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Participants at the 16 May Friends of Europe dinner debate “Boosting migrant & refugee integration: government and private sector cooperation” highlighted that integration is the key issue facing the European Union, with challenges being poor management, a shortage of joined-up thinking and trouble accessing finances – not necessarily a lack of available resources.
Coming together to identify areas of cooperation, current gaps and good practices in the public-private relationship, participants broadly agreed that inclusion is a two-way street which must involve local communities as well as new arrivals. Practical examples were provided by speakers from the cities of Amsterdam and Athens, who showed that while the “crisis” situation may have abated for now, inclusion and integration remain ongoing challenges. Furthermore, some new arrivals may not have the incentive to integrate in their port of first arrival, making it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for integrating newcomers. For successful integration, local government, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders must understand and tailor responses to the differing aspirations and priorities of migrants, refugees and local communities.
During the debate, participants came to a consensus around several themes, including the importance of newcomers having access to realistic networks rather than undergoing forced integration; the need to break down silos so that different stakeholders, including both public and private, can work together; the use of data to make smarter choices; and the promotion of common values.