Improving the integration of young refugees

06.10.21 | News
Mads Schmidt Rasmussen /
The prospects for young refugees in the Nordic Region are poorer than the rest of the population in terms of physical and mental health, education and employment. A major Nordic study has identified significant disparities within and between the Nordic countries, as well as some of the factors that cause them.

“The key is quick and early follow-up in the form of language training, schooling and psychosocial support. If young refugees also spend time with people their own age from the majority population, they have much better prospects in terms of education, career and personal welfare,” says Professor Allan Krasnik.

Professor Krasnik spearheaded the research project Coming of Age in Exile (CAGE). According to the professor and his colleague Signe Smith Jervelund, both from the University of Copenhagen, refugees who arrive in the Nordic Region as children tend to end up being less well educated and are more likely to be unemployed than the majority population. The picture is the same in all four countries covered by the study but with a lot of variation between immigrants.

Measures to improve integration

Based on their findings, the researchers propose the following:

1. Start early – focus on teaching the Nordic languages, the quality of teaching and contact with young people in the majority population, supplemented with mental health support.

2. When new refugees arrive, have in place an inclusive approach that:

  • recognises the need for immediate mental health support, including an introduction to health services and ongoing psychosocial support, especially for unaccompanied minors
  • improves inclusion in schools – partly via language learning but also interaction with the same age group from the majority population
  • ensures that those who arrive as teenagers complete upper-secondary education
  • offers an introduction to Nordic labour market culture, focusing on language skills, which are important for young refugees looking for work.

3. Improve diversity training for teachers, social workers, health care personnel, etc. Experience may well be valuable, but there is also a need for systematic professional skills enhancement programmes.

“The study suggests that better education for young refugees will improve not only their job prospects but also their integration in general. In turn, this will improve the well-being of young refugees and reduce health and welfare inequalities in the Nordic Region,” adds Jervelund.

Facts: The CAGE project

The CAGE project is unique in a Nordic context. It involves researchers from various disciplines and four Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden – who have adopted a common approach to health, education and working life.

The work done by CAGE is based on publicly available Nordic data for health, education and the labour market. Political analyses and qualitative studies also provided insight into the key mechanisms behind the quantitative results.