EMN Lithuania organized a national conference “Initiatives to Support the Integration of Refugees from Ukraine”

2022 06 14

On 14th June, EMN Lithuania organized its annual national conference. The international conference was organized as a hybrid event – both live and online. The aim of the event was to share experiences regarding the public and private efforts to help the Ukrainian refugees in three key areas: accommodation, employment, and education.

Introductory speeches were made by the Adviser to the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania, the Head of Mission of IOM Vilnius Office Eitvydas Bingelis, and the Ambassador of Ukraine to Lithuania Petro Beshta. The adviser and the head of the mission emphasized the importance of public-private cooperation in addressing the integration issues. The ambassador of Ukraine expressed his gratitude towards all helping the Ukrainian refugees and talked about the initiatives of the embassy in Lithuania. 

The keynote speaker – Edmundas Jakilaitis – introduced the activities of his organization Strong Together, which is the main framework for coordinating private accommodation to Ukrainian refugees.

Lenka Čiček, representing the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic, presented the experience of the operation of regional centres, which offered a one-stop package of services to the Ukrainian refugees, including accommodation, legal registration, material support, access to healthcare, as well as various types of consultations. The key challenges centred around the problem of all governmental systems being overloaded by the number of refugees. The success – out of some 300,000 people registered in the Czech Republic, 70,000 are already working.

L. Čiček’s presentation was followed up by IOM representative Diana Carolina Cordero-Scales who talked about how the IOM framed its response to the crisis, IOM‘s operational presence in Ukraine and the neighbouring countries, as well as provided some details on IOM's cooperation with Airbnb. Through this program, IOM helps the refugees find short-term accommodations. IOM also cooperates their work with local and national governments. 

The first part of the conference was finished with a speech by Elena Coliujco from EMN Moldova highlighting the difficulties faced by Moldova when dealing with so many refugees – 450,000 people. Ukrainian refugees get the same rights as Moldovan citizens – the right to work, access to education, healthcare, etc. However, the main challenge relates to the costs of enrolling so many children in public schools.

The second part of the event was kicked off by a presentation by Inga Balnanosienė, Director of the Lithuanian Employment Service. I. Balnanosienė explained how the Employment Service dealt with the massive demand for jobs among Ukrainian refugees. She emphasized that Employment Service aims to offer jobs according to qualifications, and not just supermarket jobs. The Ukrainians have the same rights as the Lithuanians. Therefore, the provided services by authorities include active market support measures (e.g., retraining, vocational training, subsidized employment, apprenticeship).

According to another presenter Martin Menšík, Marketing manager at Profesia in Slovakia, Slovakia only managed to employ 7000 Ukrainians, primarily because of the language barrier. M. Menšík emphasized the need for easing restrictions and paperwork for the refugees and not blocking the forces of the free market. For example, while there is a need for doctors, Ukrainian healthcare workers are not able to work in Slovakia due to regulatory requirements.

For comparison, during her speech, Agnė Marčiukaitienė from the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service of Lithuania touched upon the legal regulation of children’s rights, emphasizing the Ukrainian children’s rights (healthcare, education, preschool care, and benefits). She also pointed out that, according to an agreement with Ukraine, no Ukrainian children will be adopted in Lithuania when the war in the country is still happening.

Experiences and initiatives shared during the conference showed that the one-stop approach taken by the Czech Republic, in principle, can be implemented when working with other migrants, especially labour migrants. Similarly, cooperation between IOM and Airbnb can be scaled up and applied to more diverse situations. Another positive highlight of the conference is the promising cooperation potential between intergovernmental organizations and global corporations.