Members' Research Service By / May 6, 2016

Cohesion Policy support for migrants and refugees

Written by Sorina Silvia Ionescu, Migration-related issues are primarily within the competence of the Member States but the EU can support Member…

© Fotolia / Syda Productions

Written by Sorina Silvia Ionescu,

Migration-related issues are primarily within the competence of the Member States but the EU can support Member States, local authorities and civil society organisations in dealing with many of the associated challenges. In the European Commission Communication on a ‘European Agenda for Migration’, Cohesion Policy is highlighted as an important funding source to support effective integration policies covering education, employment, housing and non-discrimination policies.

Cohesion Policy support for migrants and refugees
© Fotolia / Syda Productions

Cohesion policy can support the long-term integration of migrants and refugees principally through investments from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF).

The ERDF can support: investments in social and health infrastructures (e.g. community-based social care, community centres, shelters, prevention and primary care health services); investments in education infrastructures (e.g. kindergartens, schools, vocational schools); investments in housing infrastructure (social housing) and childcare infrastructure; investments in urban regeneration (physical and social regeneration of areas in which migrants/refugees are concentrated); and investments in business start-ups.

The ESF can support actions on social integrations and labour market related measures: e.g. training, language courses, counselling, coaching and vocational training. Besides providing individual support to migrants and their families, it may also support anti-discrimination initiatives and reinforce the administrative capacity of public administrations, including child protection systems, and NGOs that are dealing with the migrant’s influx.

The Urban Innovative Actions programme (with an overall budget of €371 million) includes a topic on the integration of migrants and refugees. The selection process of the project proposals received following the first call (closed on 31 March 2016) is undergoing.

In a statement of 23 September 2015, Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu called for flexibility on the implementation of EU funds and invited the Member States to re-programme their funds (under ERDF and ESF operational programmes) to better accommodate more  actions to support the integration of migrants. On 25 September, the Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Marianne Thyssen, hosted a meeting with the managing authorities of the ESF and the FEAD to discuss similar proposals on the revision of their cohesion policy programmes and to clarify synergies between the AMIF, ESF and FEAD. Member States were called upon to analyse current challenges.

In its draft report on the MFF mid-term review/revision, the European Parliament also calls for more flexibility and additional budgetary means during the remaining MFF 2014-2020 period to deal with the crises EU is currently facing, including migration.

Representative bodies of regions and cities have been asking for a better recognition of their role in the management of the migration crisis as well as for more funds in order to address the challenges they are currently facing in receiving and absorbing migrants.

CPMR – the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe states in its position paper that most EU funds targeting migration are managed by Member States and cannot be directly used by Regions; it asks the European Commission to anticipate the redirection of the currently unspent funds (2007-2013 European solidarity programmes, Neighbourhood Instrument) towards the priorities of the Migration Agenda. It also urges the European Parliament to request an increased funding allocation for Migration and to ask for a direct access of Regions to the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

Eurocities stresses the important role European cities play in receiving and integrating asylum seekers, refugees and other beneficiaries of protection. It calls for a comprehensive EU migration policy that recognises the challenges faced by cities and local level solutions.

This Keysource provides a selection of relevant documents on Cohesion Policy and its contribution to tackle migrants-related issues, with a special look at the migration crisis EU is facing since 2015.


Funds that can be used to support actions targeting migration: background note / CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe, 18 January 2016, 6 p.

This note aims to provide general information about the EU funds supporting the actions targeting asylum seekers and refugees in order to help optimise their use.

Labour Market Integration of Refugees: EU Funding Instruments / Briefing by Susanne Kraatz and Magdalena Dimova, Policy Department A: Economy and Scientific Policy, PE 570.005, 2016, 12 p.

This briefing focuses on the funding instruments available for labour market integration of refugees, their flexibility to react, coordination and recent developments in measuring their effectiveness.

Labour Market Integration of Refugees: European Networks and Platforms / by Susanne Kraatz and Boris Marschall, Policy Department A: Economy and Scientific Policy, PE 570.006, 2016, 8 p.

This briefing note presents an overview of networks at European level (e.g. ESF Thematic Network Migrants, Working group on Migration and Integration -Eurocities, Intercultural cities – Council of Europe), their members, objectives, main products and financing mechanisms as well as main challenges identified in research.

