Opinion

Beyond border control, migrant integration policies must be revived

Border control and burden-sharing of refugees is just one aspect of immigration policies. Greater financial inclusion and the tailoring of regulations to refugees' specific needs would benefit not only the refugees themselves, but also native citizens.

By: Date: February 23, 2018 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

Immigration evokes divergent emotions. Some people within the European Union have reacted to the arrival of approximately three million asylum seekers in the past three years by highlighting the EU’s responsibility for providing humanitarian assistance to refugees. Others have argued that, in fact, many asylum seekers did not risk their lives but are instead economic migrants who wish to use the current refugee inflow to gain easy entry to the EU.

Both views are valid. Humanitarian help is a core value of the EU – yet roughly half of all asylum applications have been rejected, suggesting that not all asylum seekers are refugees. A clear conclusion is that the EU should try to do more to address the root causes of immigration, such as conflicts, climate change, poverty and the lack of prospect in many developing countries. But it is easier said than done.

Opinion surveys show that European citizens overwhelmingly wish to see stricter border controls. Cooperation with neighbourhood countries and support for their refugee hosting facilities is crucial. Returning ineligible migrants to their home countries is rare due to difficulties, which must be overcome. EU financial support for countries most exposed to refugee inflows, and the relocation of refugees from overburdened countries, should be part of the solution. Countries resisting relocation for ideological and political reasons should pay a large enough solidarity fee, which is a much better option than conditioning European Structural Funds on participating in the relocation system. But all these potential changes are just one part of the story.

The other part is the way we deal with those humans who arrive in Europe. Even with best border control and neighbourhood policies, asylum seekers will continue to come to Europe. It is unacceptable that, in some cases, it takes a year to assess an asylum application. Such waiting times demoralise the persons involved and multiply the difficulties and costs for the hosting country.

A reason for, but also a consequence of, more adverse Italian public opinion towards immigration could be the unsatisfactory integration record.

Beyond refugees, it is often forgotten that many other people come to Europe to work, study or reunite family. In a typical year, about 1.2 million non-EU citizens enter our continent for non-refugee reasons, underlining that there are legal ways to come to Europe. In addition to those coming from outside the EU, about 1.4 million EU citizens move their residency to another EU country each year. The way we integrate these newcomers has crucial impacts on economies and societies. In fact, research shows that well integrated immigrants contribute to economic growth, create new jobs for natives and do not pose any burden on public finances.

It is not well known that support for intra-EU mobility has been increasing in recent years, reaching the point of two-thirds approval among the EU population. In Italy, such support is lower but nevertheless above 50%. Support across the EU for immigration from outside the bloc is lower at about 40% on average, while Italians’ support is lower again at one-third.

A reason for, but also a consequence of, more adverse Italian public opinion towards immigration could be the unsatisfactory integration record. The share of workers in the adult population is much lower for people with an immigrant background in Italy than for native Italians, and in fact the native Italians’ share also falls significantly short of the European average. Children with an immigration background achieve weaker results in their studies than native Italians, and the share of earlier school-leavers is also much higher.

The solution to this problem is not to ease regulation, but to tailor it to the specific needs of refugees

These problems call for increased efforts to integrate and educate immigrants. For recently arrived immigrants, the importance of language courses and the need to offer faster routes for recognising qualifications cannot be emphasised enough. High-quality early childhood education for immigrant children is crucial, which is found by the academic literature to be extremely important in offering better opportunities to children born in poor and disadvantaged families. Other trainings and support for university studies are key, too, as well as measures to limit spatial segregation, such as housing diversification.

An important aspect of integration is financial inclusion of refugees. In a financially advanced area like the European Union, it is essential to have access to a bank account and other basic financial services. But financial inclusion of refugees is made difficult by the otherwise necessary regulation to tackle money-laundering and terrorist-financing.

The solution to this problem is not to ease regulation, but to tailor it to the specific needs of refugees – for example, by creating a tiered system whereby a simple bank account allowing a low turnover could be opened under a simplified procedure. National financial supervisors should offer clear guidelines to banks on how to deal with refugees, something not yet done in roughly half of all EU countries, including Italy.

