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EMpowerment through liquid Integration of Migrant Youth in vulnerable conditions

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Empowering approaches to vulnerable migrant youth integration

Actively listening to young migrants, considering differences and providing more educational support could aid integration and create a more inclusive society.

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The transition into adulthood can be a tough time. Learning to live on your own, start a career or pursue further education can be stressful, especially without support networks. For young non-EU migrants in Europe, this period of life can be particularly challenging. “We felt that the experiences and vulnerabilities of this 18 to 29-year age group of migrants have been under-researched, and rarely considered in national and international policies,” explains the coordinator of the EU-funded MIMY project Birte Nienaber from the (University of Luxembourg.

Examining young migrant vulnerabilities

A key aim of MIMY was to let young third-country national migrants themselves define their own vulnerabilities. “To begin, we came up with the new concept of liquid integration,” she explains. “Integration is a contested term in academia, but at the same time we wanted to involve policymakers, who are familiar with this term. We used ‘liquid integration’ to underline that it is not just the migrant who needs to integrate; society has a role, and that this is a never-ending, dynamic process.” The consortium next analysed quantitative data and integration policies across Europe to identify recurring issues, one of them being the importance of education. “We collected data from two case studies in nine European countries,” says Nienaber. “We conducted nearly 1 200 interviews, held 80 focus groups, and included young migrants as peer researchers.”

Acknowledging everyone is different

A key finding from the research has been that policymakers need to better take into account differences between young migrants. What might work for one individual or group might not work for another. Nuanced differences in the experiences of young migrants in urban and rural settings were also identified. While smaller, more familiar networks in less populated areas can help some migrants overcome difficulties, others can also feel more isolated and exposed to fewer opportunities. The case studies and testimonies revealed that many migrants did not feel fully supported and often experienced discrimination at times. They were thus held back from fully developing their skill sets, leading to other vulnerabilities (for example, mental health or financial issues). Many young migrants also felt under-supported in their language-learning process.

Guidelines and support tools

Out of these findings, the project has developed guidelines, policy recommendations, and a handbook on best practices for policymakers, academia and NGOs. “We wanted our project to also have an impact on broader society,” says Nienaber. “There needs to be a deeper understanding of the diversity of young migrants, and space given to them to express and empower themselves.” Offering work experience alongside lessons in English, maths and IT has been shown to help students gain employment. Even after placement in vocational training, there is a need for continued support and counselling to ensure successful integration into the labour market. The project also successfully brought policymakers and young migrants together. Nienaber and her colleagues hope that these events continue and enable policymakers to hear first-hand the needs of a diverse group of young people, whose talents and potential are often yet to be fully realised.


MIMY, migrant, integration, learning, youth, mental health, languages

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