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 Malta, Budapest, 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 Foundation; Mohammed 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!