Labour Integration of Refugees

Recommendations on labour integration measures of victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, refugees and newly arrived migrants in the Baltic Sea Region

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has resulted in almost four million Ukrainian refugees displaced within the European Union (EU) and the number is likely to increase. It is also well established that criminal networks, perpetrators, and unscrupulous employers take advantage of refugees and their vulnerable situation. Although the immediate focus and resources of the states must be allocated to receive, register and provide refugees with basic support, we must recognize that the current situation and its affect on Trafficking in Human Beings will have a long-term and multi-facetted impact on the refugees arriving to the EU as well as on our societies as such.

Some refugees decide to return to their country of origin when this is possible, while many become rooted and decide to remain in their new country. Against this background, it is of utmost importance that states develop and apply long-term strategies in protecting vulnerable persons exploited in, or risking becoming victims of, Trafficking in Human Beings. This is particularly crucial in the process of state employment programs and labour integration measures seeking to include refugees.

Recommendations and a CBSS Road Map for short-term and long-term labour integration of refugees and migrants:

  1. Target refugees with information in a language they understand, informing them on the risks of being exploited in Trafficking in Human Beings, as well as their legal rights. Find examples of such information from our member states Poland and Sweden.
  2. Establish multi-disciplinary and operative networks, consisting of local stakeholders such as migration agencies, police authorities, social services, unions, state employment agencies, employers, counselling centers and services as well as local THB focal points. As early integration of migrants does not take place at the state level, trust between newcomers and hosts is built in the local communities and neighbourhoods where the newcomers end up living. Initiatives taken locally are therefore instrumental for effective and sustainable labour integration. Regional/local authorities typically possess better knowledge about the needs of refugees and migrants and are thus better prepared to frame successful plans for economic and social integration and design a more appropriate structure of services.
  3. Adapt labour integration measures to include a clear trauma-sensitive focus that includes counselling, and ensure that labour integration measures are tailored according to the persons needs. The assistance in accessing the labour markets should be centred on the victims’ needs, age and should be gender-specific, as well as specific to the form of trafficking the victim has experienced. The reality today is that victims of trafficking or refugees with traumatic experiences are often met with no, or very limited, trauma sensitive approach. Labour integration schemes and programs are not rarely generalized and applied to all types of migrants, regardless of background and traumatic experiences.
  4. Adapt the requirements, pace and the structure of language courses in integration programs to the persons situation, needs and traumatic experiences. Victims of trafficking may be so traumatised that they are not able to use or benefit from the standardized language lessons or educational courses because they are in a vulnerable psychological situation.
  5. Medical assistance should be disassociated from the legal status of victims. If trafficked refugees fear repercussions as a result of seeking medical assistance, they are likely to refrain from getting the health care they need, resulting in negative outcomes for themselves and increased health risks for the communities in which they live. Access to health care should be provided regardless of whether the refugee has registered with the national migration authorities or not. Access to psychological therapy and trauma treatment for victims should be improved alongside better education for all health professionals and frontline staff on how to respond appropriately to the needs of trafficked people.

Read more detailed recommendations and best practices in our Road Map* for the Integration of Victims of Human Trafficking among migrants in Finland, Germany and Sweden

Read the Council of the Baltic Sea States Joint Statement of commitment to work against human trafficking for labour exploitation in the Baltic Sea Region.

* The Road Map was published by the CBSS within the TRAM-project, coordinated by the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).