COMMIT - Facilitating the integration of resettled refugees in Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain
The aim of the project
COMMIT - Facilitating the integration of resettled refugees in Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain - is a European Commission (DG HOME) funded project*, managed by the Coordination Office for the Mediterranean of the International Organization for Migration, in Italy. The project is implemented in collaboration with the IOM Missions in Croatia, Portugal and Spain together with Consorzio Communitas, Adecco Foundation for Equal Opportunities and the University for Foreigners of Siena (UNISTRASI). COMMIT is a 2 years project, started on 1 January 2019 and ending on 31 December 2020.
The action recognizes that successful integration of resettled refugees depends on both enabling structural conditions and reinforcing social dynamics, by fostering the mutual exchange between resettled refugees and host communities. A multi-level, multi-stakeholder partnership between central and local authorities, civil society organizations, the private sector, international organizations and citizens is fundamental to pave the way for the integration of resettled refugees.
Based on these assumptions, COMMIT seeks to contribute to facilitating the sustainable integration of resettled refugees in their new communities in Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain, with a specific focus on the integration of vulnerable groups such as women and youth.
Recognizing resettlement as a safe migration pathway, the European Union launched in 2013 the Joint EU Resettlement Programme. Many EU countries established or strengthened their national resettlement and humanitarian admission schemes, including Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain, which are considered relatively new resettlement countries.
The majority of refugees resettled to Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain are of Syrian origin living in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. To a lesser extent, groups of Eritrean, Ethiopian and Sudanese refugees are also resettled mainly from Sudan, Libya and Egypt.
Refugees are prepared for their upcoming resettlement through a series of pre-departure activities, which include the provision of a complete health assessment. Refugees resettled to Italy, Portugal and Spain attend a Pre-Departure Orientation course, with the purpose of:
- Providing refugees with relevant and useful information, in order to support their adjustment to their country of resettlement in their first few months.
- Assisting refugees to develop the skills and awareness necessary to adapt to their new context.
- Helping refugees manage realistic expectations about resettlement and their future.
- Addressing refugees’ concerns and questions.
- Empowering refugee women and youth.
Diverse approaches to reception as well as integration measures are adopted in Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain; however, common features can be identified in terms of services provision, especially for Italy and Spain which have set up their reception systems to respond to the needs of mixed migrant groups spontaneously arriving at their shores.
Resettled refugees have similar migratory experiences, yet extremely diverse needs according to their individual condition (e.g. gender, age, disability, medical condition, traumas, etc.). It is crucial that such individual needs are promptly identified and addressed, even prior to departure, to avoid the perpetuation of situations of vulnerability.
However, beyond enabling structural conditions and guaranteeing an appropriate response to refugees’ vulnerabilities, integration largely depends on public representations of migrant/refugee groups and on how these individuals perceive their social acceptance. Such representations and perceptions can be shaped through personal experience, by enhancing intercultural understanding and mutual acceptance, respect and solidarity. Thus, not only local authorities and service providers, but also religious leaders, the media, and individual citizens have a role to play to enhance refugees’ integration.
While volunteering cultures differ across countries involved, citizens engaged as volunteers often act as ‘social bridges’ between newcomers and the mainstream population, personifying opportunities for dialogue and exchange, which help to demystify bias and to manage mutual concerns and expectations. Volunteers’ activities have demonstrated to be most effective when structured and embedded in institutional frameworks to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure accountability.
The COMMIT project seeks to enhance the linkages between pre-departure and post-arrival support, by fostering Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO), focusing on the mainstreaming of vulnerabilities, and by building the capacity of welcoming communities in Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
The action’s overall objective will be achieved by:
1. Enhancing pre-departure orientation (PDO), including by mainstreaming vulnerability in PDO activities.
During PDO, refugees receive practical information on the country of resettlement and have an opportunity to reflect upon their upcoming move, raise questions regarding the integration process, and express any concerns they may have.
