Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sweden top for welcoming migrants

A study of how Europe integrates immigrants has exposed wide variations in the welcome foreign workers receive.

The European Union-backed research found Sweden doing the most to help migrants settle - and Latvia the least.

Overall, EU nations are only doing half as much as they could, said researchers acting for a consortium of 25 organisations across Europe.

The study of policies across the continent ranks countries on key factors affecting immigrants' lives.

The Migration Integration Policy Index is produced by a consortium of European organisations, led by the British Council and the Migration Policy Group in Brussels.

Boxing club for immigrants in Malmo Sweden is "entirely favourable to promoting integration"


It measures policies to integrate an estimated 21 million migrants across 25 EU member states by using 140 indicators including:

  • Immigrants' rights in the workplace
  • The opportunities for permanent settlement
  • Permission for family to join them
  • Laws to combat racism and prejudice

The five states with the largest immigrant populations - the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and France all ranked in the top half of the table, with Italy coming out best.

Between them, these five are thought to be home to at least half of all the migrants across the continent.

But overall, the study found that only Sweden scored highly enough to be classed as a nation entirely favourable to promoting integration.

While many other states had policies the study said were laudable, each in turn appeared to fall down on at least one key area.

Of all the states looked at, nine had policies classed as partially favourable, five were middling and 10 nations scored lower still.

Sweden scored 100% on the rights it gives to foreign workers and just missed out on the top rating for long-term residency laws.

In contrast, researchers found Latvia restricts foreign workers' rights and gives immigrants little political say in the running of the country.

Researchers scored Sweden and Portugal highest on policies allowing migrants to bring in members of their family - but Austria, Denmark and Cyprus scored lowest.

Transparent system

Sweden was also judged best at giving migrants the right to stay for the long-term, by having what researchers found to be a fair, simple and transparent system.

The UK scored highly in this category and also in the related area of naturalisation - however it was criticised for a special law introduced to rescind nationality, a power used only once so far against a terrorism convict.

Ireland, in contrast, scored worst on long-term residence partly because researchers said migrants' rights to settle were discretionary and related to employment, rather than time spent in the country and links put down.

Ireland's government is now one of many across Europe that is overhauling its migration policies in response to increased movement of people.

Countries to the east of the European Union scored worst in relation to policies allowing migrants to play a full role in local politics.

Reviews of anti-discrimination measures also produced a mixed picture. Despite strong legal guarantees written into its constitution and laws, Germany was dropped down the league table.

The index is being launched across Europe on Tuesday with individual countries being given separate briefings on the data in the coming months.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Sweden top for welcoming migrants