On last March 6 and 7, I had the honour to attend the 4th EU Migration Forum, celebrated in Brussels jointly organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Commission.
The focus of this year edition was on the labour market inclusion of migrants, whose unemployment rate in the EU remains high, standing at 18%, which is double the EU average. Spanning over two days, the Forum gave the floor to more than 120 civil society organisations from across the European Union, as well as to representatives from local and regional authorities, Member States and EU institutions.
X23 – as Lead Partner of the ME4Change initiative – was invited to attend representing the Consortium partners.
The presence of a constellation of different entities coming from all over Europe ignited powerful discussions and debates, revealing that the obstacles on the path towards successful integration of migrants are numerous: insufficient or inefficient funding, discrimination, prejudice and language barriers, lack of proper validation of migrants’ skills, which often go unrecognised in job markets or are mismatched with local needs.
The format was superb, organisation excellent, allowing an on-going intense dialogue between civil society, institutions and authorities on issues relating to migration and integration of third-country nationals.
The number of this year edition are impressive: the Forum gathered more than 280 participants, tooking part in panel discussions and in a variety of workshops, clustered around a number of cross-cutting themes: integration in the labour market through stronger cooperation, mapping of migrants’ skills and recognition, promotion of regular employment and decent work, relevance of access to funding and PPPs to foster dialogue and open up mutual benefit cooperations and a more diverse and open labour market.
The audience heard testimonies by two migrants, Maria Lourdes Gernan from the Philippines and Ramin Shadani from Iran, about their experiences with the EU’s labour markets. This was a very intense and touching moment, in particular listening to Maria Lourdes Gernan troubled – but at the end successful – story. Speakers agreed that the validation and development of migrants’ skills as early as possible could prove crucial. The importance of learning the language of the host community was also stressed.
On 2nd day, during the afternoon session, an original format – “The Floor is Yours” – gave the opportunity to participants to create debates and host parallel workshop on different topics. Discussions resulted in several recommendations, including: matching migrants’ skills with labour market realities; providing support both for migrants as job seekers and also for employers; taking a bottom-up approach which acknowledges different contexts; close cooperation with civil society; fighting against exploitation of and discrimination against migrants in the workplace by implementing EU laws effectively at national level and battling prejudice; establishing a multi-stakeholder approach that could allow the issues to be tackled from a number of different angles; promoting enterprises that serve as role models for successful integration, and many others.
At the end of 2 intese days of debates and networking, Cristian Pîrvulescu, president of the EESC Permanent Study Group on Immigration and Integration, closed the Forum, concluding that