Online integration services for third country nationals (inti_platform)

Published on: 30/09/2010

The "Online integration services of third country nationals" project was co-funded by the Integration Fund INTI of Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security (currently divided into Directorate-General Home and Affairs Directorate-General Justice and Fundamental Rights). The project's objective was to undertake an exchange of experience and identification of good practice with the overall aim of developing a local/regional dimension to the implementation of the Common Basic Principles adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in November 2004 and incorporated into the EC Communication on A Common Agenda in 2005.

In terms of the concrete action, it sought to establish an Integration Exchange between ten partners which aims to:

  • identify and develop good practice in relation to programmes for integration/induction developed at a local/regional level and
  • establish local online platforms of services, information and resources for supporting the integration of Third Country Nationals

To achieve this overall aim this proposal has the following specific objectives:

  • To establish eight Local Action Groups (LAGs), local vehicles that bring together local/regional/national experience which in turn creates the "capital" for the peer review and development workshops;
  • To establish local online platforms which would provide a "portal" for local services, information and resources;
  • To develop of a good practice resource pack and linked case studies with the aim of pooling the experience within the partnership and beyond in order to create an online resource that can be useful in disseminating good practice.

Policy Context

Migration and the way to manage it are part of heated debates today across the enlarged European Union. Most Member States experience migratory phenomena - legal and illegal - and are confronted with the challenges of integration. The aim of migration is colourful; the scale is wide from refugees to employment or study, family reunion, etc. Migrants are coming from various source regions: from other EU-15 countries, from Central and Eastern Europe, at an increasing scale following the transition of this region from the communist command-system to the liberal democracies and from countries from outside the EU from European and non-European regions. Some of the main source countries of the Central and Eastern European region became members of the EU-27 following the enlargement of the EU on 1st May 2004 versus on the 1st January 2007.

The integration of migrants has gained increasing importance on the European agenda in recent years. The policies were focusing, in fact, to the integration of legal third-country nationals (TCN) living and working in the various EU countries. Nevertheless, there is a major concern in a number of countries and policies are challenged. The Hague Programme adopted by the European Council in November 2004 has underlined the need for greater co-ordination of national integration policies and EU initiatives in this field.

The effective and responsible integration of the newcomers in the labour market of the European Union is part of the integration policy of immigrants. The European Commission stimulates and supports Member States' efforts in employment, induction, social affairs and equal opportunities and stressing the gender perspective in the labour market. The new Integrated Guidelines for Jobs and Growth call on Member States to take action to increase the employment and induction of immigrants. Even the Integrated Guidelines for Jobs and Growth call on Member States to take action to increase the employment of immigrants.

Provision of information and access to this information is crucial and vital for the new comers in a host country. The necessity for having an online service arises from the fact that information is often fragmented or not even available on existing websites; even if it is, the websites are not always user-friendly.

Multilingual services are rarely available. Migrants are diversified with many different mother tongues. Moreover; new comers are reluctant to go to public offices to ask for information. The bureaucracy they face is also a discouraging factor: people sent from one office to the other to collect pieces of information.

Description of target users and groups

The target population is third-country nationals legally residing in the EU Member States.

Third-country nationals who are on the territory of a third country and who are complying with specific pre-departure measures and/or conditions set out in national law including those relating to the ability to integrate in the society of this Member State fall also within the scope of the Decision establishing the European Fund for the Integration of third-country nationals.

Asylum seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are not covered by the European Fund for the Integration of third-country nationals as they fall under the European Refugee Fund.

For information, the following information has been extracted through the project's implementation:

Londoners are a diverse people with 55 % of the population White (born in the UK), 12 % White (born outside the UK), 14 % Black, Asian or from other minority backgrounds (BAME) (born in the UK) and 19 % BAME (born outside the UK).  In the rest of England, 90 % of the population is White (born in the UK), 3 % White (born outside the UK) and 3 % BAME (born outside of the UK).

The population of Amsterdam Southeast, as at 1st January 2007 stood at  77 917. Out of this figure, (29 %) or 22 484 people are indigenous Dutch. The remaining 71 % (55 432 people) originally comes from other countries. From this last group, (8 %) or 6 301 people are western migrants while (63 %) or 49 131 people are non-western migrants. The population of Southeast is relatively young. 27 % is younger than 20 years old (next to 21 % in Amsterdam) and 49 % is younger than 35 years old (next to 47 % in Amsterdam).

