“We must act”: companies want to accelerate the integration of refugees
Create a “win-win” model. “Not only do we have to act, but we have to act more”, called Isabelle Giordano, general delegate of the BNP Paribas foundation, addressing Wednesday to an audience of decision-makers and bosses, during an event organized by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) at the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI).
The French bank, she explained, injected 17 million euros to facilitate this “integration” within its company. “I invite other business leaders to make the same decision” because it is a “responsibility”.
The employers do not say the opposite. At a time when employers are facing labor shortages at the dawn of summer, companies have “every interest in seeking new recruitment pools, and refugees are one of them”, agreed Odile Menneteau, who represented Medef.
For a long time, she justified, hiring a refugee was seen as an act of “solidarity”. “But now, it must be taken into account as an employment policy. Talent is available, companies must rely on it with support,” she added.
The Ukrainian refugee crisis, which aroused a wave of solidarity, played the role of detonator of a long frozen situation in France, where the professional integration of refugees is regularly considered insufficient.
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, a coalition of twenty companies, dubbed Each One for Tomorrow, has emerged. In a forum at the end of May in Le Monde, the collective bringing together Carrefour, Generali and even ADP announced its ambition to recruit 10,000 refugees in two years.
“In addition to the actions carried out by States, communities and associations, the company has a role to play here, both pragmatic and visionary: that of contributing to inclusion through work”, wrote this coalition.
All-out initiatives that the UNHCR welcomes with open arms, because “the rapid economic integration of refugees immediately produces a win-win situation”, considers Paolo Artini, representative in France of the UN agency.
But, despite these expressions of interest, the brakes on hiring remain heavy and structural.
Insufficient language skills, impossibility of having diplomas obtained outside the European Union recognized in France, poor housing… Even if they have the legal right to work, “still too many companies have preconceived ideas about recruitment refugees”, regrets Soumia Malinbaum, president of the Parisian CCI.
“Big progress to be made”
In reality, at this stage, real integration “takes too long”, around ten years, underlines Jean-Christophe Dumont, head of the migration division at the OECD.
And this even if the interested parties “demonstrate a greater motivation than the average, because they are in a reconstruction project”, he continues.
Despite everything, the specialist sees in the current situation an unprecedented opportunity. The Ukrainian crisis has given, everywhere in Europe, examples of rapid insertion, never seen before. In Poland, he illustrates, 200,000 of the 600,000 adult refugees have found a job in a few months.
“Things are happening that we will have to perpetuate and carry for all the refugees,” he summarizes.
Aware of the challenges that remain to be met to transform the trial, the Ministry of the Interior ensures that it is working to “better identify the holes in the racket of the integration courses”, according to David Coste, its director of integration.
And there is “big progress to be made” to “enhance the skills” of these job seekers, he recognizes. Because, above all in search of financial autonomy, at first, they “tend to give in to an under-qualified profession compared to their skills and their professional experience in the country of origin”.
In a report on the integration of refugees published on Thursday, the France Terre d’Asile association also points to a blind spot in this situation: the access of refugee women to the job market which, it writes, requires targeted, “particularly through childcare solutions”.
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