The BSPC Working Group on Migration and Integration held its fourth meeting in the plenary hall of the State Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein on 17 December. Delegations from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Nordic Council, Norway, Poland, Russia, Schleswig-Holstein and Sweden participated in the meeting. Chaired by Pyry Niemi, Member of the Swedish Parliament, the Working Group discussed expert presentations, a second intergovernmental survey of the Working Group, as well as the upcoming activities and meetings.
Before the meeting, Mr Klaus Schlie, the President of the State Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein recalled in a speech to the participants the events of 100 years earlier, in particular the sailors’ mutiny in Kiel. He reminded his audience that these events, which had unfolded in November 1918 were, amongst others, part of the roots of parliamentary democracy in Germany. He underlined that democracy did not just happen all by itself, one needed to fight for it; that democracy protected us from oppression and arbitrariness, and only democracy was a form of government guaranteeing the human dignity of every single person as a common good. He referred to Article 1 of Germany’s basic law, which laid down human dignity and human rights as legally binding fundamental rights. He pointed out that another fundamental right was derived from this, namely the right to asylum for those suffering political persecution. This was also a consequence of historical experience. He mentioned that any kind of immigration was associated with challenges for host societies. Such societies were confronted with many questions demanding answers, he went on. Mr Schlie further said that debates about integration were invariably linked to questions about values and identity. Questions relating to integration were a key issue in each country, in the Baltic Sea region and all across Europe, wherefore the BSPC Working Group “Migration and Integration” was so very important to lawmakers from the Baltic Sea region. Parliamentarians had to and wanted to share and pool their experiences. First and foremost, it was necessary to find joint solutions which would be accepted in the Baltic Sea region and well beyond that, despite the many historical differences and national experiences, Mr Schlie pointed out.
The meeting was provided with a number of very informative expert presentations and had a lively discussion with the experts.
Ms Sabine Hahn, Coordinator of the Policy Area Education, Hamburg Institute for Vocational Education, informed the Working Group on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region’s new action “Recognising potential – easing the way for newly arrived refugees”. Ms Hahn explained that they were working on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region with four sub-areas: education, research, employability as well as the integration of refugees. The latter point had been added because of the refugee crisis in 2015. Of the actions listed in the EU Strategy, she said she would focus on the fifth item: recognising potential – easing the way for migrants. In 2015, there had been a huge inflow of migrants to Europe. While the inflow had shrunk in 2016, Ms Hahn believed the current situation to be more of a pause. As such, it was still a common challenge in the Baltic Sea area to integrate these people into society. At the same time, she noted the demographic change. People also had to be integrated into the labour market. There was a high demand for labour, yet there was a mismatch of these components. Ms Hahn stressed that this was not only on the Working Group’s agenda but also on that of her institute.
She described the Baltic Sea area as a set of similar countries that nonetheless had different mindsets regarding their openness towards migrants. More cooperation was required. Therefore, they were aiming to create transnational actions, binding together governments, to create and improve integrated measures for migrants. This would come together in a new flagship.
The actions already established so far focused on the exchange of best practices, as called for in the Action Plan for the Baltic Sea States. A platform for said exchange was in place; in addition, methods and systems were being developed and tested. Once validated, the goal was to allow local actors to use these, facilitating entry into the labour market. Among the challenges was the need of countries with aging populations to add to the labour force; yet, there were various respective attitudes around the Baltic Sea. What was needed to deliver on that need was an insurance that migrants would learn a new language and would obtain access to work-based learning so as to be eventually integrated into the labour market.
Ms Hahn next spoke about the emerging flagship. One of their goals was to separate the policy sub area “integration” from the existing flagship “School to Work” and create a new one, which would be an MRS cross-cutting flagship, involving all macro regions. She stressed that it would not be limited to the Baltic Sea but rather envelop all the macro-regional strategies of the EU. They were currently in a dialogue with stakeholders in Northern Germany on possibly providing anchoring for this flagship; no decision had yet been made. The financing would possibly be enabled through a coordinated ESF call in 2019, targeting the integration of migrants. The plan called for the flagship to be established in 2019, with a kick-off meeting in Hamburg. That meeting was expected to take the form of a conference or a forum on the integration of migrants.
Preparations for that forum had already begun. The goal was to bring together 100 participants, representing the public and private sector. Thus, best practices could be shared, and knowledge exchanged. To that end, 30 workshops were planned, with 5 running in parallel, respectively. Accordingly, each participate could take part in up to 6 workshops. Two half days were planned. Discussion would concentrate on the needs and gaps of the issue.
Mr Matti Mäkelä, Head of the Project Management Office, City of Turku/Education Division, began his presentation on “Knowledge platform – integration of newly arrived refugees” by informing the working group about the flagship School to Work, a platform for transnational cooperation, allowing policy-makers to zero in on target groups, learn from each other and to develop new ideas. The platform further permitted exchange of best practices as well as the launch of new initiatives and projects. He went on to describe the structure of the flagship, with Sweden’s SALAR as the leader, overseeing three sub-platforms, namely the NEET knowledge platform operated by Norden in Sweden as well as the two platforms Early School Leaving and Newly Arrived Refugees, both run by the Finnish city of Turku.
