Though there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to integration, there are a number of broad goals of integration that include protecting the human rights of refugees; enabling refugees to reach and develop their full potential; reducing their marginalization, and fostering social cohesion and harmonious coexistence. It is vital that States view and design integration policies in a holistic manner. Refugees in particular constitute a group with specific characteristics and specific needs within the wider migrant population, thus requiring targeted programmes and policies. Key areas for integration in any society include education, employment, family reunification, access to basic services, social inclusion and civic engagement. When refugees are treated fairly and with dignity during the asylum process, their prospects of integration upon recognition are much greater. Asylum-seekers who had better reception conditions and have been allowed to work as early as possible have much better chances to integrate in society later. Essential aspects of integration that can be extended to asylum-seekers upon arrival in a new country include language training, orientation sessions, and the right to work, as well as the reduction of long waiting periods for decisions on asylum applications that affect integration prospects negatively.
In Cyprus, the first country integration plan was adopted for the period 2010-2012, aiming for the integration of migrants in general, whilst a new strategy for integration has been under development by the government for the past few years. At the same time, a number of useful measures and integration projects have received funding through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), under the Ministry of Interior since 2014.
The development of a national integration strategy for refugees has become a pressing need during the past years due to the onset of the conflict in Syria and the ensuing refugee crisis, and the increasing number of refugees arriving in Cyprus, especially since 2014. The UNHCR Office in Cyprus has taken the initiative of establishing the Integration Task Force precisely in order to contribute to the development of a national integration strategy, which in turn would help in the development of policy and practice in this area. The Task Force group consists of diverse stakeholders: refugee associations, government authorities, local authorities, civil society organizations, refugee community associations and business community representatives.