The European benchmark for refugee integration 2021: A comparative analysis of the National Integration Evaluation Mechanism in 14 EU countries

    Alexander Wolffhardt
    Carmine Conte
    Sinem Yilmaz
    Bistra Ivanova (for Bulgaria)
    Panayot Chafkarov (for Bulgaria)
    Migration Policy Group and Institute of Public Affairs
  • ISBN
    European Commission, Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund

    This is the third comparative report of the National Integration Evaluation Mechanism (NIEM) providing evidence on the quality of government support for the integration of beneficiaries of international protection (BIPs). By focusing on long-term inclusion and well-being beyond the reception phase, NIEM acknowledges the reality that in most cases a majority of BIPs will not be able to return to their home country and need a secure perspective for a self-sustained life. The research helps governments, civil society and other stakeholders to identify gaps in the refugee integration policies of their country, take inspiration from other EU member states and improve the framework in place. Based on defined indicators and a scoring system, its results can serve as a roadmap towards comprehensive refugee integration policies in each of the countries involved.

    The comparative results presented in this report are intended to inform NIEM’s outreach to authorities, civil society and experts and to stimulate debate on how to reform refugee integration based on evidence. To avoid social exclusion, poor integration outcomes and low levels of acceptance in the receiving society, prudent refugee policy must consider all persons granted protection as potentially staying for a sustained period, and very possibly, for good. Denial of an early start into the integration process and of substantial support for BIPs to eventually stay on their own feet can prove costly for governments. The less is invested in integration pathways, the higher the long-term costs will be in terms of needs for state assistance to refugees and their children.

    Following the NIEM Baseline Report based on 2017 data and the NIEM Evaluation 1 Comprehensive Report based on 2019 data,1 the Evaluation 2 Comprehensive Report analyses the situation as of 2021 and highlights key trends. Below, Part I of this report presents key comparative results, an analysis of change from 2019 to 2021 and a brief description of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on refugee integration policies in this period. Detailed results are presented in Part II in 12 chapters relating to the various dimensions of refugee integration analysed in the National Integration Evaluation Mechanism. Each of these chapters

    • presents the key data and developments in the 2019 to 2021 period as they are reflected in the scored outcome of research conducted in the 14 participating countries;
    • details the positive and negative developments in the countries compared, thus providing an insight into the dynamics of refugee integration policies in the assessment period;
    • identifies the best practices in refugee integration, as they become visible in NIEM’s indicators, benchmarked against the requirements of EU and international law; and
    • describes in detail numerous examples of good practices from the NIEM countries, often referring to measures and improvements recently introduced.

    While Part III of this comparative report presents the individual profiles of each of the 14 countries with an overall scoring and across all dimensions, the NIEM national reports, published in parallel, elaborate on the key developments and challenges in the countries participating in NIEM.

    The countries included in the research are Bulgaria, Czechia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Results can be compared with the results of the previous NIEM Evaluation 1, thus allowing for monitoring of recent developments.