For Mr Mäkelä, the way this had come about was a good example for regional cooperation. He noted that he was also the chairman of the Baltic Sea task force for employment and well-being. This task had proved very similar to the flagship School to Work. Accordingly, three years ago, it had been decided to work together instead of pursuing the same work separately. This was one of the main ideas in their work load, to collaborate. All the materials, seminars, policy recommendations, events, information about conferences had been gathered in a development report, which also contained best practices.
The goal was to allow people to join the flagship with its sub platforms, no matter at which stage of transnational cooperation they were. The very first level consisted of collaboration through meetings or study visits, allowing the exchange of ideas. On the next level, there was cooperation, including benchmarking, shadowing and peer review. All of this was leading to an ever-closer cooperation in pursuit of the joint goals, exchanging best practices. Learning from each other was one of the primary concerns; Mr Mäkelä pointed out that this was the only way to prevent each nation from making the same mistakes another country may have already made.
He went on to note the case of BSR Integrate Now, a project focused on the exchange of best practices to smooth integration into society as well as the development and testing of methods and systems supporting integration. The city of Turku was the coordinator, coming together with their partners from Sweden, Stockholm’s SALAR and SALA from Malmö as well as the Norden Association. Rather unusual, he noted, was the final partner, namely the Thomas More University College from Belgium which helped them to create and study new ways of guidance for migrants and refugees. He pointed out that these were just the partners with funding from the project. The knowledge platform in total counted some sixty members, and if one included all organisations in some way associated with the platform, the number would skyrocket to well over 100. As such, Mr Mäkelä said, this provided a good basis for the creation of a new flagship.
Although a comparatively long time ago, he noted the events of 2017, with a kick-off seminar in Stockholm in June and a number of workshops which had led into the transnational cooperation events of 2018, starting with a March conference on the integration of newly arrived migrants and refugees in Rostock, Germany, under the heading “Sharing the European Dream”. The goal was to create a vision for immigration in 2038 in the Baltic Sea region. The responsibility on the side of Mr Mäkelä’s team covered eight workshops on labour market integration along with study visits, training sessions on entrepreneurship and appreciative inquiries as well as the collection and dissemination of good practices through the knowledge platform on their website. Furthermore, they worked on widening the national and Baltic Sea region networks.
In these two years of operations, Mr Mäkelä noted that they had learned a number of lessons. First of these was that transnational cooperation truly worked and created added value. For example, the city of Turku had learned much about the mentoring process in Hamburg which had by now been implemented in the Finnish city. Other best practices adopted from Baltic Sea countries included the integration knowledge centre that would be launched in Turku in 2019.
Another lesson was that new working models were required. As an example, he noted their work on “study visits 2.0”, based on the idea that there had to be a better follow-up to the visit, elaborating what added value had been generated for each organisation. During the study visits themselves, there should also be more input gathering for the Baltic Sea region.
Furthermore, Mr Mäkelä pointed out that the cooperation both on the Baltic Sea and the European level should be mainstream work, to get the best out of the cooperation as well as the available resources. With the new flagship emerging, he expected there to be some very interesting discussions and work ahead.
Mr Niklas Muhlack, “Arbeiterwohlfahrt (= a national workers’ welfare association) (AWO) Schleswig-Holstein”, presented the project “Landgewinn” – empowerment of migrants in rural areas through social and democratic participation”. Specifically, their task was empowering migrants in rural areas through social and democratic participation. The programme had been launched in October 2017, scheduled to last until the end of 2019. Funding had been provided by the federal programme “Demokratie leben!” (“Living Democracy!”) and the ministry of the interior of Schleswig-Holstein. With their core idea of empowering migrants to participate socially and politically, their goal was not merely to provide shelter and food for new arrivals but also to give them the opportunity to have their voices heard. They approached this through a political mentoring programme between migrants (“mentees”) as well as local and regional politicians (“mentors”).
He further noted that “Landgewinn” had succeeded another AWO programme which had suffered from the problem that the countryside had always been a blind spot. Because the challenges in rural areas differed from urban areas, the former had been selected as the focal point. In “Landgewinn”, each mentoring scheme lasted four months per region. The project had begun in the north of Schleswig-Holstein, moving gradually further south. The idea was that there were one or two individual meetings between the mentee and the mentor each month. Here, the mentee might accompany the mentor to a political party’s conference or to a local or regional parliament. This would provide the mentee with an idea of how politics worked and what politicians in Germany were doing, even on the local level. In addition, mentees attended six-day-long workshops on various political topics, for example on human rights, federalism or the different roles played by the political institutions in Germany. The project also offered an educational trip to Berlin per invitation of a member of the federal parliament, providing a rounded picture of the entire political scheme of Germany by visiting the parliament and several ministries.