Labour Market Integration of Refugees: Strategies and good practices / Policy Department A: Economic and Scientific Policy, March 2016, 58 p.

This study includes a number of good practices for refugee integration which have been developed in the past, especially in countries with a long-standing experience in integrating refugees as well as more recent ones (including some examples of projects financed from ESF/ERDF).

Hotspots and emergency relocation: State of play / EPRS Briefing by Anita Orav, posted on 3 March 2016, 12 p.

According to this paper “eleven hotspots had been identified as of February 2016: six in Italy and five in Greece. Currently only three are fully operational. Although work on the hotspot approach is not yet complete and the relocation process only began in October 2015, stakeholders have already pointed to several shortcomings in how they currently operate. Parliament has insisted that the hotspot approach should not undermine the fundamental rights of any persons, refugees or otherwise, arriving at Europe’s shores.”

The public health dimension of the European migrant crisis / EPRS Briefing by Nicole Scholz, posted on 8 January 2016, 8 p.

According to this briefing “the challenges for public health relate to migrants’ individual health problems, whether they affect the resident population, and how to adequately respond to their needs, including access to healthcare.”

Mid-term review of the MFF and Cohesion Policy / Briefing by Diána Haase, Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies, PE 573.430, 2016, 10 p.

This briefing analysis the possible implications of MFF mid-term review for Cohesion Policy (e.g. MFF Review/revision, adjustment of cohesion policy envelopes; review of policy objectives with relevance for Cohesion Policy: simplification, use of grants and of financial instruments; economic governance related measures). It also looks at new challenges and future of MFF and Cohesion Policy post 2020.

Mid-term review/revision of the MFF 2014-2020: State of play / by Minna Ollikainen Policy Department D – Budgetary Affairs, European Parliament, PE 572.679, 2016, 6 p.

According to this paper, “recent crises and evolving priorities already pushed the MFF to its limits. The recent migration and refugee situation has put both national and EU budgets under considerable pressure. Ways to insure sufficient flexibility and additional budgetary means during the remaining MFF period should be found.” The briefing also provides a case example on Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) for which an additional EUR 3.2 billion originates from the European Social Fund (ESF) allocations to the Member States for 2014-2020. In the framework of the MFF mid-term review, the Commission will draw lessons from the results of the YEI and will draft proposals for the continuation of the initiative until 2020.

Contribution of ESI Funds to the Commission’s priorities: Migration / DG Regional Policy, 14 December 2015, 6 p.

This factsheet provides information on how the ESI Funds (the European Regional Development Fund – ERDF, the European Social Fund – ESF, the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development – EAFRD and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund – EMFF) can support investments to tackle migrants’ related issues in the Member States and on synergies and coordination with other EU funds and programmes (the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund – AMIF and the Internal Security Fund – ISF).

Synergies between the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and other EU funding instruments in relation to reception and integration of asylum seekers and other migrants / European Commission, 16 November 2015, 30 p.

This note aims at providing a comprehensive overview of the relevant priorities for actions that may support migration challenges within the following funding instruments under shared management: Internal Security Fund (ISF) – borders and visa; European Social Fund (ESF); European Regional Development Fund (ERDF); European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD); European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF); and Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). It also includes information on the role of International Financial Institutions.

Guidance for Member States on the use of European Structural and Investment Funds in tackling educational and spatial segregation , EGESIF_15-0024-0, 11 November 2015, 24 p.

Support to asylum seekers under the European Social Fund and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived / DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, 25 September 2015, 13 p.

This note aims to clarify the scope of support which the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) can provide to asylum seekers at different stages since their arrival in the Union. It also intends to clarify the differences between these two funds and other Union instruments that provide targeted support to asylum seekers, notably the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), and provides guidance on how complementarities and synergies between the different funds can be achieved.

EU support for better management of integration of asylum seekers and refugees: factsheet / European Commission, MEMO/15/5717, 25 September 2015

This paper provides information on ESF and FEAD support for refugees and asylum seekers: when and what ESF and FEAD measures can be used, how much funding is available and how these two funds work.

Territorial and urban aspects of migration and refugee inflow: policy brief / ESPON, November 2015, 14 p. (also available:  Map 1 – Main irregular border crossing routes by nationalities 2010-2015Map 2 – Positive decisions on asylum applications 2010-2015 ; and  Chart – Decisions on asylum applications 2010-2015 )

This Policy Brief, compiled by ESPON in cooperation with CEMR, EUROCITIES and EUKN, offers the latest evidence to policy makers on the territorial and urban aspects of the current migration and refugee inflow to Europe.

