Venezuela is experiencing an economic collapse, triggered by a prolonged political crisis, which has unleashed the biggest migratory crisis in recent South American history with some 4 million Venezuelans estimated to have fled the country in recent years. This has caused a nearly 50% increase of applications in Spain last year when the new trend consolidated, as most Venezuelans heading to Europe seek refuge in the country with which they share language and heritage. In that sense, Member States of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), which includes all the 28 EU countries, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, Venezuelans filed more than 18,400 asylum applications from January through May 2019, representing roughly twice as many as during the same period in 2018, making them the nationality with the second highest number of applications in Europe after Syrians. In turn, Spain has become one of the EU's top receivers of asylum applications, nearly as many as Italy, which was among the countries bearing the brunt of the 2015 crisis. Rome has seen arrivals halving last year after introducing stricter border controls. However, only a fraction of asylum applicants are accepted by European States, with those rejected forced to go back home or lodge a second application. But for those who stay, many face challenges to integrate into the labour market.

Labour market integration of migrants and refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) need a common approach between the receiving countries highlighting areas of good practices, while also examining integration barriers. Research shows that skilled migration from LAC countries has dramatically increased over the last decade. This can be due to the rising number of people seeking political asylum in the European Union, driven up by Latin American refugees, particularly from Venezuela. The rise was partly caused by a surge of Venezuelans and other Latin American asylum seekers who are fleeing political and economic crises in their countries. One potential reason for this is that traditionally, many people from LAC fleeing political regimes or gang violence, have sought refuge in the United States of America, but the Trump administration made it much more difficult for people to seek asylum, therefore many opted for Europe instead.

Analyses on immigrants and labour markets in the developed countries (Sassen, 1988; Martin, 1999) conclude that immigrants tend to be inserted at the extremes. On the one hand, they respond to the demand for highlyskilled workers and, on the other, they tend to find jobs in areas that are traditionally lower skilled. In that sense, the development of the project builds on a comprehensive analysis and needs assessment of the challenges, obstacles and opportunities of the target group to integrate the labour market.

Information on the education level of migrants is quite limited; however, the little information available shows a high participation of persons who have been to university or have completed secondary school. This demonstrates a strong selectivity in terms of the average education of the population in the countries of origin. There is little information available about the occupations of immigrants. But there are indications that show a gap between occupational insertion and the education level of most of the migrants.

Migrants and refugees in general, tend to have higher unemployment rates, lower occupational attainment and wages, a looser labour market attachment and are least able to find and hold good jobs. The EU recognizes that culture and diversity are vital elements of its countries’ economies and competitiveness and its international relations with third countries. However, while increasingly emphasizing the need for more economic migrants, fear of losing jobs, xenophobia and negative sentiments are widespread among European societies. Since migration inflows are affected by policy, migration and asylum policy are partly responsible for the type of immigrants countries receive, their economic performance, their function in the economy and the perception of local societies towards immigrants.

LAC migrants and refugees face many barriers to integrate into the labour market. Some major barriers preventing full labour market participation and interaction are lack of self-confidence to apply for jobs, non-recognition of foreign educational documents, unwillingness to work, lack of experience, but also stigma and discrimination from employers, among others.

The situation of migrants and refugees can be improved to the extent that governmental and non-governmental can change the institutional and societal factors that are found to have a strong impact on the social and economic well-being of migrants and refugees. Integration has to be achieved in coordination with other changes in a comprehensive approach that considers all critical aspects. In that sense, the project aims to support and strengthen comprehensive information, training, upskilling and guidance support for migrants and refugees to integrate into the labour market.

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