07 March 2014

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in a Resolution entitled ‘Integration tests: helping or hindering integration?’, has recommended that States reappraise their approach to integration testing as part of  citizenship, residence and family reunification applications.

The Parliamentary Assembly has two primary concerns over the use of these tests:  whether they promote integration or have the opposite effect, and whether they are used as a migration management mechanism to limit the number of migrants entering and remaining in the country concerned.

The resolution refers to an at least 20% drop in people seeking family reunion in one member State and a 40% decrease in those seeking or granted permanent residence permits in another, as an indication of the effect these measures can have. According to the resolution, these decreases are a reason for concern, as family reunification and greater security in terms of residence rights are beneficial for the integration of migrants

The Assembly notes that integration tests have become more widely used, the standards required to pass have increased and the scope has expanded beyond language assessment to include ‘citizenship’ questions about the state’s social and political affairs.  

According to the Resolution, the Assembly states that the expected standards exceed what is reasonably attainable and that there is a lack of adequate financial support for preparatory courses. The consequences are that illiterate or poorly educated family members are barred from reunification with recognised refugees and those who fail to pass the test are denied citizenship, residence or reunification.

To remedy the impact of integration tests, the Assembly recommends that required language proficiency levels be reasonably attainable. The assessment should recognise effort as well as achievement by taking into account literacy and education levels and any characteristics of vulnerability. Testing should not be the only method of assessing commitment to integration. Moreover, adequate support must be provided in the form of preparation for testing, and failure should lead to requiring further efforts, rather than unconditional refusal.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 07 March 2014
You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.