B Explanatory memorandum
by Ms Gabriela Heinrich, rapporteur
1. Europe is a destination for
people seeking international protection or a better life, due to
wars, political turmoil and poverty affecting its neighbouring regions.
This inflow adds to the migrants and refugees who have already settled
in Europe, sometimes for several generations. In parallel, populist
parties enjoying growing electoral support in some European countries
have questioned the capacity of their country to absorb a greater number
of migrants and refugees, as well as the latter’s willingness to
2. In these circumstances, it is more important than ever to
put the integration issue at the heart of the political discussion.
Much has been said and written on migration and integration. Too
little attention, however, has been paid to women. The aim of this
report is precisely to put migrant women in the spotlight, both
to take into account their vulnerability in the migration process
and to highlight their potential as key actors for integration.
3. In this report, I have adopted the term “newcomers” which
was used by Ms Fatuma Musa Afrah at one of the hearings held by
the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, as a non-technical,
umbrella term to indicate people of foreign origin who have arrived
in Europe in recent years, whether as migrants, asylum seekers or
refugees. The actions needed to provide these people with the opportunity
to integrate in our societies do not depend primarily on their legal
status, but rather on other factors such as their level of education,
their skills, their ambitions and the way they envisage their future.
4. The focus of this report is both on the integration of women
and on the role they play, in turn, in promoting the integration
of their families and social circle, by supporting their children's
education, sharing traditions with their children, as well as participating
in their host country’s society.
5. Unfortunately, the issue of women’s integration is not central
to the political debate. Integration of men draws much more attention,
mainly from the angle of integration in the labour market. Men who
work tend to acquire a better knowledge of the host country’s language.
They are also more visible in the public space. Migrant women are
less encouraged and less expected to find employment, although the
majority of them would like a job. This is the result of a combination
of factors, such as lower education and poorer professional qualifications,
as well as a larger burden of family responsibilities.
6. The demographics of migration also need to be taken into account
in this analysis. For decades, migrants in European countries, both
from within Europe and beyond, were predominantly men. Women would join
them at a later stage to form or reunite a family. In recent decades,
however, the share of women migrating independently has increased.
7. While I share the concerns about the vulnerable situation
of migrant women, a category that faces a higher risk of violence
and discrimination, including of multiple and intersectional discrimination,
I would like to shed light on a different, more positive side of
this reality. Today, it is important not only to protect the rights
of this group of women, but also to help them to fulfil their potential.
This may be achieved through a variety of measures, starting from
well-designed integration courses and education in general, but
also by increasing their participation in society and political
8. In this report, particular focus is put on concrete examples
of integration activities and programmes, to show that various approaches
are possible and that they are not mutually exclusive. These examples
come mostly from the fact-finding visits that I conducted to Italy
and Norway, as well as from my own country, Germany, where I closely
followed programmes in my home city, Berlin, and in my constituency,
9. The additional examples from other Council of Europe member
States were shared with me by fellow members of the Committee on
Equality and Non-Discrimination. I am grateful to my colleagues
for these contributions and for the constructive debates that took
place on various occasions within the committee. The information
and views shared by experts who took part in several hearings also
contributed significantly to the contents of this report.
2 An overview of migration in different
10. Migration has different features
across European countries, depending among other things on the history
and economic development of each of them. In Germany, mass migration
coincided with the economic boom of the post-war reconstruction.
Migrants arrived in large numbers starting from the 1960s. In Norway,
the phenomenon emerged in the 1970s. In Italy, for a long time a
country of origin, a significant influx of migrants started in the
from “guest workers” to integration
11. In the Federal Republic of
Germany of the 1960s and 70s, the integration of so-called guest
workers and their families was not viewed as a priority, as it was
assumed that they would return to their home after a certain time.
Opportunities for integration were simply not offered to them. The
assumption turned out to be wrong: many people remained and their
children and grandchildren were born in Germany. Such mistakes must
be avoided in today’s Europe. Legislators and policy makers should
bear in mind that the presence of migrants is not an exceptional
situation: in Germany, one child in three now comes from a migration
background. Projects and activities aimed at promoting integration
are carried out in most German cities. I will present some of those offered
in Berlin and in Nuremberg, with which I am particularly familiar.