In Italy, at the end of 2006, the migrant population has increased of 1/6 compared wit the last year. The principal drivers for growing immigration in Italy are: ageing of the population and employment needs. In fact, Italy together with Japan, has the negative primacy of ageing of the population and the increase of birthrate registered between 1995 and 2005 is assignable to migrant women: these women give birth  2.45 sons an average, compared with the Italian women that give birth 1.24 sons. Moreover, the Italian women have the first son in old age (31.3 years) compared with the migrant women. The incidence of migrants presented in Italy for the employment needs is 6.1% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Registered immigrant resident population in Barcelona has grown dramatically - from 40 000 in 1999 to 113 000 end of December 2001 and 139 189 end of June 2002. Catalonia has received some 800 000 immigrants from 2000 to 2008, with 250 000 immigrants now registered as resident in Barcelona - according to the vanguardia newspaper, 4 February 2008.

Hungary became a target country of immigrants after the transition. In the 1990s mostly ethnic Hungarians from the neighbouring countries (Romania, Ukraine, former-Yugoslavia) arrived. At the time of the wars in former-Yugoslavia, great amount of migrants and asylum seekers arrived from there. Over the last 15 years the number of foreigners staying permanently in the country has been stable, around 1.1-1.3 per cent of the population. About 10 % of immigrants in Hungary are coming from China. Third country nationals consisted of Romanian, Ukrainian, Asian (mostly Chinese) and people from various African countries. Accession of Romania to the European Union in 2007 has changed the picture, since it cannot be considered a third country any more.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The Local Action Group (LAG) is responsible for implementing the agreed transnational activities and is involved in monitoring and evaluating the project. Each group selects a local coordinator.

Members of the LAG also form part of the on-line mentoring network of professionals who have considerable experience of working in the field of integration. Each member has created a professional profile describing his/her main expertise and interests.

The online integration services comprised a number of portals created for migrants, in particular new comers, and long-term residents. These services provide support, information and resources, in the migrants' respective mother languages, mainly in the areas of:

  • Education: children and adults;
  • Health: access to mental health or psychological support;
  • Housing: access and find support;
  • Economic participation: labour market integration and entrepreneurship;
  • Social and political participation in the host city: creating migrants' associations, volunteering, participating in elections.

The following online platforms were created:

For the creation of the online platforms, the steps below have been followed:

  • Research and benchmarking: websites, guides for new comers in EU, Canada, US.
  • Definition of the target users
  • Definition of most needed information for new comers
  • Definition of criteria for structuring the information in the portals
  • Customisation to city's needs

Main results, benefits and impacts

The added value of online integration services may be summed is in what follows:

  • Services can be used by both immigrants and administrations (or NGOs) who might not have multilingual services themselves; the services provide the possibility of switching from one language to another without loosing the page;
  • Service providers can look for information in the host country language and then switch on to the customer's language, making communication between service provider and immigrant customers easier;
  • Bureaucracy is reduced, so that new comers do not get lost between services;
  • The content is organised not according to the needs of service providers (eg. what a certain organisation does) but according to the needs of the immigrants themselves;
  • Gender dimension: resources for women, child care, violence, shelters, etc.

According to the report on the evaluation of the INTI Programme, third-country nationals have gained access to services, acquired or strengthened competences, entered into networks, improved their knowledge on the host society, and have developed new and better relations to their host societies - be it in terms of self-esteem or self-confidence, of altered mindsets, or in terms of improved contacts to institutions and authorities. Participation, access, empowerment, and recognition represent the main dimensions to be found in the answers obtained.

Migrant organisations have gained recognition, linked up internationally, received trainings, broadened their knowledge base, have been sensitized for a specific type of action, or have (in their own eyes) improved their services.

On the sides of the host societies and their representatives, services have been set up or improved, awareness among institutions has been raised, and certain institutions' or authorities' staff is said to be more aware of problems and needs, or more dedicated to the topic at stake. In rare cases, political representatives are said to have registered or taken up the matter of concern.

Lessons learnt

  • Awareness-raising of local key stakeholders on the existence of a common framework for integration at EU level, i.e. the Common  Basic Principles, and on assessing how this framework is implemented at local level.
  • Reflection on one's own practices as well as comparison with other Member states. The inputs of external experts in the transnational peer review workshops that took place in this project contributed to increasing learning of key actors who participated in the workshops (organisations representing immigrants/third country nationals; public administrations, key service providers, policy and strategy officers responsible for social and economic inclusion).
  • In terms of access of third-country nationals to health services, the availability of psychological support services is extremely important.
Scope: National