On 14 and 15 May 2012, the first EU Resettlement Skills Share Day took place in Brussels. The EU Resettlement Skills Share Day marked a key moment in the development of the EU Resettlement Network, which is one of the main aims of the second joint IOM, ICMC and UNHCR project “Linking-In EU Resettlement”.
The Skills Share Day brought together some 200 policy makers and practitioners in refugee resettlement from 26 countries, including the EU Commissioner and the Director General for Home Affairs, representatives from European governments as well as representatives from Australia, Japan, Thailand and the US, international organisations, regions, cities and NGOs. Refugees who were resettled from across the world to the EU played an important role in the conference, sharing their first-hand experience of this important protection tool and solution for tens of thousands of refugees every year. The EU Resettlement Skills Share Days offered a forum to share good practices and expertise, through both plenary sessions and smaller workshops. It also aimed to engage existing and new actors to contribute to the further development of the EU Resettlement Network.
The highlight of the Skills Share Days was the resettlement marketplace, an interactive event showcasing innovative resettlement practices from across the EU. Governments, municipalities, international organisations and NGOs presented good practices in thematic areas reflecting the different stages of the refugee journey, from identification and selection to reception and integration. In the market place participants were invited to take part in activities such as mock resettlement interviews in the UNHCR tent, using the refugee identity everybody was given in the “travel document” made for the conference.
The participants also had the opportunity to participate in a resettlement interview by video-link with the Dutch government officials in The Hague, who have been doing resettlement by the video-link tool over the past years. Short cultural orientation sessions by an IOM bi-cultural trainer from Burma or a Swedish municipality were also on offer for the participants to take part in. Representatives from NGOs and municipalities shared their good practices in the reception and integration of refugees at the local level and a Czech mayor offered a home-made drink to the public as he had done when he welcomed a Burmese family resettled to his town last year.
The market place was rounded off by a film screening in which producers, directors and resettled refugees presented and discussed excerpts from different resettlement films. “Moving to Mars”, deals with the resettlement of Burmese refugees from a camp in Thailand to Sheffield. Also shown were “Coming soon: Refugees”, a film by Miles Roston (see box) and “Life on Hold”, a film by Amnesty International starring a Somali minor waiting for resettlement in Shousha refugee camp on the Libyan-Tunisian border.
On the second day of the event, expert workshops were held covering the essentials of resettlement, including creating welcoming communities for refugees, mobilising volunteers, preparing refugees for their new lives through cultural orientation training, good practices and challenges with regard to supporting refugees in their effort to find employment, the role of higher education institutions and universities in supporting the integration of resettled refugees, ongoing practices of community based organizations providing psycho social support and rehabilitation for resettled refugees and on EU resettlement policy and EU funding to support such activities.
The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, expressed the EC’s support for resettlement and the importance of Europe joining in the effort of helping refugees worldwide. She was joined by Claus Folden from the EASO (European Asylum Support Office) who echoed the message for the EU to increase its numbers of resettled refugees and emphasized that resettlement is not a drop in the ocean but an important protection tool.
Photo credits: Willemjan Vandenplas