National integration strategy should be published this year
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National integration strategy should be published this year

For the economy to continue to develop, Malta will need to continue welcoming EU and third-country nationals. Photo: Jason Borg

For the economy to continue to develop, Malta will need to continue welcoming EU and third-country nationals. Photo: Jason Borg

A new report by the EU rights agency (FRA) has singled out Malta and four other countries that in 2015 still had no integration action plan for non-Europeans.

Published yesterday, the study about policies and plans that allow the participation of migrants, refugees and their descendants in society noted that Malta, Cyprus, Hungary, Poland and Sweden had no specific integration action plan for third-country nationals.

When contacted, the Civil Liberties Ministry told this newspaper that a national strategy for integration should be published this year.

A spokesman noted that Malta’s economic development and its growing economy have contributed to employee shortages in particular sectors. For the economy to continue to develop, the country will need to continue welcoming EU and third-country nationals.

Along with this, Malta was hosting refugees and people with humanitarian protection. Their integration and the ability of our systems to cater for them were of paramount importance, he added.

In view of this, the government has set up a Forum for Integration Affairs, where discussions are held with migrant communities to address issues they face.

Meanwhile, building on the outcomes of the Mind D Gap project, a senior official was recruited by the ministry to work full time on the continued development of the national strategy for integration. The plan is to have a solid structure for the integration of migrants, with various services introduced including educational programmes in the Maltese and English languages and cultural orientation classes.

Discussions were under way with the relevant ministries to ensure the mainstreaming and ownership of the programme across the government, the spokesman said, adding that the plan was to have the strategy published within the year.

Meanwhile, the Fundamental Rights Agency report also taps into policies in areas that are important for successful integration including education, youth, discrimination and language.

The research found that in 2015, trade union membership rates of migrant workers were comparable to those of host-country nationals in Austria, Belgium, Estonia and the Netherlands, while larger gaps were reported in Denmark, Ireland, Spain and the UK. Malta made the list of lower trade union membership rates for migrants, which included Finland, Hungary and Portugal.

The report goes on to explain that in addition to language learning, migrant integration measures in some member states includes courses providing information on the host country’s history, culture and legal framework.

In some countries, this type of knowledge is a requirement for gaining residency and is tested through so-called integration tests.

The FRA research found that in 19 states, such tests were not required for acquiring residency rights or a legal status affecting one’s access to rights.

On the contrary, Malta, Croatia, the Netherlands and the UK require passing an integration test or attending a course on integration.

The report also looks into limitations imposed on the political participation of third-country nationals in the EU, clustering countries into four groups.

Malta appears in the group of countries that does not provide any electoral rights and has not put in place national consultative bodies. This group includes Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Romania.

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