The coronavirus pandemic saw people in Europe band together, regardless of where they were born, to pull through this difficult time. From the healthcare professionals saving lives in hospitals, to agricultural workers putting food on our tables, and researchers finding a vaccine so we can go back to our normal lives.
This year has shown us the vital role of every person in our society. However, some people encounter more barriers than others in being able to take part in society. Migrants face disproportionate disadvantages that harm them and our societies as a whole. Lack of recognition of academic and professional experience, language barriers, long waiting times for work permits, difficulty accessing healthcare or information on their rights, and a feeling of stigmatisation and disconnect from local communities are just some of the issues that manifest this inequality and prevent people from contributing to and thriving in a new country.
The good news is that much can be done to remedy this at an EU and national level. The EU has already demonstrated its enthusiasm to take these steps by releasing the EU Action Plan on Integration, which aims to promote inclusion for all people living in Europe. This plan opens up an important opportunity for Europe to promote inclusive and cohesive societies, where everyone has a stake. It is now up to EU governments to set this plan into action.
Two consultations on integration with women refugees, stateless person, diaspora and migrants held by Oxfam and New Women Connectors with Collaboration of European Coalition (GRN) in September point to key areas for action. For example, promoting the transferability of non-EU degrees, investing in orientation programs for newcomers, investing in job assistance scheme and integration projects that create links and bonds between newcomers and the welcoming society, as well as ensuring availability and visibility of free online and offline language classes. Another key concern is equal access to healthcare, particularly in this pandemic, where a top priority must be ensuring everyone in our societies can get a vaccine.
Migrants contribute enormously to our societies, culturally, economically, and socially. We must acknowledge and celebrate the vital role they play and celebrate their rich contributions to our communities for the sake of everyone in our societies.