from country of origin to country of destination
12. I decided to conduct a fact-finding
visit to Italy, for geographic diversity, and I chose Milan in particular for
several reasons. Firstly, as the country’s industrial powerhouse,
the city hosts a large number of foreigners, or nationals with an
immigration background, coming from a wide range of countries and
regions including China, central and eastern Europe (Romania, Ukraine),
northern Africa and the Middle East, who arrived in the area for
economic reasons. Secondly, these communities have become increasingly
organised and visible in recent years, thanks to the work of associations
representing them. Some of their members have become involved in
politics and have been elected as local administrators. Thirdly,
the local authorities (in particular the City Council of Milan and
the Province) consider integration of newcomers as an important
priority and have engaged in dialogue and co-operation with their
13. A reform of the regulations on citizenship, making it easier
for the Italian-born offspring of migrants to become nationals,
was central to the political debate at the time of my visit, with
harsh, polarised tones. This debate clearly reflected the split
in Italian politics between the forces supporting integration and
those opposing it.
and the “Nordic model”
According to Norway’s Central
are currently 724 000 immigrants residing in the country and 158 000
Norwegian nationals who were born to immigrant parents, representing
respectively 13.8% and 3% of the overall population (5.2 million).
This group includes people from 221 countries: 52% are from Europe,
30% from Asia and 12% from Africa. They are, on average, much younger
than the rest of the population: half of them are between 20 and
40 years old, and only 9% are over 60. Approximately 60% of immigrants
aged between 15 and 74 were in employment in 2016, compared to 65%
of the Norwegian population as a whole. The gap between women and
men in employment is much larger (almost double) among immigrants
when compared to the rest of the population. Average figures, however,
do not reflect the diversity of the situation: in fact, education
and employment levels vary widely across the different nationality groups.
As regards refugees, their number has increased steeply in
Norway, like in the rest of Europe, in the last few years, with
a spike in 2015.Note
total of 30 110 asylum seekers arrived in Norway in the first 11
months of that year, with a sharp increase from around 500 per month
in spring to more than 8 000 per month in October and November.
Norway’s social and economic system is based on the “Nordic
model”, the key features of which include high employment rates,
high levels of productivity and generous welfare schemes. Norway
and the other Nordic countries have developed “universal welfare
schemes that have provided the populations with free access to education,
largely free health services, and generous income security schemes
for those who fall outside the labour market”.Note
addition, “active efforts were made to facilitate women’s participation
in the labour market”. All these factors are interconnected: universal
welfare schemes have a cost that can only be met if the system is
highly productive. This requires high employment rates, both for
women and men. Good integration of migrants in the labour market
is therefore another precondition for the functioning of the Nordic model.
To guarantee this priority, policies to tackle the education gap
between nationals and newcomers and to counter discrimination were
adopted. The Nordic model is successful from many angles: it has
determined high levels of education, of labour force participation,
progress towards gender equality and greater social mobility.
approaches to integration
17. Preparing this report confirmed
the impression that I had previously developed by following closely
the integration work carried out in my home country, namely that
there is no unique way to foster integration. Various activities
may have a positive impact on the concrete situation of newcomers
and enhance their ability to integrate in their host country. These
actions may bear fruit in the short term or over a longer period.
I will present here a number of programmes and actors from various
Council of Europe member States.
18. Projects aiming to foster women’s
empowerment and integration do not necessarily require large budgets
or full-time involvement from participants. “Low-threshold”, financially
manageable, activities can be effective too. When the initiative
is in line with the social context and meets the needs of the target
group, it can make a difference while remaining easily accessible.
In addition, low-threshold activities can easily be replicated in
other contexts, with limited financial means, to multiply their
– #Bikeygees, Germany
19. #Bikeygees, launched in Berlin
in 2015, is a project which aims to help migrant and refugee women acquire
self-confidence by learning how to ride a bike. The teachers are
women of any age and origin who simply enjoy cycling. The training
is offered free of charge and includes multilingual instruction
on the Highway Code and on how to repair a bike. Thanks to this
programme, women obtain access to independent mobility in their
everyday lives. They also realise they can pursue their goals of
personal development, even in their new country of residence. This
activity is about confidence and trust: each participant is supported
by two other women and needs to have trust in them.
20. This is a “low-threshold” project: it is easily accessible
and highly rewarding for participants, who very soon experience
a feeling of achievement. This is also the reason why it empowers
participants. The project combines independence, activity in the
fresh air and fun, environment-friendly mobility.
