New Challenge for the Balkans: the Integration of Migrants

Balkan Countries face Major Challenges as their Status Changes from Transit Tours to Destination Countries

June 13th, 2016

With the on-going refugee and migration crisis, Balkan countries are facing a new challenge. Southeastern European countries have been turned from a transit route to a final destination for migrants. Prior to the establishment of the quota system, these states were faced with challenges dealing with the movement of migrants through their country. However, the difficulty now arises with the integration of migrants from the Middle East, specifically from Syria and Iraq.

Niels Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights issued a paper on May 31st 2016 on the integration of migrants in Europe. In the paper, Muiznieks identified lack of language courses within receiving countries, non-adapted education systems for migrant children, over-complicated procedures of reunifying migrant families, long-lasting procedures of attaining citizenship, and low employment rates for migrant works as the main problems of integration of migrants into society. On large, restructuring the education program is the outstanding challenge. As a result, inclusive education will have to be prioritized by governments as the primary issue on their agenda.

Previously targeting children of Roma descent and children with disabilities, the policy will now focus on children of migrants. Muiznieks emphasized that it will be a challenge to introduce inclusive education for migrant children and provide them with the one-on-one guidance and attention they need to thrive academically. This will prove most challenging in the Western Balkans in regions where school programs are divided based on ethnicity or language. In such cases, fragile ethnic relations can suffer from the rise of xenophobic movements or rise of anti-migrant sentiment.

Muiznieks further outlined that problems of integration stem from inexperience dealing with a large influx of migrants and the lack of resources that need to be dedicated to the effort. However, these factors should not impede efforts. Integration can be introduced even in countries with limited resources such as Portugal, which is currently overseeing and applying education policies with the intent of integrating migrant children into the European education system.

However, while a few countries including Bulgaria have taken preliminary steps, considerable work still needs to be done. Muiznieks argues, “A lot of work needs to be done in terms of coordinating between ministries to provide language training and integration,” he noted.


Cultural Diplomacy News
Cristina Stoica, CD News