The main goals of the project were that migrants would acquire basic knowledge about politics in Germany and get to know the structure of civil society. Moreover, they would obtain an overview about existing associations, organisations and parties, entering into contact with these institutions. The project was aiming to empower the migrants to build personal networks for their own social and political participation. Mr Muhlack considered the latter to be a very important aspect. He noted that some of the mentees had become politically active after their time in the project. The speaker pointed out that the original implementation in the first two regions had worked as a “kick-starter” for political participation. Currently, the project was talking to the district administration on how to use the structure created by “Landgewinn” and turn this into a permanent institution. This could be handled by founding clubs or other structures that had been non-existent in the rural area so far.
Ms Vanessa Perbos, AWO regional association Schleswig-Holstein, Integration Center Kiel, informed the Working Group on the project “Hayati” (Arabic: my life) – Integration of female migrants in the labour market. This project had been designed for refugee women in Kiel who were unable to take German language courses because they had to take care of their young children at home, not least because of the paucity of appropriate child care facilities in Kiel. “Hayati” had been conceived to give these women the space to learn and at the same time provide child care for their children.
The project had run from November 2017 to May 2018 and had been funded by the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Economics, Labour, Transport and Technology as well as the Job Centre of Kiel. The target group had been refugee women and their children under the age of six, without alternative child care options. 26 women and 19 children had been involved in the project, forming a highly diverse group, considering the country of origin, the time spent in Germany or the educational background. The project had been staffed with two project coordinators, two interpreters and four child carers. The time frame had been Mondays to Fridays, from 09:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., with an additional one-hour meeting per month with the coordinators.
“Hayati” had primarily aimed to empower refugee women, to allow them to integrate into society and to prepare them for their academic or professional future – an important goal for the ministry – as well as for a German integration course.
The project’s structure was based on the one hand on daily child care.
In the project, the first challenge had been building trust within the group. This, Ms Perbos stressed, did not simply refer to the women on the one side and the staff on the other but also between the women themselves. After that, the next challenge had been how the women understood their roles in the family and in society. Yet another challenge had been posed by the mental health of the women. Some of them had seen horrific things on the way to Germany, had suffered through very difficult living conditions or had lost members of their family back in Syria or Afghanistan.
Ms Perbos went on to describe the successes of the project: Childcare was one of these as it had enabled the women to have time for themselves. The children themselves had also benefited, showing quick development in their motor skills. All participants also benefited from strong linguistic development. It had been gratifying for the staff members to witness the strong bond between the women that had formed during the project and was still in existence at this time. Moreover, the women had been empowered. They had also developed a better understanding of the system, with some of them forming concrete aspirations for their professional lives. Last but not least, the high participation rate of the women in the integration course was also considered a great success. Six months after the completion of the project, a large portion of the women were still attending that course on a daily basis.
Mr Aljoscha Tischkau, Turkish Community in Schleswig-Holstein, presented the project “Diss-kriminierung – empowerment of young participants against discrimination”. In the project’s title, “Diss” stood for diversity, inclusion and self-confidence as well as self-empowerment. The project was targeting youths with migrational backgrounds from various origins that were often facing problems. Mr Tischkau described the maxims and goals of the project as empowerment as well as life-world orientation. The speaker presented a short video featuring various modern music elements, and he stressed that the entire video from start to finish, including the presented songs, had been created in the project’s workshops.
Their work, Mr Tischkau said, consisted of workshops and mini projects as both medium and method.
The programme was funded by “Demokratie Leben” and the Turkish Community.
A series of workshops had been started that would run until February 2019, with different topics about power structure, execution approaches, exchanges of experiences, legal frameworks of conditions, development of options for action and empowerment. In the second phase, begun in April 2018, multiplier training had been started so they could launch their own mini projects which were to be run from February 2019 to the end of that year. Also, part of this phase had been “Beats in the Park”, a youth festival where they could present their own topics. Some two thousand people had attended the event. The series of workshops had been set at twelve events.
The idea of the project had been to begin with state-wide workshops, leading into the multiplier training, all to strengthen the overall goals of providing support and guidance on the issue of discrimination among young people and to empower them. A primary motto here was “Each one, teach one”, meaning that you could give back what you deserve from society. Mr Tischkau stated that the project was aiming at strengthening youths in their experiences and their subjectivity while treating each other with appreciation and esteem. Thus, exclusionary experiences were recognized and perceived.
Next, Mr Tischkau spoke about empowerment which he described as taking control of your own life at the individual level and determining your own identity. Here, he pointed out that they were considering empowerment at three levels: the personal, group and social levels. Bringing these topics and people together was very important for the empowerment process. Another aspect was teaching to give something back to society. He stressed that all these three levels had to be addressed, also in parliamentary debate.
Empowerment was a bottom-up process facing numerous challenges.
Mr Tischkau also explained that the group conducted media work – including studio and video production -, allowing the participating youths to bring their work to the public. Mini projects were being conducted at schools or youth centres.
All presentations are attached below.
Further procedure and next meetings
The Working Group decided to commission a political science analysis of the responses and statements made by governments to the survey conducted by the working group.
In addition, the Working Group agreed to conduct a second survey among the governments of the Baltic Sea Region to refine and extend the existing survey.
The next working group meetings will take place on 28 and 29 March 2019 in Kaliningrad and from 27 to 28 May 2019 combined with a Baltic Sea Parliamentary Youth Forum in Schwerin.