With a view to addressing the specific vulnerabilities of women and young refugees throughout the resettlement process, the COMMIT project envisages the development of the following tools:
- Guidelines on mainstreaming gender in PDO training: the aim of this tool (available here soon) is to ensure that PDO trainers have the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively identify and address gender bias and gender-related situations of vulnerability during PDO sessions.
- PDO Curriculum specific for refugee youth: young refugees face particular challenges related to their age and the changes that they are going through. With a view to addressing these challenges, a youth-specific curriculum (available here soon), with a focus on adolescent development, and including social dynamics such as bullying, dating, making friends etc. is also envisaged.
PDO curricula are living tools that are revised on a regular basis, so as to ensure that they address resettlement beneficiaries’ diverse needs, and that the information provided is up to date with the evolving realities of the countries of resettlement. With a view to enhancing PDO curricula, the COMMIT project supports the assessment of PDO’s effectiveness:
- PDO’s effectiveness assessment tools: building on PDO monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, that are already in place in Italy and Portugal, IOM and UNISTRASI have developed a set of tools, which, following a rigorous scientific methodology, will allow for the evaluation of PDO materials, activities and their impact. A large number of stakeholders involved in the resettlement process will be included in the assessment, following a participatory approach, especially with regard to resettlement beneficiaries.
2. Systematizing community support in receiving communities, including through building the capacities of key stakeholders and piloting community mentorship schemes with specific attention to supporting vulnerable groups.
Integration is a two-way process: on the one hand, resettled refugees face many challenges during the resettlement process and need to proactively engage in adapting to their new host communities; on the other hand, the host community plays an important role in ensuring that refugees feel welcome in the new society and that are supported throughout the whole settlement process.
With the aim of making receiving communities more welcoming, the following actions are being implemented:
- Sensitization and awareness-raising campaigns: a number of events are being organized in Croatia, Portugal and Spain, with the aim to sensitize and inform receiving communities about the resettlement process, resettled population’s challenges and needs, cultural backgrounds, health and psychosocial well-being. A number of sensitization sessions have been organized in the form of workshops, mainly directed to professionals working in the reception of refugees and asylum seekers. Other sessions took the form of cultural visits and public events which gathered both refugees and the members of their host community, with a view to fostering direct contact, empathy, sharing of experiences, mutual respect and awareness-raising.
- Piloting mentorship schemes: from beneficiaries’ first months of resettlement onwards, reception centers’ staff works together with resettled refugees to address their specific needs, in consideration of individual experiences, background and vulnerabilities. The mentor is conceived as complementary to the reception system: mentors, indeed, are intended to support refugees’ integration, while working towards building their self-reliance and reducing their dependency on reception actors. Volunteers will be selected to become mentors and equipped with the specific knowledge and skills necessary to support beneficiaries of resettlement through their journey.
By establishing a formal or informal one-to-one relationship, mentors, jointly with the beneficiary, will design and implement an individualized support plan for 12 months, which will respond to refugees’ specific needs. Required competences for becoming a mentor include possessing specific awareness of refugees’ local context of resettlement. In this sense, mentors’ profiles could vary: mentors might be refugees who have lived in the country of resettlement for a long time and who experienced similar situations as the resettlement beneficiaries, or they might be locals who are eager to support resettled refugees by introducing them to the new context. The mentorship scheme is being piloted in Croatia, Italy and Spain. Consorzio Communitas has been implementing training sessions in the countries involved.
In order to equip mentors with the specific knowledge and skills necessary to support resettled refugees, the following tools have been developed:
- Training modules for mentors: the training modules (available here soon), which have been designed by UNISTRASI, cover different aspects of resettlement and integration (e.g. migration, vulnerability, gender and youth aspects, inter-linguistic and intercultural communication, labor market integration, recognition of qualifications). The training is meant to enable mentors to understand the implications of their participation in the scheme, their role and responsibilities, and provide them with tools, skills and support networks necessary to fulfill their tasks. Particular attention is devoted to intercultural competencies as well as addressing gender and age-specific vulnerabilities.
