Practices in social orientation and fundamental rights education as means to foster social inclusion of migrants

Practices in social orientation and fundamental rights education as means to foster social inclusion of migrants

Migration waves throughout Europe have had significant impact on Member States’ policies and have caused, among others, tensions between migrants and host countries’ populations resulting in an increase in racist and xenophobic attitudes and acts of hatred in different form and intensity. Thus, social orientation and educating migrants about their fundamental rights and about preventing such acts and attitudes proves a decisive factor for their social inclusion.

Various good practices have arisen in the area of social orientation and fundamental rights education, which focus on different means to achieve integration and empowerment of newcomers and those settled alike.

Some initiatives focus on offering services to newcomers with a strong human rights emphasis. A notable example is ‘Weichenstellwerk – Sprach- und Lebensschule’ in Graz, Austria, where student teachers provide voluntary language training in a holistic manner, focusing not only on building language competences, but also on offering counselling, advice and referrals. In addition, voluntary workshops on human rights led by uniformed police officers are offered in an open and comfortable atmosphere. Language courses and involvement of institutions, especially law enforcement, are proven tools to educate foreigners about the functioning of host society and build trust in its institutions.

New technologies also contribute to migrants’ swift and effective inclusion. The ‘Welcome to Antwerp’ mobile application provides newcomers with up-to-date customised information on aspects like points of contact for emergency situations, language courses, documents and items one needs to bring to various institutions and service points, accompanied by visual illustrations, etc. Newcomers are thus provided with initial social competencies, knowledge about rights and a degree of independence that is conducive to integration and further social inclusion in spheres like employment and education.

Another approach to fostering the social inclusion of migrant populations is through training social workers and other professionals working with them. For instance, the Belgium-based DISCRI database provides ongoing support for social orientation instructors during their teaching career by supplying a free database from which teachers can find and download information for their courses, familiarising newcomers with the culture of the host country.

Yet another approach, related to the previous one, is the direct establishment of multifunctional cultural centers to face-to-face facilitate, assist and counsel newcomers on their path to integration. Romania-based ‘My Place’ is an example of a cultural center, in which social, educational, cultural and recreational activities are designed to provide to newcomers direct support and involvement in society’s life. Multicultural activities can pave the way to a more inclusive, open and accommodating relationship between newcomers and nationals without which foreigners’ inclusion into employment, social care and education would hardly be possible.

More information on those and other practices can be found in the special collection of initiatives from 12 EU Member States in the area of empowerment, fundamental rights education and integration of non-nationals made by the DG Justice-financed RACCOMBAT project.