– The action of non-governmental
organisations in Milan, Italy
21. In Milan, I met several non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) jointly. ACMID, which represents Moroccan women,
organises Italian language courses and professional training. ADRI,
the Association of Romanian Women in Italy, works to support and
improve migrants’ working and living conditions, while raising awareness
about the “Italian syndrome”, a severe distress affecting many women
often leading to depression and other mental health issues. This
syndrome originates from a combination of factors, including the
anxiety and sense of guilt at leaving their children and families
behind, and for migrants without a legal status, the fear of being
deported. This condition was called “Italian” as the vast majority
of Romanian and Moldovan migrant women are to be found in Italy
(Rome hosts the second biggest Moldovan community outside the Republic
of Moldova, after Moscow). Soleterre, an Italian NGO, has worked
for over a decade with migrants from various countries, offering
information and legal advice, in particular as regards work and
education opportunities and family reunion, but also psychological
support for individuals and groups.
– The Latin American consular
22. Ms Marisela Morales, Consul
of Mexico and Chair of the Latin America and Caribbean Consular
Group for Northern Italy, presented to me an interesting project
called “Latin American communities and Italian authorities unite
to let victims of violence emerge from silence”. Over 70% of migrants
from Latin America in Italy are women, Ms Morales explained. Gender-based
violence within this community was severely under-reported, due
to both a lack of awareness among victims and difficulties they
experienced in dealing with the police. The project trained a number
of “gender community promoters” on gender issues and in particular gender-based
violence. Thanks to the co-operation with local actors, notably
the University of Milan, the project reached out to the judiciary
to raise awareness of the particular situation of migrant women.
Through this project, the diplomatic and consular services support
the rights and well-being of their nationals in a new way, incorporating
a gender perspective.
– Mutti-Kulti, Austria
23. Mutti-Kulti is a project reaching
out to mothers with a migration background by meeting them on children’s
playgrounds in several areas of Vienna’s inner city. It offers them
support in various ways, including German language education, recreation
programmes and health counselling.
24. The challenges women face after
settling in a new country are not limited to meeting their material needs,
or overcoming language barriers in everyday life. They often face
profound personal and cultural differences, pushing them to question
their role and their identity. The difference between the situation
of women in their countries of origin and in the host country is
often striking. Empowering women within their family and their social
circle may require giving them the opportunity to reflect on themselves,
their role within the family and in society, and their ambitions
and needs. Involving women with a migration background as volunteers
or paid staff in the implementation of these kind of activities
makes the action more credible and therefore more effective.
– SEEMA, Norway
25. During my visit to Norway,
I met some inspirational women who, coming from an experience of immigration,
set up activities to foster the integration of other migrants. Loveleen
Rihel Brenna, born in India, moved to Norway with her parents when
she was six. She created SEEMA, a “social entrepreneur and consulting
company” specialising in diversity management, focusing on “highly
qualified women with an international background”. Its activities
target women who can speak Norwegian, have a high education level and
a legal resident status. But even these women are disadvantaged
in comparison with their counterparts of an entirely Norwegian background,
as they lack the personal and family connections which contribute
to starting a business and succeeding in it. SEEMA offers a two-year
programme with a small number of participants. Those attending evolved
through various steps, the first one being redefining themselves
(“I am not Indian, I am not Norwegian, what am I?” was the question
Loveleen once used to ask herself), and acquired, or learnt how
to use, a multicultural competence which other people lacked. Having
international roots was an additional resource, rather than a barrier.
– Visions of my life, Germany
26. Visions of my life is a storytelling
project which provides Berlin’s refugee women with a space and facilities
to tell their stories in various ways. Workshops often take place
in small groups in order to create a more personal environment.
Workshops are provided in refugee accommodation places. The aim
of the project is to offer refugee women a space for self-reflection.
After their escape from their home country, women are busy building
a new life. But a precondition for successful integration is receiving
orientation and support in the process of questioning and redefining
themselves. In this project, participants produce photos, collages
or films in order to make a visual map of their lifelines. Images
provide an emotional access to ideas and memories, thus making them
easily understood, regardless of language and culture. Therefore,
facilitators constantly emphasise the importance of artistic expression.
They help participants to trigger an interior process of awakening
their personal resources and of knowing their power as an individual.
Part of that process is also for them to reflect on their individual
role as women, within their families and in society, and also to
find their role in their new country. Workshops with a different
focus are also offered: for example, on the professional skills
and ambitions of participants. Through this reflection, they may
strengthen their self-confidence and practise their job interview
27. The basic approach to empowerment for refugee women in Visions
of my life differs greatly from the other projects I visited. Participants
are taken out of their difficult everyday life – especially at the
beginning in their new home country – to find a space for rest and
self-awareness, where they can concentrate and regain their inner
strength. In my opinion, self-awareness is the basis of integration.
