(26 April 2017) A multi-stakeholder approach to integrating migrants into Europe’s labour market was adopted at the ETUC-led Labour-INT network building conference, which took place in Turin, in the first half of April. The meeting brought together trade unions, including EPSU, employers groups, migration organisations and not-for-profit organisations, focusing on the need for more practical measures to better integrate migrants.
Trade unionists noted that the austerity policies of recent years had hampered the effectiveness of front-line public sector workers who meet migrants and refugees at the borders and process their asylum claims, as well as providing a range of services. The need for these workers to be supported through training was also highlighted at the event.
The role of trade unions in educating members and the wider society about the discrimination migrants and refugees face when it comes to accessing education, training and public services, was also addressed at the conference. In terms of being informed of and having their rights defended, the importance of migrants joining a trade union was noted.
Attendees spoke against the concept of asylum claims being conditional on skills assessment and migrants having certain skill sets. It was pointed out that the right to asylum is an individual and fundamental human right.
Labour-INT has launched 6 pilot projects, two each in Belgium, Italy and Germany. These projects will assess and incorporate the available good practice when it comes to integrating migrants and refugees.
Liina Carr, ETUC Confederal Secretary told attendees that Labour-INT is promoting the dignity of work in relation to migrant workers, stressing workers’ rights based on the values of equal treatment and non-discriminatory practices. She focused on the importance of social dialogue, when it comes to creating the conditions for the successful integration of migrants and refugees.
Belinda Pike, EC Director of DG Home, noted that it is important that migrants fully participate in the economic, social and cultural life of the Europe. She stressed the importance of all public actors, employment services, public employees and social partners working together to step up efforts regarding migrant integration, which has to be seen as an investment in the future, as non-integration will be far more costly.
According to Pike the Employers Sanctions Directive should be used more decisively to hold employers who exploit undocumented workers to account, rather than the blame and sanctions falling on defenceless migrants.
The importance of long-term residency rights linked to long-term employments in integrating migrants into Europe’s labour market, was also stated.
The main focus of the Labour-INT conference was to address the organizational, societal and political problems hindering the full integration of migrants into European society.
Speakers emphasized the importance of learning a local language, of having systems which better validate migrants qualifications, enabling them to move freely and be fully accepted in the European labour market.