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France: Experiences from Researchers and Employers

Employers reported on the aspects that most positively affected the process of hiring refugee researchers and these are language skills of the candidate and available financial support for doing so. Professional skills of the candidates and adequate information contribute to the hiring process to a slightly lesser degree. Internationalisation of the workplace and business opportunities have a mixed to minor relevance for the organisations. 

Recognition of qualifications and the rules governing the refugees' and asylum seekers’ rights to labour market access are among strongest obstacles that affect the hiring process. Additionally, family issues such as reunification or residence for family members, are ranked very high on the list of obstacles. The level of French is also amongst the most important obstacles, both professionally and in daily life, also outlined by researchers. Family and health as well as sceptical attitudes either at the institution have a lower or no effect in the process. However, researchers pointed out at the lack of coordination between legislators and administration (e.g. employment office) and the privilege of EU citizens over other nationalities when applying though regular channels.

Benefits and challenges

Strengthened social responsibility and internationalisation of the work community are employers’ strongest benefits during employment of researchers with refugee background. Diversified professional skills and internationalisation of research are somewhat relevant, while new business opportunities and innovation have limited importance. The benefits of additional language skills vary strongly among different respondents and is difficult to generalise on its relevance.

Biggest challenges are issues with residence permits and insufficient level of French. These are followed by gaps in required professional skills, insufficient level of other foreign languages and a mixed view on the recognition of qualifications. Lack of information and support structures are somewhat relevant. Minor challenges include family, health and cultural aspects and different academic traditions. Negative attitudes within the organisation and in the society are not reported by employers as a challenge in the process of hiring refugee researchers in France.

Country-specific situation and recommendations - support provided and further support needed

The list of additional support provided to refugee researchers includes working means and facilities, assistance in finding accommodation, French language courses and covering part of the transportation costs. According to employers, it would be beneficial to have a better knowledge of the national laws on asylum and foreign nationals and of the types of contracts and funding opportunities. At the European level, a mobility and funding programme for mobility of researchers with refugee background within Europe would be beneficial for their career development.

Advice from a succeeding refugee researcher: Every year around 12 000 PhD students graduate in France, around half of them non-French. The market takes around 2000 people. To get a position in such environment, one should have four components: knowledge, experience, skills, competencies. Researchers from other countries only have knowledge, which is insufficient in the job market in France and the EU. One should have skills depending on the market in Europe, and not in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, etc. And one requires the knowledge of French culture rather than of other countries. Who has these components can enter the job market in Europe.

Reflections and recommendations from researchers:

  • Language skills are very important especially in some fields (e.g. medical field, social sciences, humanities)
  • There is need for targeted language courses which are of a good quality and the right level
  • Communication is needed in order to really learn a language
  • There is a need to be introduced to the labour market and a need of an orientation
  • Encouragement and scholarly support are needed
  • A platform to present academic work would be needed
  • Dignity - first of all a scholar and refugee status only as a secondary issue
  • Racism and discrimination due to name and nationality
  • Long processes, uncertainty of the own future
  • A specific call (win-win to both parties)