Civic Integration for Asylum Seekers and Refugees: Building on Common Values
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At: RESPOND - Unpacking the challenges and possibilities for migration governance ; Cambridge ; 17/10/2019 - 19/10/2019 ; In the last years, the so-called refugee crisis has become a structural feature of many European countries. Consequently, the focus of policies towards refugees has shifted from emergency and first reception issues to include policies for the integration of refugees and asylum seekers. Meanwhile, in the past decade civic integration policies have become fashionable in many European countries. According to the logic of civic integration, a key tool for the process of inclusion of the migrant population are classes and training through which migrants learn the language and especially the specific values of the country, such as liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Thereby, through civic integration the burden of proof is put on the shoulder of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, who should prove their willingness to integrate in the (host) society. However, in general, there is a deep skepticism about civic integration policies and civic education programs for newcomers, which are increasingly criticized as unidirectional, disciplinary and exclusionary and resulting in participants being more estranged, apprehensive, fixated and resistant. This paper is situated at the interplay of these dynamics, presenting the result of the EU-funded project “EUMINT “Europaregionen, Migration und Integration - Euroregioni, Migrazione e Integrazione,” which aims to develop civic integration encounters for asylum seekers, refugees and local population, while attempting to address some of the problems and criticisms attributed to this type of program. Reframing the concept of civic integration, EUMINT employs a bottom-up, participatory and active learning approach and newly designed interactive didactic material in order to organize encounters where refugees, asylum seekers and members of the local population discuss together and freely about key values of the European Union (Art. 2 TEU). Based on surveys with participants and control groups, the paper will present the result of these encounters organized in Austria and Italy (Tyrol, South Tyrol and Friuli-Venezia Giulia), evaluating to what extent they have been successful in fostering awareness of EU values, while overcoming the problematics usually assigned to civic integration programs.