‘Our welfare states, our education systems, our civic cultures, our values, our international politics, our domestic politics, our elections: all this and more will be affected by how we address the integration of those refugees who are already here’. This is the message delivered by Ruby Gropas, social policy adviser to the President of the European Commission, on 28 January at an ETUI Monthly Forum focused on the refugee crisis.
Because there is no other way out of this crisis than through a coordinated solution, the member states will, so Ms Gropas believes, end up by pooling their resources.
To this end, she urged heads of state and government to display a little more political courage by stating clearly to their public opinion that many of the refugees will remain on European soil for a considerable period. As she went on to point out, studies indicate that the time taken to achieve labour market participation of these populations will be five years at least. The traumas undergone and the resulting physical and mental fragility, together with the need for children to catch up on loss of schooling, and the requirement to learn a new language, mean that the whole process will take a very long time, the Commission adviser warned.
From the standpoint of the European Trade Union Confederation, the greatest cause for concern relates to the labour impact of the massive arrival of refugees in certain member states. In some countries, particularly to the East, the subject is now so emotional that it has unfortunately become practically impossible even to discuss it, said Liina Carr, who is in charge of mobility and migration issues at the ETUC. According to the former Estonian trade union leader, integration of refugees into social and economic life must take place on the basis of the same conditions as are applicable to nationals. ‘There can be no question of offering the refugees wages lower than those paid to other workers’, she warned.
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