As we are dealing with the key role of women for integration, I
think that for women in particular, it is very important for them
to be in harmony with themselves and with an image of women in society
that is partly new to them. This helps them meet the expectations
of society in their host country.
– Tiroler Sozialdienste (Tyrol
social service), Austria
28. This project reaches out to
refugees and asylum seekers in the areas where they live and offers
support regardless of their legal status. The services they offer
include language courses, information and an assessment of individual
skills. Help is also offered against boredom, which is a constant
threat, and to develop a self-determined and peaceful way of living.
29. Empowerment, particularly in
the economy but also as regards participation in social and public
life, is crucial to integration. There are a wide range of possible
measures that contribute to empowerment: from education and training
to information and awareness raising, financial assistance and legal
counselling. In Norway, economic empowerment is viewed as the main
gateway to integration and it is from that country that I have chosen
most of the following examples in this domain.
– MIRA Centre, Norway
30. The MIRA Resource Centre for
Black, Immigrant and Refugee Women was founded in 1979 by Fakra Salimi,
a Pakistani-born Norwegian who still manages it today. MIRA is managed
for and by immigrant and refugee women. It is a meeting point (every
Wednesday is “open day”, anyone is free to drop by for a coffee and
an informal meeting) and it provides training opportunities, counselling
and legal aid. It also aims to raise awareness on democracy: many
migrant women, Ms Salimi highlights, do not take part in elections
because they are not familiar with politics and do not even know
how to vote. Therefore, MIRA holds voting simulations at the centre,
for participants to be able to “practise/rehearse” how to cast their
vote. The experience has drawn wide attention and other organisations
bring their beneficiaries to see it. Other political education activities include
summarising the programmes of the various political parties, to
help participants to make their choice. MIRA invited prominent politicians
to visit the centre: even the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister
have been there, and most political parties have sent top representatives.
This example of political education is particularly interesting.
While participation in the labour market is a precondition for decent
living standards, I do not believe that integration
should be reduced to having a job. Especially in the longer term,
people with a migration background should also have their say on
the functioning of the society of which they have become part.
– The Norwegian Centre for Multicultural
Value Creation, Norway
31. The Norwegian Centre for Multicultural
Value Creation (Norsk Senter for Flerkulturell Verdiskaping or NSFV),
a “resource centre for multicultural entrepreneurship”, was founded
by Iranian-born Zahra Moini. The NSFV offers an entrepreneurial
assistance programme for immigrants and it mobilises and motivates immigrants
to create businesses. This centre acts as a “networking arena”:
in this context, facilitating the funding of a project through its
network of financing institutions is particularly important. Participants
in the programme, about 1 200 to date, are both first and second-generation
immigrants, with a good level of education and an entrepreneurial
potential. The first step in the NSFV’s training courses is to boost
the participants’ self-esteem. The ultimate aim (and the underlying
philosophy) of their activity is to help migrants create their own
business not only out of solidarity, but also to make a positive
contribution to the national economy. This is a more empowering
32. The NSFV is a good example of partnership between the public
and the private sector, both in terms of co-operation (public actors
and authorities are among the 34 members of the partnership created
by the NSFV) and of funding: first the local authorities and then
the national government have funded this successful initiative.
– Stadtteilmütter (“District
33. Stadtteilmütter is a project based in Nuremberg that builds
on the experiences of newcomer women. Women who have lived in Germany,
particularly in Nuremberg, for seven to nine years, and who are
integrated, support other women and families who have just arrived.
Men are also involved. In Nuremberg, there are about 15 volunteer
“district mums”, and other projects of the same kind have trained
additional volunteer women. “Stadtmission Nuremberg”, a non-profit
association, co-ordinates and informs the volunteers. The “mothers” make
weekly visits to women and families and look after them and support
them in all kinds of matters: from translations or joint visits
to municipal services, to problems in everyday life that pose major
challenges, especially for people who have recently settled. In
these weekly district mum visits, questions are frequently asked
about the education system and women and children’s health. This
project helps build links to services offered by the municipality
which may provide assistance in these specific areas.
34. To support the district mums and to supply them with important
information, training sessions are regularly provided in matters
including values, religion, women and children rights, domestic
violence, the rights of foreigners and contacts with specialists.