Promoting an inclusive labour market at local level: social investment in cities / EUROCITIES, 2015, 17 p.

This publication includes projects examples from 12 member cities (Barcelona, Essen, Ghent, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Izmir, Madrid, Nacka, Newcastle, Preston, Tampere and Tilburg) that support those who face significant barriers to employment, including migrants, people with disabilities, young people with mental illness, over 50s, young people not in education or training (NEETS) and the long term unemployed. The good practices in this publication help to identify some of the actions cities take to support an effective inclusive labour market at local level. (Source: EUROCITIES)

Cities and migrants – implementing the Integrating Cities Charter / EUROCITIES, December 2015, 32 p.

This is the second report on the implementation of the EUROCITIES Integrating Cities Charter. It highlights new trends in migrant integration in major European cities, and is produced by the EUROCITIES working group on migration and integration.

Post-crisis migration trends: challenges and opportunities for Europe’s competitiveness / ESPON, 2013, 4 p.

This ESPON evidence brief looks into post migration trends: the challenges and opportunities for Europe’s competitiveness. It draws baseline scenario for net migration 2010 to 2030.

Cities Accommodating Diversity / DIVE and EUROCITIES, 2010

The attraction European cities hold for migrants is ongoing and, as a consequence, cities are becoming more diverse every day. The DIVE project was designed as a mutual learning project on how city governments can develop innovative policies for ensuring equal opportunities and embracing diversity to adapt to these changes. Benchmarking

Integration Governance in Europe’s Cities: lessons from the INTI-CITIES project / EUROCITIES, 2008, 34 p.

This publication aims to share the learning that was generated through the INTI-CITIES project, reflecting on peer-reviews as a tool for mutual learning, and on the lessons learnt about how cities can set up appropriate structures for successful integration governance.

Institutional and stakeholder views

European Parliament

Draft report on the preparation of the post-electoral revision of the MFF 2014-2020: Parliament’s input ahead of the Commission’s proposal / Committee on Budgets, Co-rapporteurs Jan Olbrycht, Isabelle Thomas, PE580.444 , 11 April 2016

European Parliament legislative resolution of 17 September 2015 on the proposal for a Council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy, Greece and Hungary (COM(2015)0451 – C8-0271/2015 – 2015/0209(NLE)) (Consultation),  P8_TA-PROV(2015)0324 , 17 September 2015

European Parliament legislative resolution of 9 September 2015 on the proposal for a Council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece (COM(2015)0286 – C8-0156/2015 – 2015/0125(NLE)) (Consultation),  P8_TA(2015)0306 , 9 September 2015

Motion for a Resolution pursuant to Rule 133 of the Rules of Procedure on blocking the reprogramming of European structural funds in favour of reception facilities for illegal migrants,  B8-1132/2015 , 1 September 2015

European Commission

Managing the refugee crisis: immediate operational, budgetary and legal measures under the European Agenda on Migration / European Commission, COM(2015) 490 final/2 ,  29 September 2015

The statement made by the Commissioner for Regional Policy concerned reprogramming some of the structural funds in favour of reception facilities for illegal migrants

Speech by Commissioner Marianne Thyssen: EU funds in support of the refugee crisis, SPEECH/15/5720 , Brussels, 25 September 2015

European Council

European Council Conclusions , 25 and 26 June 2015

Committee of the Regions

Draft opinion on European Agenda on Migration,  CIVEX-VI/006 , 3-4 December 2015 (See point 22)

Draft Opinion on Guidelines on the application of the measures linking the effectiveness of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to sound economic governance, Rapporteur: Bernard Soulage (FR/PES,  COTER-V-053 , 11-13 February 2015

AER – Assembly of European Regions

AER Conclusions on the refugee and migration crisis / AER – Assembly of European Regions, December 2015

AER’s December 2015 Bureau meeting focused on the integration and management of the migration flow. In this meeting, “regions from various geographic backgrounds of Europe shared their stories, the situations they are in, the difficulties they have faced and the solutions and strategies they came up with in order to cope with the situation. The purpose of the meeting was to engage in a dialogue and exchange between regional decision and policy makers. Given AER’s member regions broad geographic diversity, new insights as well as a political statement were generated.”


