EU: "Impossible" to assess whether integration funds benefit migrants and refugees, say Court of Auditors and European Parliament

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20.02.2013 - The European Court of Auditors (ECA) and the European Parliament have both found that it is impossible to assess the efficiency of European funds for the integration of migrants and refugees, in reports published as the European Union debates the adoption of the new Asylum and Migration Fund (2014-2020).

Programmes intended to support the integration of migrants and refugees are financed by two funds: the European Integration Fund (EIF) and the European Refugee Fund (ERF), both of which are part of the General Programme on Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows for the period 2007-2013 (SOLID). The EIF helps fund integration projects for third-country nationals shortly after their arrival (but not for asylum seekers or people granted international protection), while the European Refugee Fund (ERF) focuses on projects aimed at asylum-seekers and persons granted international protection.

"Effectiveness cannot be measured"

The ECA's report,[1] which aimed to assess whether the EIF and ERF "contribute effectively to the integration of third-country nationals," concluded that the programmes are "fragmented, burdensome, and inadequately coordinated."

The report was based on a set of official SOLID documents, interviews with Commission officials, audits of EIF and ERF projects in five Member States, and on field visits covering 22 completed projects in the same five countries.

It is repeatedly stressed that this malfunctioning results from the absence of "proper targets or indicators for annual programmes", grounded in the lack of "ex-ante assessment and stakeholder consultation on integration."

Despite positive feedback by audited Member States arguing that the funded projects were "valuable for integration", the Court notes that "there is no direct link between the fulfilment of individual projects and the attainment of overall success" and that "the effectiveness of the Funds to date cannot be measured".

The ECA makes use of the EU's policy on integration, which was formalised in 2004 with the adoption of the "Common basic principles for immigrant integration policy." In the principles, integration is described as a "two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residence of Member States", although significant emphasis is placed on the EU's interests: integration should be "based on the respect of the basic values of the European Union" and "failure…to develop and implement a successful integration policy can have…adverse implications for other Member States and the European Union."[2]

The report also points out numerous shortcomings in the evaluation of the programme since it began in 2007. In particular, the European Commission's intermediate reports to the European Parliament and the Council did not give any "quantitative results of the programmes beyond the number of projects funded in each Member State."

Late adoption of legislation led to further problems, causing significant delays between the start of the projects and the issuance of guidance by the Commission on how to implement the funds.

The report questions the efficiency of splitting funding between the EIF (covering regular migrants who do not seek international protection) and the ERF (covering refugees and asylum-seekers) when both groups seem to have similar integration needs.

It also contradicts the view according to which the integration needs of migrants should be addressed only through the EIF. According to the Court, "the audit showed that most, if not all, EIF measures could be funded under the ESF [European Social Fund]."

Resettled refugees absent from debates on integration

The study by the European Parliament's policy department of the Directorate General for Internal Policies focused on resettled refugees - those who were not safe in the first country in which were they were granted international protection and so were moved to another EU country.[3]

The study was published a few months after the EU launched its Joint EU Resettlement Programme in May 2012 and draws on the analysis of the discussions around resettlement in the EU and on a review of the elements of the resettlement programmes amongst Member States including legal policy framework; pre-departure measures; post-arrival programmes supporting integration; good practices and challenges.

Like the ECA, the authors of the Parliament's report regret the lack of definitions and agreed standards on refugees' integration in the EU. Despite efforts by a Eurostat pilot project in 2011 to establish immigration integration indicators, and the existence of several proposals from refugee rights organisations, the study notes that there is "no link between integration programmes and their positive or negative correlation with outcome indicators."

These methodological shortcomings, combined with the difficulty of identifying resettled refugees and the very low number of resettled refugees in Europe made it "impossible" to evaluate the degree of integration of refugees resettled in Europe.

The report concludes that, while EU policy has mostly consisted of supporting Member States in resettling more refugees, the emphasis should be placed on the quality of resettlement rather than simply the number of refugees resettled.

"[I]t is difficult to clearly identify… common priorities in the EU integration debate. The different policy documents and activities are… different in focus, sometimes almost contradictory…The fact that there is no legal basis and therefore there never was the aim to adopt binding standards may have contributed to a debate which often was more an "anything goes" rather than following a truly common agenda," says the report.

Recommendations: the future Asylum and Migration Fund

The authors of both reports place their analysis in the framework of the current discussions on the forthcoming Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF) which will bring the SOLID programme, the European Migration Network, and the 'Pilot Projects on Resettlement, Victims of Torture and Unaccompanied Minors' under a single umbrella for the period 2014 to 2020.

Recommendations were thus made to European and national authorities for the next AMF. In addition to recommendations on improved monitoring and qualitative evaluation criteria, the ECA and the European Parliament stressed the importance of putting beneficiaries of the programmes at the centre of the design and evaluation processes.

A set of common results-based indicators, cooperation and exchange of good practices between Member States, simplified legislation and a comprehensive assessment of integration needs are among the recommendations provided by the Court of Auditors.

Both reports echo recent criticism from the Council of Europe (CoE). A report issued in 2013 by the CoE's Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons examined the refugee crisis in the south-east Mediterranean and its impact on Turkey and Greece , noting that European solidarity was more apparent in the European Borders Fund and Returns Fund - worth €132.8 million and €98.6 million respectively between 2011 and 2013 - than the Refugee Fund, worth just €19.95 million." [4]

Whether recommendations towards more solidarity between Member States and the need for integration programmes based on qualitative criteria will be considered remains to be seen. On 6 February, the European Parliament adopted a report by liberal MEP Nils Torvalds on "the proposal for a decision with a view to increasing the co-financing rate of the External Borders Fund for certain Member States experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability." [5]

[1] European Court of Auditors, Do the European Integration Fund and the European Refugee Fund contribute effectively to the integration of third-country nationals? Together with the Commission's replies, Special Report No 22/2012, November 2012
[2] Common basic principles for immigrant integration policy, adopted at the JHA Council, November 2004
[3] European Parliament - Policy Department of the Directorate General for Internal Policies, Comparative study on the best practices for the integration of resettled refugees in the EU Member States, PE 474.393, January 2013
[4] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Migration and asylum: mounting tensions in the east Mediterranean, Rapporteur Ms Tineke STRIK, doc. 13103, 23 January 2013
[5] European Parliament - LIBE Committee, Report on on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Decision No 574/2007/EC with a view to increasing the co-financing rate of the External Borders Fund for certain Member States experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability (COM(2012)0527 - C7-0301/2012 - 2012/0253(COD)), 8 January 2013

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