The experiences with migration that district mums have acquired play
a crucial role: their wealth of experience and their stories help
them to react appropriately to the problems, needs and expectations
of the families they are coaching. Their cultural and linguistic
proximity with the beneficiaries ensure that subjects can be dealt
with in a very direct manner. Thus, district mums, when necessary,
can use a tone that native Germans would not dare to choose and
would find uncomfortable. If a lesson is to be learned from this
project, it is that, very often, activities that are smaller and
easier to carry out have great added value in terms of integration.
35. Networks are of the greatest
importance in integration work. Support from women originating from
the same community is particularly effective in this area: language
barriers are avoided, messages more easily conveyed and trust more
readily built. Even when the people involved come from different
regions, shared experiences of migration and settling into a new
environment help them understand each other. Integration projects
benefit considerably from involving people with a migration background,
whether as volunteers or paid staff, depending on the nature and
organisation of the activities.
– FOKUS, Norway
36. FOKUS, the Forum for Women
and Development, defines itself as a “knowledge and resource centre for
international women’s issues with an emphasis on the spreading of
information and women-centred development co-operation”. It is an
umbrella organisation consisting of 66 women’s groups and committees
in political parties and trade unions, as well as solidarity and
aid organisations. Thanks to FOKUS, I was able to meet representatives
of associations of Bosnian, Kurdish, Somali and Pan-African women,
as well as associations working with migrants and in the area of
development. FOKUS has been the Norwegian National Committee for
UN Women since 2010, and co-ordinates the national shadow report
to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW). Among other things, this report covers the
situation of migrant women in Norway. This organisation receives
financial support from the Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD)
and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as funding from the
national Telethon. All my interlocutors agreed on some points: information,
awareness raising and education, in particular, were consistently
mentioned as top priorities. Providing migrant women with Norwegian
language education and work training was crucial, they believed.
37. In some cases, men deny the women of their family the possibility
to take courses. FOKUS believes that awareness-raising activities
should preferably be organised by the local authorities and be aimed
at the entire community, so that everybody is invited to attend
and women do not risk being excluded. Migrant women should also
receive information on their rights, of which they often are not
aware, and legal advice when necessary.
– Stella Centre, Norway
38. The Stella Centre is the Red
Cross’ competence centre for migrant women. It was established in
2012 with the assistance of the government’s Directorate of Integration
and Diversity (IMDi) and relies on both public and private funding.
It aims to be an inclusive venue that promotes participation and
involvement in Norwegian society by focusing on competences, self-development,
networking and collaboration with the business world. Stella offers
one-to-one guidance, customised courses and activities, as well
as the opportunity for voluntary work. All the activities and programmes
are free of charge to the participants. The centre co-ordinates
its activities with other Red Cross activities and co-operates with
public authorities and public programmes. Stella's target group
is all women in Oslo and the surrounding areas, but with a special
focus on minority women. It offers education, training and guidance,
as well as other support activities, and co-operates with a number
of actors in both the public and private sectors, ranging from the
police to individual doctors and other experts.
– Cinzia Hu, representative of
Milan’s Chinese community, Italy
39. I visited Milan’s China Town
and met with Ms Cinzia Hu, a Bocconi University graduate, tax consultant and
a well-known, although unofficial, representative of the Chinese
community. For a long time, integration was challenging for Chinese
immigrants, particularly due to the language barrier. They would
tend to rely on other members of the community to obtain help with
bureaucracy and all other matters. However, thanks to schooling,
but also to professional interaction with suppliers, these barriers
have generally been overcome, especially by young people.
40. If newcomers of all origins contribute substantially to the
economy, including as entrepreneurs, the Chinese rank first in terms
of the number of businesses created. Ms Hu indicated that women
were particularly active within this community as a consequence
of the relative gender equality that the authorities have been trying
to achieve in China since the Communist revolution. In Milan, women
often acted as the main interface between the Chinese community
and the general population. They seemed to be more open to the rest
of society and to its evolution. However, the entire community has
traditionally very little interest in politics, even at local level.
They became more active about a decade ago, when organisations were
established to defend the interests of shop owners against new,
stricter regulations introduced by the local authorities. However,
as Ms Hu rightly concluded, since most people of foreign origin
cannot vote, their impact on politics is limited.
– Yasmin Foundation, Netherlands
41. The Yasmin Foundation, based
in The Hague, in the Netherlands, defines itself as a “participation centre”
for women wishing to develop their talents or to work for society.
Depending on the situation and skills of participants, they can
take part in voluntary work, paid work or follow training courses.
