Last 20th June we celebrated the World Refugee Day. The day provides momentum to discuss refugee integration with policy makers and other stakeholders. On this occasion, Veronique de Leener from MAKS vzw, Digital Welcome project partner from Belgium, took part in a policy debate at the European Partliament. The debate was organized by the European Internet Forum and hosted by Julie Ward MEP.

Four speakers provided different viewpoints on the role of ICT and Internet for refugee integration. The discussion covered a wide range of issues from access to technology to staying connected, accessing information on rights and opportunities, apps and portals for meetings between locals and refugees, satellite communications in developing countries, and, last but not least, education and skills.

Naturally, as a training provider, Veronique represented the education and skills side. She explained how Digital Welcome trains young people in creative IT skills, which they then pass on to others by organising workshops. “It’s not only about access. We teach people to create with digital tools, to “make” digital products. Why? Because we believe that if you know not only how to consume digital content, but also how to produce with a digital device, you can use digital tools for lifelong learning. And you can decide how to use them.”

Many initiatives aiming to make refugees’ lives easier with the help of ICT are focused on access. The potential that ICT skills have to foster their integration in the cultural and economic life of the host country are unexploited. Training refugees into digital skills can have huge positive impact on their integration, on their chances of finding a job, on their education, including learning the local language. By presenting the Digital Welcome project to politicians at events like this one, we hope to make them aware of this potential, and bring education and training in creative IT skills on the list of measures for refugee integration.

You can watch the full video of Veronique’s presentation, as well as the other speakers at the event, here.