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TRAFIG Practice Note No. 11: The missing link: Promoting refugees’ skills-based mobility within Europe (June 2022)

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The Common European Asylum System prohibits the mobility of persons entitled to international protection within the European Union, making it more difficult for displaced persons to rebuild their lives even after arriving in Europe and receiving protection status. Recent developments soften this strict policy of immobility for some. In this context, intra-EU mobility based on refugees’ skills could become a game-changer. The tools are there. What is needed now is to connect these initiatives so that more displaced persons can use their skills for their benefit and that of receiving countries.

In its recent annual report on the state of asylum within the European Union, the EU Asylum Agency (EUAA) considers complementary pathways important for expanding solutions for displaced persons. According to the EUAA, “resettlement or other alternative pathways to protection, such as humanitarian visas, community sponsorship, study programmes or channels used for labour migration, may provide a viable way ahead” for displaced persons who are not able to return to their origin country. This is in line with broader momentum behind complementary pathways, as seen for instance in the Global Compact on Refugees and the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. Discussions have focused on the global context—but the benefits of this approach also ring true within the European Union.

As research from the Transnational Figurations of Displacement (TRAFIG) project has shown (see working paper no. 9 and policy brief no. 6), displaced people, including applicants and beneficiaries of international protection, can also face situations of protracted displacement within the European Union: They lack mobility within the European Union due to EU legal frameworks and, as consequence, may not be able to rebuild their lives in the member state in which they first arrived. Intra-EU mobility could, just as in the global dimension, play a viable role in helping more displaced persons rebuild their lives. It could well be linked to labour opportunities. The tools are all there:

• the European Union is working on an EU-wide talent pool;

• organisations are providing national support networks to help refugees find employment and to support employers interested in hiring refugees; and

• recent developments have softened mobility restrictions for refugees.
What is needed now is the political will to connect these dots so that more displaced persons can make use of their skills for their benefit and that of receiving countries.

At the same time as displacement is rising, the European Union is facing a demographic decline and labour force shortages, meaning that migration could help to mitigate the consequences of an ageing continent. The skills and talents of refugees—when properly assessed, recognised and matched—could contribute considerably to maintaining the European Union’s economic growth. In this context, efforts to identify and acknowledge displaced talent—and make this known to potential employers— are critical.

The TRAFIG project mapped and interviewed some of these initiatives to learn from their experiences and assess whether their practices could be replicated in other countries, thereby promoting cross-border cooperation within the European Union.

The aim was to understand how to connect the dots—or, in other words, how to fill the gap between the available skills and talent of displaced people, typically misused or underused, with the needs and opportunities of EU labour markets.