Many refugees live year after year with little hope of returning home. For them, the only solution is to build a new life in the country of asylum, and to integrate into the local community.
For UNHCR, integration is a dynamic two-way process leading to full and equal membership in the host society. The 1951 Refugee Convention lists a range of socioeconomic and legal rights associated with successful integration. These include freedom of movement, access to education and jobs, access to public relief, the possibility of acquiring property, and the possibility of citizenship.
Most Central European countries have long considered themselves mere transit places, and have done little to develop their integration systems and policies. As a result, refugees there often lack the assistance to learn the language, find a job or obtain professional qualifications, and secure a place to call home. In recent years, some efforts have been made to rectify this problem, and progress has been achieved in these countries to improve their integration programmes.
UNHCR is paying increasing attention to integration across the region. In order to better advise governments on their integration policies, it issued two comprehensive documents in April 2009: the Note on Refugee Integration in Central Europe, and the Agenda for Refugee Integration in Central Europe. This material contains an overview of integration across Central Europe, including a list of the practical measures, which all integration programmes should entail.
In addition, UNHCR Central Europe urges countries to develop laws and policies in the areas of education, health, social welfare, and employment, which lay the groundwork for successful integration. We lobby countries to create services that help asylum-seekers become self-reliant, an important step on the road to obtaining refugee status and full integration into society. UNHCR reminds countries and stakeholders how factors such as reception conditions can affect a person’s future chances of integration.