The inflow of refugees into Europe is having a profound impact on Europe’s society and business community. It is widely portrayed as a challenge, but it is also of course an opportunity, particularly in those member states where demographic change and discrepancies between the supply and demand of labour create skills mismatches, compounded by low levels of labour mobility between regions and member states.

Aside from the humanitarian arguments, there is a strong business case for Chambers to help with refugees’ integration.

The European Chamber (CCI) network, under EUROCHAMBRES’ coordination, is committed to contribute to the economic integration of refugees through its action programme entitled “European Refugees Integration Action Scheme”- ERIAS.

Considering the complex task of integrating refugees (and more generally Third Country Nationals) into the labour market and into society, a large range of stakeholders needs mobilising, and actions need to be taken at different levels. Different partners are to be involved in different areas, creating synergies and a sustainable integration path. The partners to take part in the process range from local and regional authorities, other business organizations, unions organizations, social organizations, over employment agencies, job centres, professional colleges, welfare associations, religious organisations, adult education centres, to migrant organisations and training providers.

Four main geographic pillars have been identified:

1. Countries of Origin

Major efforts should be deployed to improve conditions to convince potential refugees to remain in their countries of origin. This partly entails improving the economic development of these countries through international professional training and entrepreneurship campaigns, trade promotion and activities together with domestic Chambers, EU member states’ Chambers located in the countries of origin and other organizations. This may help to counteract some of the economic reasons for migration in certain countries in the medium-long term. In addition, this will imply a more efficient use of the Cooperation funds available at EU level.
This is an objective that we should always bear in mind but can realistically only deliver results only in the medium-long term.

2. Countries of Transit – Non-EU

Despite efforts to increase the attractiveness of the origin countries, we must expect a constant flow of people to Europe in the coming years.
Those people will most probably choose one of the two most obvious ways to get to Europe: the Mediterranean or the Balkan route. Those countries along these two routes are heavily impacted by the flow and must find a way to manage it. Some of them can also offer services and economically valuable activities to a certain number of refugees. They must be supported in this activity.

3. Countries of Transit – EU

Once passed through the EU border, countries where refugees do not intend to stay can organize and offer a series of services with an economic value.

4. Countries of Destination

Many of the refugees want, or have been told, to reach a restricted number of countries of destination where they believe most opportunities for paid employment can be found and where they believe they can build a decent life.
While we believe that, in general, all EU countries can respond to that profile, only a few are identified so far. A large number of services can be organized in all EU countries, trying to manage the flow and to address the requests, but also to divert the people towards those EU countries where they can be better socio-economically accommodated.

The Project

ERIAS is the European Chambers response to the labour market integration question of Third Country Nationals (TCN), including refugees.

ERIAS proposes a methodology for the integration of TCN in the labour market based on the principles of comprehensiveness (from skills assessment to employment) and multi-stakeholder approach. Partners from Spain, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria test the ERIAS approach on the ground, offering integration pathways to TCN while considering the
employment needs of enterprises. The French partner contributes with the creation of an Integration Check List for enterprises that will help to overcome potential integration hurdles by offering information and guidance. The project will furthermore see the development of a Vademecum of positive integration examples, as a concrete step for changing mindsets when addressing the integration question.

The 13 project partners will reach out to their respective networks at European, national and regional level to well over 1500 stakeholders who will be informed about and/or associated to the activities. Over 350 TCN will benefit from 4 skills assessments, 25 trainings, 3 counselling and guidance activities, putting them on the employment path. On the enterprise side, over 500 enterprises will be informed and invited to contribute to the activities, via 8 workshops, 2 surveys, some 40 meetings, 1 matchmaking session and a yet undefined number of individual contacts.

The major outcomes will be new multi-stakeholder alliances, tailored training services for TCN and practical tools for enterprises that will help the latter in smoothly integrating TCN in the workforce.

The expected impact will be a major awareness of the benefits of the rapid labour market integration of TCN, a shift in mindsets (from foe to friend) with business organisations and businesses across Europe.