EUROCITIES statement on asylum in cities / EUROCITIE, 13 May 2015, 4 p.

European cities located in arrival, transit and destination countries are experiencing the social, humanitarian and financial challenges of the current asylum crisis. This statement was developed by our working group migration and integration with input from all social affairs forum working groups. It stresses the important role European cities play in receiving and integrating asylum seekers, refugees and other beneficiaries of protection. It calls for a comprehensive EU migration policy that recognises the challenges faced by cities and local level solutions.

CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe

CPMR policy position on migration management / CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe, November 2015, 4 p.

In this position paper, Peripheral and Maritime Regions call for “a considerable increase of efforts and resources dedicated to the socio-economic integration of migrants and actions to promote their self-employment (e.g. through micro-credit programmes) and the Social and Solidarity based Economy in all the neighbourhood area (in the framework of general, national and regional policies for employment promotion);and for a stronger participation of Regions in the consultation and decisional processes for migration and development.


Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In / OECD and European Union, 2015, 348 p.

This joint publication by the OECD and the European Commission provides a comparison across all EU and OECD countries of the outcomes for immigrants and their children, through 27 indicators organised around five areas: Employment, education and skills, social inclusion, civic engagement and social cohesion. It presents detailed contextual information (demographic and immigrant-specific) for immigrants and immigrant households. It also includes information on two specific groups: young people with an immigrant background and third-country nationals in the European Union.

Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration / by Thomas Huddleston, Jan Niessen and Jasper Dag Tjaden, report for Directorate-General for Home Affairs, 2013, 74 p.

This report is explorative and descriptive in nature. The results of this report represent a contribution to the on-going debate and research on the development and use of integration indicators on which integration actors can build. It presents different options reflecting the different ways in which indicators could be used to understand national contexts, evaluate the outcomes of policies, and use targets to improve integration.

EU programmes and projects

Operational Programmes 2014-2020 which include investments on migrants and refugees related issues :


Operational Programme Employment Austria 2014-2020


Entrepreneurship and skills, Åland Structural Fund Programme 2014-2020


Operational Programme ESF Guyane Etat 2014-2020


Operational Programme ESF Federal Germany 2014-2020

Operational Programme Schleswig-Holstein ESF 2014-2020

Operational Programme ESF Bayern 2014-2020

Operational Programme ESF Berlin 2014-2020

Operational Programme ESF Brandenburg 2014-2020

Operational Programme ESF Hamburg 2014-2020

Operational Programme ESF Nordrhein-Westfalen 2014-2020

Operational Programme ESF Rheinland-Pfalz 2014-2020

Operational Programme ESF Saarland 2014-2020


“In the 2014-2020 period, all 13 regional programmes includes ERDF support for building/refurbishment open reception centres for migrants. Other ERDF interventions may be envisaged, in all Regional OPs in the framework of the mainstream interventions under TO9, such as inclusive start-ups, social enterprises, social housing, childcare infrastructure, regeneration of deprived urban areas etc. These interventions may be targeted at all vulnerable groups under TO9, including also migrants. Under the regional programmes, there is no earmarked amount for migrants; thus, we cannot provide at this stage specific amounts.”(information provided by the European Commission)


“In line with the provisions of Italy’s Partnership Agreement, the ERDF can co-finance measures in favour of legal immigrants and asylum seekers in synergy with the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).  Support from the ERDF should always be accompanied by other social integration measures, funded by the ESF. The National Programme “Legalità” focussing on the promotion of legality in the less developed regions, includes specific actions in favour of legal immigrants and/or asylum seekers, while in other programmes these target groups are mentioned as possible beneficiaries of measures targeting marginalised groups:

1.The National OP ” Legalità ” will allocate around EUR 41 million for the restructuring and rehabilitation of assets confiscated from the mafia, with a view to using them primarily as centres for the accommodation of legal immigrants, asylum seekers and holders of international and humanitarian assistance.  In these centres, regular immigrants will be accompanied with social and working inclusion support measures to be funded by the ESF.

