Results of the special Eurobarometer survey 469 on ‘Integration of immigrants in the European Union’

Article written by Duncan Barry – Media & Information Executive, MEUSAC
Published on Malta Today – 09.05.18

“What have migrants ever done for us?” is the question many pose. Would you have thought that over half (54%) of Europeans agree that integration of migrants has been a success in their local area, city or country? How do you think respondents in Malta differ in their views when compared to the rest of Europe? And what are the aspects they differ in?

Multiple European surveys have showed that the issue of migration is a major concern in quite a few Member States while integration is one of the aspects being given priority. Although migrant integration policies are a national competence, since the signature of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007, European institutions have the mandate to ‘provide incentives and support for the action of Member States with a view to promoting the integration of third-country nationals’.

The EU has, over a number of years, set priorities and goals to drive EU policies, legislative proposals and funding opportunities. The adoption, in 2004, of the Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the EU remains a milestone in the process of developing a common immigration policy.

The EU also supports integration through its funding programmes. One example of an EU-funded project being implemented to promote the integration of migrants in Malta is that of the Malta Football Association (MFA). MEUSAC assisted the MFA in the application process and, as a result, the association received EU funds from the Erasmus+ programme to implement a project that will provide five Maltese established football clubs with the opportunity to implement an action that has as its main objective the integration of refugees in society through sport – in this case.

In order to better understand how the EU institutions can work with Member States and other actors to respond to the challenges of integration, it is necessary to have a clearer understanding of public opinion on the issue.

The special Eurobarometer survey was carried out in the 28 Member States of the EU in October 2017. Some 28,080 residents in the EU, including both EU and non-EU citizens from different social and demographic groups, were interviewed face-to-face at home and in the languages of the respective country where the interviewing took place.

According to the survey’s findings on the issue, only a minority (37%) of Europeans think that they are well informed about migration and integration-related matters. Respondents also tend to overestimate the number of non-EU migrants: in 19 out of the 28 Member States, the estimated proportion of migrants in the population is at least twice the actual proportion and in some countries the ratio is much higher.

In Malta’s case, a meagre 4% of respondents said they are well informed – the same as the EU average, the bigger chunk (43%) stating they are not well informed, only 3 per cent less than the EU average of 46%.

When asked how they feel the media portrays issues related to migrants, whether migrant matters are presented too positively, in an objective way, or too negatively, the majority (51%) of respondents in Malta said that they are presented in an objective way while 29% said they are presented negatively.

Interacting with migrants
The results show that around six in 10 respondents (61%) across the EU interact weekly with migrants, be it either exchanging a few words or doing an activity together. A similar proportion of respondents (57%) say they would feel comfortable having any type of social relations with migrants (manager, work colleague, neighbour, doctor, family member including partner, friend). As a matter of fact, four in 10 Europeans surveyed (40%) do have either friends or family members who are migrants.

Some 49% of respondents in Malta feel that integration of migrants in Malta is successful.

In Malta, the majority of respondents (93%) strongly feel that contributing to the welfare system by paying taxes is the way forward for the successful integration of migrants residing in Malta. Improving language courses for migrants upon their arrival (88%) and introducing or improving upon existing integration programmes (85%) are the best measures to support integration of migrants. Interestingly, in this case, the exact same percentage of respondents across the EU shared the same opinion as respondents in Malta. The report reads that “Europeans say that integrating immigrants is a necessary investment in the long-run for their country and similar proportion view integration as a two-way process in which both host society and immigrants are responsible. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents in Malta strongly view integration as a two-way process”.

Impact of migrants on Maltese society
The majority of respondents (84%) have said that migrants fill jobs for which it is hard to find Maltese workers. It is a fact that vacancies in the construction, hospitality and cleaning industries are being taken up by migrants, be it legally or illegally.

The EU’s role
A majority of Europeans agree that many different actors, including the EU, play a vital role in the integration of immigrants (80%). The EU’s role is seen as important by a majority of respondents in all Member States, in particular in view of promoting better cooperation between actors involved, sharing best practices among Member States, establishing common measures on integration and providing financial support.

Action Plan on the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (TCNs)
In 2016, the European Commission adopted an Action Plan on the integration of third-country nationals. The Action Plan provides a comprehensive framework to support Member States’ efforts in developing and strengthening their integration policies. It describes the concrete measures the Commission will implement in this regard. While it targets all TCNs in the EU, it contains actions to address the specific challenges faced by refugees. The Plan includes actions across all the policy areas that are crucial for integration, including: Pre-departure and pre-arrival measures, actions to prepare migrants and the local communities for the integration process, Education, including actions to promote language training, participation of migrant children to early childhood education and care, teacher training and civic education, employment and vocational training, access to basic services such as housing and healthcare, among others.

Some of the actions that have been implemented so far in Member States include activities on reception of newly arrived migrants and an assessment of previous schooling of such migrants – one of a series of round-tables on how to integrate newly arrived migrant children into European education systems. Since cultural awareness and expression is one of the eight key competences that form the reference tool which EU Member States integrate into strategies and infrastructure in the context of lifelong learning, a handbook on cultural awareness and expression was published. An EU funding call – ‘Social inclusion through education, training and youth’ – had also been announced under the Eramus+ programme.

The Council had also adopted a recommendation entitled ‘Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults’ (formerly the Skills Guarantee). Member States are to adopt implementation measures by mid-2018.

In Malta, the government has set up the Directorate for Human Rights and Integration and the Forum for Integration Affairs. With the Migrant Integration Strategy and Action Plan (Vision 2020), the government is now setting up a stronger framework for integration of migrants who are already working, living and sending their children to school in Malta.

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