In a first interview, new participants have the opportunity to explain
what they need and expect (learn the Dutch language or develop other
skills, through group courses or individual coaching, or rather
contribute with their skills by teaching or facilitating sessions).
The Yasmin Foundation provides opportunities for meeting new people, building
contacts and exchanging experiences. Education and personal development
are at the core of this project. “The strength of women thus becomes
the strength of The Hague”, the Foundation explains. These words
encapsulate an idea of “integration” that I support, and the reason
why we should work for it.
– Talente-Entwicklung, Austria
42. Talente Entwicklung, or Talent
development, is a project aiming to promote exchanges between people of
different origins, native Austrians and newcomers, through different
activities and courses on, among others, languages, ethics, economics
and sustainable development. Practical activities include the preparation
of food using Austrian specialities and products from around the
– A meaningful testimony: Fatuma
43. In June 2017, the Committee
on Equality and Non-Discrimination had an opportunity to have an exchange
of views with Fatuma Musa Afrah, a Somali-born expert on the integration
of newcomers and a motivational speaker currently based in Berlin.
Part of Ms Afrah’s competences originated from her personal experience
as a newcomer to Germany and her volunteer work in refugee camps.
Having witnessed the different behaviour of women and men, she is
deeply convinced that empowering women is a priority. Men feel free
to go out of the camps, play football, even go to clubs, while women
remain locked in their rooms as if they considered leaving the camp
to be inappropriate behaviour. Raising women’s awareness of their
rights appears crucial. It can be done in different ways, as long
as newcomers’ wishes and expectations are taken into account and
mothers are provided with childcare facilities, so that they can
attend training and other activities. Language training was the
first and probably the most important step. Basic human rights education
was also useful. An important, general indication from Ms Afrah
should be kept in mind: when planning support activities for women
newcomers, one should be aware that they often have a very difficult
story behind them, one of sexual or physical violence and even torture.
The first need and the first structure which has to be provided
is therefore a safe place for women.
44. Ms Afrah’s testimony showed that the situation of women refugees
varies depending on where they come from, whether they are alone
or accompanied by their family and children, on their age and their personality.
The work on refugees is about each individual: it is a case-by-case
process. Even the concept of integration varies and does not apply
to everyone the same way.
– Medica Mondiale, Germany
45. Medica Mondiale, an organisation
working with women and girls in conflict zones, including Afghanistan, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Northern Iraq, developed
a unique psychosocial approach to work with women survivors of violence,
a solidarity-based, stress and trauma-sensitive approach. They are now
applying this approach in Germany and in other parts of Europe.
They launched a project called STAR (Stress and Trauma-sensitive
Approach to promote Resilience of refugees) in the Land North Rhine-Westphalia. A strength
of STAR is peer-to-peer support, offered to newcomers by women refugees
who had lived in Germany for some time. This project shows how the
various approaches can be usefully combined. Indeed, the exchange
of experience is only one of several main elements of this project.
Empowering women, in particular by increasing their self-esteem,
also plays an important part. In addition, the support received
from local authorities should be mentioned as one of the factors
of its success.
46. Structural factors that contribute
to creating the conditions for integration include various elements:
firstly legislation and policies; secondly, infrastructure and services
provided by the State and local authorities; and finally, additional
services and infrastructure provided by large non-State actors,
such as employers’ associations and trade unions. Legal regulations
and the support provided by public offices are crucial in shaping
the opportunities for integration that newcomers are given.
– Action of the public authorities
and infrastructure in Norway
47. In Norway, a variety of actors
work for and with people of immigrant backgrounds: not only the
authorities but also civil society organisations provide assistance
and support; some of them target women in particular.
48. In Norway, where integration infrastructure and services are
the result of in-depth reflection at political level, the gender
aspect of migration is taken into account in all relevant policies.
For instance, immigrant women are given the possibility to take
care of their children at home for one year after they arrive (which,
on the other hand, may make it more difficult for them to be in
contact with the local community, and confirms their traditional
gender role of care-givers).
The Norwegian Government has adopted an action plan to combat
negative social control, forced marriage and female genital mutilation,
which encompasses a wide range of measures to be implemented between
2017 and 2020.Note
The action plan’s title “The
right to decide about one’s own life” shows that individual freedom
is seen as non-negotiable, and rightly so. Negative social control,
defined as “various forms of supervision, pressure, threats and
coercion used to ensure that individuals live according to family
or group norms”, is considered to be a severe threat to human rights.