2. The National OP ” Metropolitan areas ” will support the physical regeneration of social housing in favour of marginalised communities, including legal immigrants and asylum seekers, provided they are regularly registered in the lists for the allocation of social housing. The action of the ERDF will be part of integrated social inclusion measures supported together with the ESF in order to promote active inclusion of the marginalised groups. The overall allocation is around EUR 88 million.

3.The Regional OP in “Puglia” will support the rehabilitation of social infrastructures in favour of marginalised communities including, inter alia, immigrants. The overall allocation is  EUR 88,50 million. These actions will be complemented by the ESF that will support active inclusion measures.

4. The Regional OP in “Calabria” will support the rehabilitation of social housing in favour of marginalised communities, including immigrants and asylum seekers (total allocation: EUR 11 million). The ERDF will also support the rehabilitation of social infrastructures in favour of marginalised communities including immigrants (total allocation EUR 64,7 million). This action includes the creation and rehabilitation of first aid and sanitary services for specific target groups including asylum seekers and the rehabilitation of confiscated assets that can be used, inter alia, as centres for the accommodation of legal immigrants.

5. Four other Regional OPs will support the rehabilitation of social housing targeting, in general, deprived communities, including immigrants.  The overall allocation for this action is around EUR 25 million in ” Lombardia “, around EUR 14,5 million in ” Veneto “, in around EUR 10,2 million in ” Sardegna ” and around EUR 7 million in ” Basilicata “.” (information provided by the European Commission)

See also:

National Operational Programme on Social Inclusion 2014-2020

National Operational Programme on Systems for Active Employment Policies 2014-2020

POR Valle d’Aosta ESF 2014-2020


Human Resources Development Operational Programme 2014-2020


Operational Programme ESF 2014-2020


OP ESF 2014 Social inclusion and social economy


National Operational Programme ESF for investments in growth and employment 2014 – 2020

Other programmes and initiatives

Urban Initiatives for migrants and refugees

Integration of Migrants and Refugees – Urban Innovative Actions (UIA)

The 1st Call for Proposals of the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative is open from 15 December 2015 to 31 March 2016. The main objective of the 1st Call for Proposals is to select projects testing bold and unproven ideas on the following topics: integration of migrants and refugees; urban poverty with a focus on deprived neighbourhoods; jobs and skills in the local economy; and energy transition.

UIA Guidance provides detailed information on the UIA Initiative as well as on how to submit an application form, how to define the work plan, budget and related deliverables/outputs and how to manage an UIA project. It details the main rules and procedures to be respected in the framework of the UIA Initiative. It will also act as the main reference document for project implementation. It complements the Terms of Reference of the calls for proposals .

The Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees partnership

Coordinated by the city of Amsterdam, the Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees partnership will establish a framework to manage the integration of non-EU migrants and refugees in the areas of housing, public services and employment.

Examples of projects from the programming period 2007-2013

Improving the social inclusion and integration of migrant communities – Italy – Austria cross border programme

Opening its doors to immigrants: integration is all about meeting others – Finland

Historic building goes contemporary – Nicosia, Cyprus

Företagsamma: Entrepreneurship for all! – Gothenburg, Sweden

ESF Projects examples for migrants and refugees in Member States – 2010-2016

Other project examples

‘Arrivals’ , an intercultural theatre project in Belfast’ Northern Ireland, Eurocities

Belfast city council is supporting a small theatre company with an innovative drama-based project that highlights the experiences of migrants in the city. The ‘Arrivals’ trilogy, coordinated by Terra Nova Productions, brings actors from different backgrounds on stage to explore what happens when people from Northern Ireland interact with those who were not born and raised there.

OPENCities Project – URBACT

Explore how cities can attract and retain migrant populations and what initiatives cities can employ to make themselves a popular choice with international workers. How cities can develop more proactive policies to create OPENCities to better attract or retain mobile international populations, which are important to both the competitive and convergence objectives of the European Union.

Impact of migration on population change: results from the DEMIFER Project / ESPON, 2013

The authors of this brief consider that “the most important force behind European population change is international migration, but the impact of internal migration is also considerable. Three quarters of all regions will have a larger population in 2050 if current migration flows continue than if there were no migration.” The ESPON project DEMIFER (Demographic and Migratory flows Affecting European Regions and Cities) has analysed the change in population in 2050 based on a Status Quo Scenario and a No Migration Scenario as well as a No-Extra-Europe Migration Scenario.

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