Last week, I had the chance to participate in the first Eurodiaconia Access to Employment network meeting in Stockholm. As I had just started as a Policy Assistant at Eurodiaconia, the two days of discussions and study visits were particularly exciting for me. The event underscored the social component of employment and consequently highlighted that any individual should be enabled to best fulfill his or her own potentials and skills through meaningful work.

In practice, there are certain limitations to this concept of inclusion. The example of Sweden shows how especially asylum seekers and undocumented migrants find themselves excluded from a system of social rights that is based on citizenship. In Sweden, the City Missions together with other civil society organizations step in to help them to face the legal, social and institutional barriers they experience to prevent them from poverty and social exclusion.

The discussions from Sweden reminded me when I was volunteering in Austria at Diakonie Österreich. In 2015 and 2016, I was helping refugees who had newly arrived in Vienna to find decent housing and learn German. Back then, the challenges the Austrian society faced, inspired fact-based debates on how to better integrate asylum seekers, precisely linking integration also to faster access to employment. Authorities and governments were not prepared for the increased influx of asylum seekers, but this seemed to rather strengthen everyone’s commitment to human action.

Today, the lack of preparation in 2015 seems to justify stricter laws on migration in general. Obviously, there are good reasons to be prepared for future migration flows. I only wish we would discuss integration, housing and access to training with the same effort that is currently put on managing external borders. In my own country, Austria, many asylum seekers in traineeships face the risk of deportations and an uncertain future that is hard to imagine.

Thinking about the many challenges makes me value the work of our Eurodiaconia members I met in Stockholm even more. I learned a lot from their committed and passionate work that is constantly adapting to new challenges arising from legal and political changes. From Eurodiaconia’s side, it is our challenge to make those actions seen and valued on the European level and to provide further opportunities for mutual exchange.

Have a good weekend,