This aspect of migrant integration has probably been neglected in
other contexts and should be part of the debate in other countries
50. IMDi, the government’s Directorate
of Integration and Diversity, was established on 1 January 2006
“to act as a competence centre and a driving force for integration
and diversity”. This office co-operates with immigrant organisations,
municipalities, government agencies and the private sector. It both
provides advice to the government and implements its policies. It
has 220 staff members and a budget of 261.5 million Norwegian Krone
(NOK). IMDi administers grants for approximately 16 billion NOK
(approximately €1.6 billion): a very significant sum. Its ambitious
goal “to contribute to equality in living conditions and diversity
through employment, integration and participation” justifies such
a large amount of public money.
51. Virke, the Enterprise Federation
of Norway, represents over 20 000 businesses and more than 225 000 employees
in Norway, in sectors including trade, technology, travel, health
care, education, culture and voluntary work. Virke has access to
the highest political level, as it is consulted regularly by the
government on business issues, and actively influences legislation.
Within the limits of its mandate, Virke contributes to the integration
of migrants. Its representative, Ms Marte Buaas, explained to me
that a mentoring programme for women with an immigration background
was launched in 2010. Virke identifies role models and gives mentees the
opportunity to enter into contact with and learn from them. It is
also important for employers to learn how to manage diversity, which
is increasingly relevant in these times of globalisation. Diversity
in the workplace is a resource and may have a positive impact on
52. FAFO is an independent research
foundation that conducts commissioned research for actors ranging from
trade unions to employers’ associations, central and local authorities,
as well as NGOs. The last meeting of my visit was with FAFO’s senior
researcher, Ms Hanne Cecilie Kavli, whose work focuses on multicultural society
and the inclusion of migrants. In addition to obtaining information
on the situation of migrants in Norway, I had an opportunity to
discuss with her about training and education. Both language and
work-related training should be offered to migrants, she explained.
The latter was sometimes neglected. The induction programme offered
to migrants had a two-fold goal: it aimed to facilitate access to
paid work, but also participation in society at large. To reduce
the rate at which participants, particularly women, abandoned the
training (a problem I have often observed in Germany), it was important
to ensure that the courses cover topics related to everyday life.
– Action of the Milan City Council
53. In Milan, I met with Ms Diana
De Marchi, Chairperson of the Committee on Equal Opportunities and
Civil Rights of the City Council, and Ms Maryan Ismail, member of
the National Board of the Islamic Communities. Several years ago,
Milan City Council launched the “House of Rights”, a public structure
offering legal advice and information free of charge but also a
hotline to report cases of discrimination based on ethnic origin
and other grounds. Action against trafficking in human beings is
also one of the House’s priorities. In May 2017, a “Charter of Milan
on migration” was signed by a large number of human rights activists,
lawyers, intellectuals and politicians. It called on national authorities
across Europe and European institutions to protect the rights of migrants,
promote the role of civil society and protect its ability to carry
out support and assistance activities for migrants and refugees.
The Charter’s motto is “Solidarity is not a crime”.
mainstreaming and protection of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeker
women in Council of Europe texts
54. The recently adopted Gender
Equality Strategy 2018-2023 of the Council of Europe includes a
new Strategic objective no 5 to “Protect
the rights of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls”.
This objective concerns policies related to migration, integration
and asylum. This confirms that awareness of the importance of women
in this context is growing.
55. According to the Strategy, “[i]t is highly important to mainstream
gender equality in all integration measures, so that both migrant
women and men are aware of the need to respect and uphold gender
equality law and policy, even if they do not correspond to the situation
in their countries of origin. This would foster integration in European
societies and labour markets and benefit all women and men, girls
56. The Strategy adds that the action of the Council of Europe
in this area will seek to “support the systematic integration of
a gender equality dimension in policies and measures regarding migration,
asylum and integration, in order to secure the human rights and
fundamental freedoms of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women
and girls, men and boys, regardless of traditional or cultural attitudes”.
57. Migrant women and women asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable
to gender-based violence. The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing
and Combating Violence Against Women (No. 210, “Istanbul Convention”)
ensures that its provisions are implemented without discrimination
on the grounds of migrant status, refugee status or other status,
and features specific measures for the protection of migrant women.
For instance, it introduces the possibility of granting migrant
women an autonomous residence permit, to prevent situations where
they cannot escape an abusive relationship for fear of losing their
58. As regards refugee and asylum seekers specifically, the Istanbul
Convention requires States Parties to ensure that gender-based violence
against women may be recognised as a form of persecution within
the meaning of the United Nations 1951 Convention relating to the
Status of Refugees (Article 60.1). This aims to correct the lack
of a gender focus in regulations on asylum, which may prevent women
victims of violence obtaining the international protection to which
they should be entitled.
