UNHCR’s work with integration in the Nordics and Baltics
UNHCR’s Representation for the Nordic and Baltic Countries is paying increasing attention to integration across the region. This entails both the concrete level of activities, programmes and networks as well as the more research-based level of results and experiences.
UNHCR’s vision for integration is that all refugees should benefit from policies and practices that promote and facilitate socioeconomic inclusion. UNHCR is continuing to motivate and support Nordic Countries to remain ‘a region of excellence’ for integration of refugees with practices and systems, built on the refugee voice and participation, rule of law and respect for human rights.
By recognizing the complexity of integration environments and well-established systems in the Nordic countries, UNHCR is acting as a facilitator between relevant regional and European integration initiatives and networks to capitalize on and further mobilize existing integration efforts.
In the Baltic countries, UNHCR is supporting the states and authorities to develop a holistic and human rights-based approach to integration, where integration policies would be implemented with adequate and sustainable funding, and all relevant integration actors would be capacitated to ensure high-quality delivery of integration services.
UNHCR works with national and local authorities, nongovernmental organizations and civil society, private sector and academia, faith-based organizations and volunteer networks as well as refugee and immigrant communities. Such regional and country-specific cooperation enables UNHCR to transfer strategic thinking on integration and multiply good integration practices, advocate for ‘whole-of society’ approaches and holistic integration policies which can help refugees to rebuild their self-esteem, self-reliance and self-resilience.
For UNHCR, integration is a dynamic and multifaceted two-way process. It leads to full and equal membership in society as it prepares refugees to adapt to their host societies without giving up cultural identity, while equally preparing the receiving communities and institutions to welcome refugees and meet the needs of a diverse population. The process is complex and gradual, comprising legal, economic, social and cultural dimensions.
UNHCR’s Representation for the Nordic and Baltic Countries works with partners on various integration areas, including socioeconomic inclusion and welcoming societies, labour market and local level integration, education and communication. Integration activities in the region are capitalized through partnerships and networks, monitoring and advocacy, dialogue with refugees and local communities, transfer and adaptation of good integration practices as well as changing the narrative around integration issues in the region.
Labour market, employment and entrepreneurship
Having a job and becoming part of the labour market in a host society is a significant step for refugees’ self-reliance and successful integration.
To foster refugee labour market inclusion and mobilize the private sector for various refugee employment initiatives, UNHCR cooperates with Diversity Charters in the Baltic countries and the Tent Partnership for Refugees in the Nordic countries.
UNHCR also supports IKEA partnerships in the Nordic countries. This is part of IKEA Ingka Group’s commitment, pledged at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019, to assist refugees with employment opportunities and job training across 30 countries, while also aiming to counter the negative narrative around asylum and refugee integration issues.
Across the world, and also in the Nordic and Baltic region, refugees are showing strong entrepreneurship potential by building businesses and creating social and civil society initiatives. In Estonia, UNHCR and partners have supported the establishment and development of the social enterprise and entrepreneurship for refugees, Siin & Sääl.
Working with cities
Supporting and promoting sustainable integration at the local level through social cohesion and equal opportunities is a key objective for UNHCR’s Representation of the Nordic and Baltic Countries – and here cities play a vital role. The importance of effective integration of refugees to not only build inclusive and welcoming societies, but also to create prosperous and flourishing local communities, has been recognized by many cities in the Nordic and Baltic region.
UNHCR cooperates with Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities programme, Nordic and Baltic cities as well as associations of local and regional authorities to foster diversity and inclusion at the local level, where holistic integration policies leave no one behind.
Jonava became not only the first Lithuanian, but also the first Baltic city to join the Intercultural Cities programme. UNHCR also promotes solidarity and raises awareness, support refugees and bring communities together by inviting cities all over the region to sign a statement of solidarity #WithRefugees. From the Nordic and Baltic region, Reykjanesbær in Iceland and Jonava in Lithuania, have so far joined UNHCR’s Cities #WithRefugees initiative.
- UNHCR: “Refugee Voices on Integration in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania” Survey results at a Glance & Full Report (2021)
- UNHCR: “Integration of refugees in Estonia: Participation and Empowerment” (2016)
- UNHCR: “Integration of refugees in Latvia: Participation and Empowerment” (2015)
- UNHCR: “Integration of refugees in Lithuania: Participation and Empowerment” (2013)
- UNHCR: “Protectors, Providers, Survivors: A Dialogue with Refugee Women In Finland” (2011)
Reports and other resources:
News & Activities on Integration
UNHCR’s partner Finnish Refugee Council has chosen Lama Kourdi, from Tampere, as the Refugee Woman of the year 2022. The Refugee Man of the year 2022 is Aladdin Delli, also from Tampere, Finland.
The initiative Student Refugees is providing support and guidance to refugees and asylum-seekers in Iceland to overcome barriers in the education system.
UNHCR’s partner ‘I Want to Help Refugees’ provides advise and support to help refugees navigate life in Latvia.
In May 2022, The Nordic Council of Ministers kicks off a comprehensive integration project in the Nordic and Baltic countries, supported by UNHCR.
UNHCR and civil society organizations shared experiences on integration and inclusion of refugees during the online integration conference, Week of Neighbors.
Refugees are helped to settle and rebuild their lives with a new hands-on integration approach in the Icelandic municipality of Reykjanesbær.