already here who refuse to adopt Western lifestyle..

    Migrants and refugees must be returned to their countries to fight for their own rights. From that emancipation, they must make do, as we have to and form a living, then demand the kind of society they want to live in, amongst their own people and culture. Europe is not a free for all under threat of death. Which is the game they play once they reach our shores. And the reason they come it with Europe is, we do not cut off heads, hands and hang people. And they know it. Neither do we have the honour killing ethos for women who won’t marry the choice of heartless, mercenary parents. We also do not mutilate the clitoris of the female, children or adults. Nor cover them from head to toe, so they cannot breathe freely. Also we do not marry children off to old men who pay money to our families. (Except of course when early teenage boys, akin to Macron, have an Oedipus complex and at fifteen are fiddled with by their teaches. Mrs Macron got lucky and found a boy whose parents didn’t have her slung in jail. Which they should have) Immigrants and refugees are mostly in the mind set of abuse. They must go home and teach their own citizens how to be the way we are in Europe. And once they have mastered the art of living in this kind of society maybe their countries will be fit for us to feel we too could settle there and live off of their benefits. Now that would make a nice change, would it not?

  24. Andrew Potts

    Its an organic process, nobody integrates because somebody tells them too. If you have to many to soon then integration does not happen but ghetto-ism does. Integration happen by necessity, In the global world integration is even less likely because communication with the home land and others of the same grouping is very easy. The idea all migrants want to, need to or desire to is a myth. Certainly mass migration could easily be the end of smaller, diverse European Nations with small populations. But you will not find a thread from the EU on protecting smaller European Nations Cultural Identity. I’m not sure why.

  25. Wiktoria Anilom

    By condemning EU countries who contribute to the war with the business…by stop bombing their countries..for instance

    • Tiromanzino May

      What EU countries are bombarding them? Where did you get that pro terrorist propaganda? Which EU countries are bombing Marocco, Afghanistan, Argelato, Egipt or even Syria?.

      Stop the ISIS propaganda..

  26. Stephen Mutebi

    European leaders and the UN they must remove all dictators from the countries where the peoples they don’t have democracy,mostly in Africans countries and Asia

  27. Emanuel Denis

    Dividing them in the correct way (by economy and surface) . This continuous flow of migrants started massively on early 2011 and after more than six years Y O U , European Unions still have to do something . I don’t get it ,why certain E.U states don’t host migrants even are rich and able to do it , but in change Poor Italy is living a nightmare and many people are getting advantage of the situation to make their own thing (money). H A T E , R A C I S M and F E A R are being used for obtaining V O T E S . Can’t really Romania take charge of a little number of refugees? Same for any single EU state . Shame on you !

    • José Bessa da Silva

      “Poor Italy” was incompetent with it’s borders and thus it is “Poor” Italy’s problem to deal with. I don’t have to waste taxes to help Italy dealing with the result of it’s own incompetence. This is not a EU issue, the EU is not a country nor it will ever be. Sham on YOU people that think your problems are someone else’s…

  28. Matej Mlinarič

    Only chance that some might have to contribute is by removing those. There is no other alternative cause as long those remain they will use our good will against our way of life. Those that want to impose sharia law have to be permanently removed. No negotiations and no excuses. If you are not willing to keep this out from our societies then you are useless and its time for someone else to take control to clean up your mess.

  29. Galina Dimitrova Valcheva

    How can Europe take care of its own citizens?? Of what I can see, there are plenty of people needing help! Sick and tired of your so called refugees!

  30. Marko Martinović

    By making it mandatory for living here, or deportation. It will work incredibly well and fast. Nothing else will

  31. Maral Hajenian

    Why to integrate?? Αnd why has it become such an important issue ??? Isn’t it enough all the blasts ??

    • Max Berre

      Now I can see what the effects of Portugal’s drug legalization policy are. :P

  32. Rock The Revolutionary

    Entire nations are plunged into disaster. Entire social classes are sentenced to extreme poverty. Families are torn apart. People are left destitute. Young people are turning to drugs. Crime rates sore. People are committing suicide. When the way an economy functions brings such tragic results we are not talking about an economy any more but war. We are not talking about real competition but premeditated murder. Given that the entire situation is a result of the decisions made by some people, it is only natural that we can talk about crimes against humanity.We want to escape out of poverty. We want collaborationist politicians, corrupt government officials, robbers intertwined bankers and usurers to go to jail . We want those who ” bleed ” the people to ” bleed ” . , Those who laughed against them, to cry . We want back our country’s . We want back our lives. ……… The three aims of the tyrant. These are, (1) the humiliation of his subjects; he knows that a mean-spirited man will not conspire against anybody; (2) the creation of mistrust among them; for a tyrant is not overthrown until men begin to have confidence in one another; and this is the reason why tyrants are at war with the good; they are under the idea that their power is endangered by them, not only because they would not be ruled despotically but also because they are loyal to one another, and to other men, and do not inform against one another or against other men; (3) the tyrant desires that his subjects shall be incapable of action, for no one attempts what is impossible, and they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny, if they are powerless. Under these three heads the whole policy of a tyrant may be summed up, and to one or other of them all his ideas may be referred: (1) he sows distrust among his subjects; (2) he takes away their power; (3) he humbles them. Aristotle : The rule of law is the principle that no one is exempt from the law, even those who are in a position of power. The rule of law can serve as a safeguard against tyranny, because just laws ensure that rulers do not become corrupt. Aristotle

  33. Miro Perinić

    These are total nonsense. Because of this, the European Union has no future. This is not what the citizens of Europe need. What drives us some hollow heads in the wrong direction has its price. You’ve forgotten your roots and you do not know where you are going. Every state needs to be in the right, Left politics bring conflicts and problems, “Dumb, stupid, stupid”

  34. diogenes

    Integration of refugees should start with learning history.
    EU citizens should also learn it.
    The EU was made to prevent war in Europe.
    The anti EU faction wants old fashioned nationalism and war.
    They better ask their great grandparents and refugees escaping what war is like.

    • Liechtenstein Bro

      No, anti-EU faction doesn’t want war, we just don’t want our country to have the same level of sovereignty as a US state. Our countries are too different to unify.

  35. Liechtenstein Bro

    European countries should just have classes like they used to have in holland I believe, that teach migrants the language, the culture and the laws. After a year or so of classes they have to take a test, those who pass can come, those who don’t can’t. That way, you’re sure that anyone coming in is fully capable of comprehending European society and how to integrate.

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