59. The Parliamentary Assembly has dealt with matters related
to the situation of migrant women on several occasions. I would
like to refer to three recent texts that are particularly relevant
to this report.
60. Resolution 2159
on protecting refugee women from gender-based violence,Note
the wide range of forms of gender-based violence that refugee women
face (from coercion to survival sex, sexual slavery, forced prostitution,
domestic violence, harassment and extortion) and indicates concrete
measures that member States should adopt, such as providing separate
secure sleeping areas, ensuring the presence of a sufficient number
of female staff members among security personnel and social workers,
and providing information on rights and assistance services in an
61. Resolution 2167
on the employment rights of domestic workers, especially
women, in EuropeNote
the vulnerability of domestic workers who perform their activities
in the privacy of households and are often invisible, underpaid
and undeclared. The Assembly called urgently for domestic work to
be recognised as “real work” in a text that does not hide the gendered
aspect of this matter.
“Integration of refugees in times of critical pressure:
learning from recent experience and examples of best practice”Note
that the integration of refugees is a long and complicated process,
requiring long-term commitment on the part of both the refugees
and the authorities, and the continuing engagement of civil society.
In this text, the Assembly reasserts among other things the important
principle that integration means neither assimilation (“whereby
newcomers adopt the host societies’ culture, values and traditions
in place of their own”) nor a multi-culturalism in which communities
live separate existences.
63. The principles laid out in these texts are relevant and timely.
I endeavoured to build on these foundations, and to draft a report
and resolution that are in line with them. I deemed it necessary,
at the same time, to further highlight the aspect of gender and
the positive role that women can play.
64. The way integration is understood
and treated varies from one Council of Europe member State to another,
as the fact-finding visits conducted in the preparation of this
report confirmed. Depending on a country’s specific history of migration,
emphasis is put on different aspects of integration.
65. Due to the special role of women in integration, in particular
within their families and the future generations, adopting a gender-based
approach is pivotal when designing integration policies.
66. The lessons learned through the research, hearings and fact-finding
visits in the preparation of this report helped me to identify six
dimensions, closely interconnected, that are relevant to women’s
integration, namely the legal equality of women and men and the
protection of women's rights; women’s self-empowerment; empowerment
within the family; basic language learning; integration in the labour
market; and, finally, the participation of women in social processes.
67. Indications were also collected on how to translate these
six pillars into concrete measures. Education is crucial: newcomer
women should be given access to schooling, life-long learning and
professional training. The very first step, however, should be language
training. Knowledge of the local language is the first and most important
tool for integration in the host country, and a precondition for
all other forms of education. Often, it is useful to include men
in integration activities, rather than targeting women separately.
The risk of a negative impact of social control on women should
however be prevented and countered.
68. As observed in Norway, integration policies are implemented
thanks to constant co-operation between a variety of stakeholders.
Public authorities are involved at central, regional and local level
with a clear distribution of tasks and they engage in constant dialogue
with civil society, including the organisations representing migrants,
refugees and asylum seekers, particularly women. Indeed, the contribution
of a variety of actors is necessary: universities and other educational
institutions, trade unions, employers. Even the diplomatic and consular
bodies may be instrumental in protecting women’s rights.
69. The example of Norway also shows that integration policies
require adequate funding. Information and awareness-raising on gender
equality should be part of integration policies: women and men with
a migration background should be made aware, in particular, of the
values of gender equality that are enshrined in the legal systems
of Council of Europe member States.
70. Women should also, insofar as possible, be provided with counselling
on education and work opportunities available to them in their host
country, but also with support in understanding the expectations
of the host society, which may not necessarily reflect those of
their countries of origin. Identifying their role and opportunities
may help women to develop their self-esteem and confidence in their
personal skills. Mentoring programmes and role models are effective
tools to this end. The integration programmes carried out in Germany
are good examples in this area, which may be replicated in other
71. Time and resources should be invested to facilitate the integration
of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, in the interest of the
well-being of the entire society. In this context, the central role
that women play in integration should be acknowledged and promoted.
They should be given credit as key actors of change, and be supported
in this role. The money thus spent is not simply expenditure, but
rather an investment in the future of our countries, with substantial
benefits in terms both of wealth and social cohesion.