- Guidelines on labor market integration: the purpose of these guidelines (available here soon), developed in a joint effort by IOM and Adecco Foundation, is to provide mentors with tools to support refugees in looking for a job. This includes useful advice regarding aspects to be considered when defining work objectives and the strategies necessary to achieve them. An analysis of the difficulties that refugees might encounter in the process of job-seeking is also provided in the guidelines, with a view to helping mentors identifying obstacles and possible solutions.
3. Strengthening PDO trainer’s knowledge of reception contexts and enabling contacts with reception community members since the pre-departure phase.
Strong partnerships between PDO programs and post-arrival reception and orientation programs increase the possibilities of resettled refugees to successfully integrate into their new communities.
In the framework of the COMMIT Project, IOM will take the following actions, with the aim of strengthening links between pre-departure and post-arrival support to resettled refugees’ integration:
- PDO trainers’ visit to countries of resettlement: PDO trainers based in refugees’ countries of fist asylum will visit reception destinations in Portugal and Spain, with the aim of widening their knowledge about the local realities in which resettling refugees will be welcomed.
- Reception operators’ visit to countries of first asylum: Reception staff from countries of resettlement will visit resettled refugees’ countries of first asylum, with a view to better understanding the context from which refugees are coming. In this way, reception operators will gain awareness of the differences between countries of first asylum and countries of resettlement. Reception operators will then be better trained to forecast elements that might provoke culture shocks in beneficiaries of resettlement, being able to promptly address the issue and help refugees in their adjustment to the new reality.
- Establishing early contacts: prior to refugees’ departure for their country of resettlement, teleconferences will be organized between beneficiaries of resettlement and their mentors, with the aim of building trust between refugees and their mentors from an early stage.
4. Fostering transnational exchange between newer and more experienced resettlement countries to identify and disseminate lessons learned and best practices beyond the project’s geographical scope.
Sustainability is a central and cross-cutting objective of the COMMIT Project. Knowledge, progress made, good practices, materials and tools developed during the implementation of COMMIT activities, will be collected and translated into knowledge-sharing tools that will be made available for consultation to all interested actors working in refugee Resettlement and reception.
COMMIT supports knowledge sharing and dissemination of good practices related to Resettlement through the following tools and events:
- One interim Regional Event: this two-day event, held in Lisbon on 18 and 19 June 2019, aimed at bringing together local authorities involved in the selection and reception of resettled refugees in COMMIT’s 4 target countries, national stakeholders, project partners, IOM personnel in countries of resettlement and IOM PDO trainers in the countries of first asylum, with a view to strengthening the link between pre-departure and post-arrival phases. Participants were encouraged to reflect on the similarities among the reception systems put in place for reception of resettled refugees as well as to exchange experiences and good practices with regard to supporting the integration of resettled refugees, while building on the experience of all the actors involved in the resettlement continuum. For more information, click here to download the report of COMMIT interim Regional Event.
- 4 Webinars on cross-cutting themes within Resettlement: 4 webinars will be created and shared with actors involved in resettlement. The webinars will be focused on cross-cutting themes such as youth, gender, job integration and mental health. IOM long-standing expertise on the themes chosen and its consolidated partnership in these fields will render the webinars a unique opportunity for professionals working in resettlement, to receive valuable training on important aspects with which they are likely to deal in their everyday tasks.
- One final event to be held in Brussels: this event will be the opportunity to present the final publication resulting from the COMMIT project. The latter will be a tool available to all entities involved in Resettlement and will serve the purpose of facilitating the conditions necessary to favor the integration of resettlement beneficiaries.
*The Project is co-funded by the Italian Ministry of the Interior and by COMMIT’s project partners
COMMIT sensitization sessions implemented in Croatia
COMMIT sensitization sessions implemented in Portugal
Click here to watch a short video of a COMMIT sensitization session held in Seixal, Portugal
COMMIT sensitization sessions implemented in Spain