More than one million refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In total, until December 21st, 1.005.504 reached Europe mainly through Greece, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Malta and Cyprus.

Most of the refugees came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan fleeing conflict and poverty, and the large majority – 816 752 refugees – arrived in Europe by sea through Greece. Around 3700 have been reported missing with thousands dead through shipwreck and drowning in the Mediterranean. Despite the increasing flow of refugees coming to northern Europe, the majority flee to other countries. Currently, approximately 2.2 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey, while Lebanon holds 1.1 million Syrian nationals.

The EU, its institutions, and its member states have specific legal obligations towards individuals within its territory and at its land and sea borders. In a world characterized by rising displacement, conflict, and human rights abuse, EU leadership is more important than ever.

Integration is now the “big challenge”, says Ruth Schöffl, spokesperson in Vienna for the UNHCR, in interview to Lusa. The issue of integration has become a key point of political debate on refugees. There are however divergent points of view on this matter.

One of the most recent arguments is that several fighters from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq are in fact born in Europe, and that some of the authors of the terrorist attacks in Paris (November 2015) were European citizens. This has brought proponents of more restrictive (or against) immigration policies to argue against the integration of refugees in Europe, by pointing the neighbourhoods of Saint Denis in Paris, and Molenbeek in Belgium, to name some, as examples of communities where the integration has failed. Racism, xenophobia, and other movements against the reception and asylum of refugees in the EU has also increased over the last months.

However, there is also those whom argue that Europe needs immigrants to counter the aging of its population. A study released this year by the German University of Coburg noted that Germany will need “an annual net balance of between 276,000 and 491,000 immigrants from outside the European Union” to sustain its economy.

However, to meet the needs of the European economy, integration programmes are needed. Much will depend on the integration capacity of the hosting countries. It is vital to create training programmes to teach the language and give the necessary skills to be able to enter the labour market. It is vital to invest in education and housing programmes to facilitate the integration process.

At the IFHP we are looking into the housing refugees status quo and trying to draw lessons from housing solutions around Europe and the international community to facilitate the housing process.

Stay tuned for our next posts!

andreia fidalgo
Andreia Fidalgo
Member of the IFHP office in Copenhagen
Project Assistant of the Housing Refugees Project


Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are those of the authors of the blogposts and do not reflect those of the International Federation of Housing and Planning.