A new report on the integration of refugees, by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, completely disregards how poorly the project of multiculturalism in Europe, including the integration of people from the Middle East and Africa, has fared until now. (Image source: GuentherZ/Wikimedia Commons)
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights recently published a report in which it warned Europe against creating a "lost generation" of migrants aged 16-24, who had arrived in Europe between 2015 and 2018. The report focuses particularly on the experiences of those young people who arrived in 2015-16 and looks specifically at the five EU member states with the most asylum applicants: Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden. The report also includes Greece, as it is a first EU member state of arrival.
According to the report, Integration of young refugees in the EU: good practices and challenges:
"From 2015 to 2018, according to Eurostat, 1.9 million people received international protection in the EU, either as refugees or as beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, or received a humanitarian residence permit. More than 80 % were below the age of 34..."
Also, according to the report:
"In its 2016 Action Plan on the integration of third country nationals, the European Commission pointed out that failure to integrate the newly arrived people can result in 'a massive waste of resources, both for the individuals concerned themselves and more generally for our economy and society'. The legal, economic and social inclusion of recently arrived refugees in the host society depends on how the different rights they are entitled to under EU and national law can be realised in practice".
It is worth noticing that the European Commission places the responsibility for integration of third-country nationals exclusively on the shoulders of EU member states.
The report states:
"EU law defines in detail the rights and obligations of asylum applicants and international protection beneficiaries, whereas beneficiaries of humanitarian protection are generally covered by national law. If these rights are not respected, protected and fulfilled, people will face problems in successfully integrating in EU societies once they are allowed to stay and settle. Identifying challenges and gaps, but also opportunities and promising practices, provides the evidence that is necessary for the EU and its Member States to adjust their policies and actions. The young age of many newly arrived persons and their backgrounds of conflict and persecution require smart investments for successful integration. This report aims to contribute to reflection on how to achieve this, thus making sure that a whole generation will not be lost."
The following are areas that the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights urged EU countries to tackle in its report:
Allocating sufficient financial and human resources to process asylum claims more quickly.
Quick and affordable family reunification.
Passing housing policies that are able to deal with "large-scale arrivals properly".
Ensuring that refugees receive all social welfare benefits they are entitled to under EU law. They should consider providing the same entitlements to subsidiary protection status holders (persons seeking asylum who do not qualify as refugees) in need of support. EU member states should remove practical obstacles that impede access to social welfare benefits – for example, by providing information in clear, accessible and non‑bureaucratic language and offering language support, where needed. The report takes Sweden as an example:
"In Västra Götaland, the region's public housing agency (Boplats) has started to provide information in Arabic, Somali and other common languages since the arrivals of 2015. The social services have revised their written and spoken language to make it more accessible and less bureaucratic. They use a programme called Klarspråk (plain language) to adjust the texts used to explain decisions. These changes have improved the clients' ability to understand the grounds on which they have been granted or denied social support such as income support".
Swift and efficient referral to mental health treatment for traumatized migrants.
Access to education and vocational training for asylum applicants.
Providing access to core services, safe housing, employment, education opportunities and support from relevant professionals from the outset to avoid involvement in crime "as either a victim or a perpetrator".
The authors of the report interviewed 163 asylum applicants about their experiences when they arrived in one of the six mentioned EU member states. Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Iran were the top countries of origin and 65% of those interviewed were male. The authors also consulted "426 experts working with young refugees".
The most conspicuous aspect of the report is how it insists that integration of people who have come mainly from the Middle East and Africa is merely an issue of ensuring that the rights that they are entitled to under EU and national laws be fulfilled and everyone will live happily ever after.
It takes a lot of denial of the facts to reach such a conclusion.
First, the report appears to operate on the premise that EU countries have unlimited resources at their disposal with which to care for third country nationals. It completely ignores, for example, that countries such as Sweden, as a result of the high number of migrants that they have taken in, are now experiencing financial hardships that make it difficult even properly to take care of their own nationals. For example, every fourth municipality and every third region, according to a report by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL), had a budget deficit in 2018. At least 110 municipalities expect to run a deficit this year. Many municipalities therefore need to make severe budget cuts.
Second, the report completely disregards how poorly the project of multiculturalism in Europe, including the integration of people from the Middle East and Africa, has fared until now. It does not mention the existence of Muslim parallel societies, as documented in European TV documentaries, such as the British BBC Panorama documentary, "Secrets of Britain's Sharia Councils," which aired in 2013 or the Danish three-part television documentary, "The Mosques Behind the Veil," which aired in 2016.
The report also does not mention the findings of Dutch sociologist and professor at Berlin's Humboldt University, Ruud Koopmans, who has been researching migration and integration for over 20 years and is a member of an academic council that counsels the German immigration authorities. In 2013, as director of the research project, the Six Country Immigrant Integration Comparative Survey at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB), he published a report that conducted 9,000 telephone interviews in Germany, France, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Sweden. The respondents were Turkish and Moroccan immigrants. Two thirds of the Muslims interviewed said that religious rules were more important to them than the laws of the country in which they lived. Three quarters of the respondents held the opinion that there is only one legitimate interpretation of the Koran.
In March 2019, on the occasion of the publication of his new book, Koopmans told Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende in an interview:
"For anyone who takes facts and data seriously, it is undeniable that integration of Muslims is worse than with other groups of immigrants. There is no doubt about that. There can also be no doubt that in most other groups of immigrants we see great progress from one generation to the next. It is not completely absent from Muslims, but the change is much slower...
"The emergence of Islamic fundamentalism in the countries of origin is also a factor, partly because migrants take it with them, partly because they are influenced by the propaganda that comes from the Muslim part of the world...[it] is not that there is something immutably wrong with Islam in itself, but that there is a problem with the way many Muslims, and at a global level many Muslim countries, interpret Islam. Namely, in a way that basically claims that the Qur'an and Sunna must be taken literally, and that the way the prophet lived in the 7th century must be the yardstick for how Muslims should live in the 21st century".
The EU report also does not take into account a 2,200-page French report, "Banlieue de la République" ("Suburb of the Republic"), from 2011, commissioned by the influential French think tank Institut Montaigne -- directed by Gilles Kepel, a well-known political scientist and specialist in the Muslim world -- which concluded that Muslim immigrants in France were increasingly rejecting French values and identity, and instead immersing themselves in Islam. The report also warned that Islamic sharia law was rapidly displacing French civil law in many parts of suburban Paris.
The French report showed how radical Muslim leaders in France, who were promoting the social marginalization of Muslim immigrants in order to create a parallel Muslim society ruled by sharia law, were exacerbating the problem. The report described a proliferation of mosques and prayer rooms in the suburbs.
Nor does the EU report mention the warnings of former Islamists, such as former Danish imam Ahmed Akkari. In a recent report for Danish think-tank UNITOS, "The loyalty conflict in the West – why Muslims are hard to integrate", Akkari warned that Islamism and traditionalist interpretations of Islam wield a monopoly of power over Muslims, which prevents them from integrating into Western societies, because it prevents them from thinking and acting freely concerning Islam. According to Akkari:
"The problem with the Muslim minority in the West... is that it dare not be independent, when it comes to religious issues... because the strong religious and cultural elite governs... and posits itself as self-elected representatives of Muslims".
The EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights instead has chosen to ignore reality. The question is why.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.