The Hague/Brussels – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has presented the results of a pilot project that connected thousands of refugees, employers, migrant groups and local authorities and made strides towards integrating beneficiaries of international protection in the EU into the labour market.
The EU-funded Skills2Work project, which ran from January 2016 and closed on Wednesday (28/02) in nine EU member states, was initiated to address the absence of a coordinated approach to labour market integration both nationally and regionally, particularly with regard to recognizing the skills and qualifications of refugees.
“We have to act quickly and decisively to build bridges between employers and refugees, because no outcome is worse than long-term unemployment for all: the refugees, host societies and the economy at large. We know that long-term unemployment leads to unemployability and significantly hampers integration. We all must help refugees access the labour market – we have no choice,” said Martin Wyss, Chief of IOM’s Mission for the Netherlands, which managed the project.
Skills2Work therefore set up a solid information exchange and access to tools that help authorities and employers better coordinate recognition of the skills of refugees and asylum seekers at an early-stage across the nine participating EU member states.
The Skills2Work pilot project also strengthened IOM’s network of stakeholders in each of the nine EU member states, helping to draw more attention and spur dialogue on the topic of skills recognition.
“Recognition of the skills and qualification of refugees and migrants remains a challenging issue in each of the nine participating countries,” said Geertrui Lanneau, regional thematic specialist for labour migration and human development at IOM’s Regional Office for the EU.
“Practical information and tools are so important for ensuring good matches between talent and vacancies. Equally important are the personal insights from refugees and their employers, which can go far in changing mind-sets and inspiring other employers to explore alternative talent pools,” she added.
European Commission policy officer for DG Migration and Home Affairs, Laurent Aujean, emphasized the importance of skills recognition for the long-term development of labour markets and societies.
“It is crucial to intervene early on to build on the motivation of asylum seekers and future refugees. They need information about recognition procedures, and how to document their skills and qualifications,” he said at a regional project conference in Brussels.
IOM carried out a regional mapping exercise and through hundreds of consultations found that while employers are in general open to recruiting refugees and asylum seekers, they and migrant talent groups need a significant amount of practical information and tailored support.
The project recognized a number of digital tools and personalized mapping initiatives as good practices, as were an encouraging selection of training and mentoring initiatives designed to bridge cultural and linguistic barriers on the work floor.
Progressive steps have been made, particularly in Belgium and the Netherlands, where initiatives have been designed and implemented by refugees themselves.
“I want to be judged on my merits, not on my sad story. I want to be judged as Kiza, the professional, not the refugee,” said Kiza Magendane, an Amsterdam-based writer and opinion maker originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Good practices and FAQs are located on the Skills2Work platform to guide users and connect stakeholders across the region.
Skills2Work also produced a short film, “Recognizing Talent” and a booklet of success stories to give voice to the experiences of refugees and employers across Europe, the challenges and lessons learned, and advice for others who have successfully entered the labour market.
The knowledge, experience and partnerships acquired through the project’s activities have been incorporated into new initiatives at IOM.