A new system of refugee identification would significantly improve their identification: we propose the creation of a European ID for asylum seekers and refugees, along with a pan-European registry that would be accessible online for relevant institutions. Such a system of identification would also allow for the monitoring of the movements of asylum seekers and refugees, and help to prevent multiple asylum applications.

Border control and burden-sharing of refugees is just one aspect of immigration policies. On top of this, a revival of integration policies is needed to benefit both native citizens and immigrants.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint.

Due to copyright agreements we ask that you kindly email request to republish opinions that have appeared in print to communication@bruegel.org.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Director’s Cut: What risk does Italy’s new government pose to the euro area?

In this Director’s Cut of ‘The Sound of Economics’ podcast, Guntram Wolff discusses with Bruegel senior fellow Francesco Papadia the potential consequences of Italy’s new coalition government – both for Italy itself, and for the euro area as a whole.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 25, 2018
Read article Download PDF

External Publication

European Parliament

EU funds for migration, asylum and integration policies

This study provides an overview, analysis and evaluation of how EU funds for migration, asylum and integration policies have been used. Using publicly available information, insights from interviews with various stakeholders and a survey of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the authors evaluate the allocation, implementation and oversight of EU funds.

By: Francesco Chiacchio, Zsolt Darvas, Konstantinos Efstathiou, Inês Goncalves Raposo and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament, Testimonies Date: May 23, 2018
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

Europe needs a broader discussion of its future

When thinking about what will determine the prosperity and well-being of citizens living in the euro area, five issues are central. This column, part of VoxEU's Euro Area Reform debate, argues that the important CEPR Policy Insight by a team of French and German economists makes an important contribution to two of them, but leaves aside some of the most crucial ones: European public goods, a proper fiscal stance and major national reforms. It also argues that its compromise on sovereign debt appears unbalanced.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: May 4, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Structural Reforms 0.0 – The case for strengthening institutions

Improvement in institutional quality, particularly concerning the rule of law, is the most essential and urgent structural reform the EU can make. Without it, the obtrusive lack of trust in the EU – which has thus far hampered expansionary and reformist efforts – will persist.

By: Maria Demertzis and Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 3, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

European income inequality begins to fall once again

Following almost a decade of relative stability, income inequality within the EU recorded a sizeable decline in 2016, reaching its lowest value since 1989. The fall of both within- and between-country inequality contributed to the 2016 reduction in overall EU inequality.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 30, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The upheaval Italy needs

While Italy remains without a new government, it would be foolish to believe that a country where anti-system parties won 55% of the popular vote will continue to behave as if nothing had happened. But political upheavals sometime provide a unique opportunity for addressing seemingly intractable problems. After its political upheaval, Italy now needs an economic one.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 30, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Contribution

Making a reality of Europe’s Capital Markets Union

It is high time to make the CMU project real.The authors of this publication suggest that capital markets will only transform with concrete action and that ESMA reform should be a priority but cannot be the only one. Policymakers need to set priorities that will move the project forward.

By: André Sapir, Nicolas Véron and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 27, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Italy’s pension spending: Implications of an ageing population

The Italian debate on the pension system predominantly focuses on short-term aspects, neglecting relevant longer-term fundamentals. Based on long-term economic and demographic projections, this blog post calls for more awareness about the balance of risks that lie ahead.

By: Francesco Chiacchio and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: April 26, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The debate on euro-area reform

A paper jointly written by 14 French and German economists set off a debate about the reform of euro-area macroeconomic governance. We review economists’ opinions about it.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: April 16, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Europe needs a strong Italy

Europe needs to have its Italian voice. A stable government is required not only to pursue domestic policies and remain fiscally prudent but also to negotiate on euro-area reform, priorities in the EU budget and intensifying competition in global trade.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 20, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Euro-area governance: Where next?

Bruegel deputy director Maria Demertzis hosts this episode of 'The Sound of Economics', with Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs correspondent at the Financial Times, and Manfred Weber, chair of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, joining Bruegel director Guntram Wolff for a discussion of the future of euro-area governance.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 1, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Clouds are forming over Italy’s elections

While the prospect of a gridlock reassured investors about the short-term risk of an anti-establishment government, Italy still needs a profound economic shake-up and is in no position to afford months or years of dormant governments.

By: Alessio Terzi Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: February 28, 2018
Load more posts