Challenges before Public Services in the Field of Integration: The Perspective of Migrants and Refugees

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The treatment of migrants and refugees by public service providers in host countries has always been a point of interest for different stakeholders, and even more so in Europe in the face of the significant migratory movement occurring during the bigger part of the second decade of the 21st century.

It is in this context that the implementation of a more individualised approach to providing public services to newcomers, focusing on their age, gender and diversity (AGD), has been increasingly streamlined by key stakeholders, such as the UNHCR, as a tool improving the efficiency and utility of these services. Based on age, gender and diversity, assessment of the quality of provided services may shine a light on the issues and flaws of those by seeking the input of the people who experience them directly. As noted by the UNHCR, age influences, and can enhance or diminish, a person’s capacity to exercise his or her rights, gender often defines the duties, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities and privileges of women and men in their context, while, concerning diversity, UNCHR undertakes to ensure that all persons of concern are protected appropriately.

In a 2017 UNCHR AGD Participatory Assessment in Bulgaria, for instance, the most important integration-related issues experienced by asylum-seekers were education and learning of languages, labor market integration, as well as culture and media. Asylum-seekers and refugees pointed to the need of courses in English, German and Bulgarian, as well as an overall need to improve the access to information and facilitating and simplifying their interaction with the administration. Additionally, asylum seekers and refugees expressed the need for more cultural visits, social events and other community-building experiences to help build a more positive media representation of refugees, as predominantly negative stereotypes have been identified as an obstacle to integration. As per the labor market issues, the need for more targeted vocational training of refugees based on the needs of the local economy has been identified as a remedy to the difficulties of finding employment. Gender-related issues have been identified, such as refugee women lacking work experience in their countries of origin, which negatively impacts their subsequent attempts to enter the labour market in Bulgaria. Age-wise, the elderly may be in difficulty moving freely within and outside refugee centres due to lacking infrastructure and there is lack of information on the application procedure for pensions and other social rights.

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