Slovenia: building intercultural skills for long-term integration of asylum-seekers
At the height of the crisis, up to 10 000 refugees and migrants passed through Slovenia daily, most hoping to reach Germany or one of the Scandinavian countries.
The CEB was among the first donors to provide emergency aid to Slovenia, in the form of a € 1.5 million grant from the Migrant and Refugee Fund (MRF) that allowed the Agency for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief to better respond to the migrant situation. Another € 0.5 million MRF grant was approved to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Slovenia to provide necessary assistance and protection to the refugees and migrants arriving or transiting through Slovenia.
At the time, the number of refugees asking for international protection in Slovenia was negligible. However, with the closing of the Western Balkans route in March 2016, many migrants and refugees found themselves stranded in the country, causing the number of asylum applications to soar.
In a changed operational environment, measures to support long-term integration became increasingly important.
The CEB was able to adapt to the new situation quickly and direct funding to actions such as training in cultural mediation and intercultural competencies for public service providers.
A key supporting element of integration is the development and strengthening of intercultural skills among professionals who are in regular contact with asylum seekers. Frontline workers engaged in the provision of health, education and social services are often the first and only point of contact the migrants have with the world outside the reception centres. The supporting role that public service providers can play in the successful integration of those granted asylum is therefore crucial.
Partnering with IOM in the field
“We are very grateful for the CEB grant which has helped IOM provide timely assistance to migrants and refugees, and has also enabled partnerships between migrants, host communities and governments to form. With CEB support, IOM’s office in Slovenia has provided migrants with non-food items and psycho-social assistance as well as migrant capacity building and integration activities through cultural mediation workshops and labour market integration events. Crucially, we have also worked to raise awareness and understanding about migration issues among the general public”, said Mr. Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM’s Regional Director for the EU, Norway and Switzerland.
“This support has been and will continue to be vital for nurturing the benefits that migrants can bring when given a chance to integrate and contribute,” Mr. Ambrosi added.
With the funding from the MRF, the CEB’s partners from the IOM organised two training sessions to increase awareness among public servants of the concepts of migration and the dynamics of integration. Invitations to the training sessions were targeted to key personnel such as social workers, teachers, and healthcare staff from local, regional and international institutions.
Interest in the training surpassed all expectations: IOM received three times more applications than planned for. In the end, 65 participants attended two training sessions, one in the capital Ljubljana and the other in the second largest Slovenian city, Maribor.
The practical sessions consisted of workshops that enabled the participants to examine different life situations asylum seekers and refugees are faced with in the areas of education, health and social care. “I was very satisfied with the content of the training, as it addressed different aspects of the issue. We acquired a lot of practical knowledge, which is important for my work with unaccompanied minor children,” says Mateja Trebec, a social worker from Postojna.
The large number of applications received reflects the need for more intercultural competencies, especially in the education sector. The network of cross-sectoral experts established during the training is expected to provide mutual support and assistance in dealing with demanding cases and identifying potential solutions.
“It was a pleasant and comfortable environment which enabled us to discuss and exchange our experiences,” says Alida Šuligoj, Adult Education Organiser. “It was also an opportunity to meet new people, with whom I still cooperate today.”