EPIA Project

Project Description (2012-2014)

The Grundtvig Learning Partnership 'Exchanging Best Practices in the Integration of Assyrians in Europe' (EPIA), aims to exchange particular experiences of Assyrians in the field of integration in Europe, map problems and challenges, and promote best practices. The partners represent institutions of Assyrians in four different European countries. Since the 1960s, Assyrians have established themselves in large numbers (about 300.000) in Europe. Already from the beginning they understood that they would remain in Europe. To a great extent, this intention has influenced the way they have orientated themselves and established themselves in Europe. Nevertheless, researchers have paid little attention to the way they have adopted themselves to the new societies of living. With this project the partners aim to develop more insight in the processes of the integration of Assyrians in Europe during the last five decades, to exchange experienced problem and challenges, and to map best practices in the field of integration. In order to realize the planned aims, the activities that are going to be organized are the following:
  • Seminars about different aspects of integration in the participating countries;
  • A conference in order to discuss further and to disseminate the first results of this project;
  • A workshop which will focus on integration of Assyrian women in Europe;
  • A specific workshop for exploring best practices and successful strategies in the integration of Assyrians and developing new strategies for tackling with the problems of integration.
  • A policy report about best practices in four European countries will be written by the partners and will be offered to local and national policy makers.
In all European countries, which have been the destination for large-scale migration over the past decades, the political and socio-cultural aspects of integration have been heavily debated. Integration as a multi-faceted phenomenon depends on different factors and the integration of immigrant communities does not follow a standard path. Today, one of the greatest challenges of societies in Europe relate somehow to the integration of newcomers. Assyrians as a minority group that fled from the Middle East and established itself in great numbers in Europe, distinguish itself from other immigrant groups. Nevertheless, in research about the integration of immigrants they have largely been left out, due to the fact that they are relatively a small group, when compared to other larger immigrant groups. In our opinion, the fact that Assyrians number with 300.000 a relatively small group of people in Europe, does not legitimize them to be left out of research project. As a specific case study it is of importance to study their processes of adaptation, integration and acculturation from a comparative perspective in Europe. This fits and will add to the framework of European democratic values.

There are many ways to study, to map and illustrate the abovementioned issues. Apart from an academic research, with this project we aim to follow a methodology which will enable us to develop an interdisciplinary approach to study the theory and practice in relation to each other. Besides, we aim at bringing academics, experts and learners (from the Assyrian community) together in order to get further with the issues discussed.

With this partnership project, the institutions in this consortium aim to exchange experiences regarding the integration of Assyrians in four European countries. They will identify and discuss the main problems and challenges with which Assyrians have dealt and map their positive achievements. The comparative dimension which is intrinsic to this partnership project will provide us a better understanding of different integration policies and the responses given to these policies by the targeted group. We understand the concept of integration as a two-ways relationship. Not only the governmental policies, but also the diverse group dynamics should be taken into account when analyzing the problems and success of integration processes. With departure from this understanding, Assyrians constitute a relatively well-integrated and well-established immigrant group in Europe. They have managed to build a visible social capital in a relatively short period. To mention one example, in Sweden, Assyrians are known for their active entrepreneurship and five members of the Swedish parliament are of Assyrian descent.

Besides successes, Assyrians have also been confronted with challenges of integration that they have not resolved yet. These differ per country but there are also commonalities between the different European countries. The integration problems of Assyrians have never been discussed from a comparative perspective. So far the exchange of experiences in different European countries have been shared and discussed through informal networks (such as family visits), the internet and in a few Assyrian TV Programmes (broadcasted by Suroyo TV and Suryoyo SAT). But this has not been done systematically. To exemplify, although Assyrian women have experienced a strong change in their position, the impacts of this societal, cultural and psychological change have never been discussed systematically. This aspect has been ignored, if not denied by the majority. In the same way, also more systematic reflections are needed in relation to experienced tensions between different generations and in relation to different perspectives on integration.

Against this background, this partnership project aims to do a first comparative "evaluation" of the Assyrian's integration praxises in four EU countries. The partnership will function as a platform through which the main problems, challenges and successes of the integration of Assyrians in Europe will be discussed and disseminated.

The idea of developing a Grundtvig partnership project has been shaped in a discussion process in which the current partner organizations have joined into the group. Last year during the Grundtvig workshop (Registration No. 2010-1-NL1-GRU13-02946) which was organized by the Inanna Foundation in the Netherlands, three members of the partner organizations had the opportunity to discuss and formulate the topic and the framework of this project. This idea has been further discussed - formally - by including one other organization from Belgium. As four partner organizations, we have come to agree on the following points which also illustrate the need and rationale of this partnership project:
  • There is a specific need to discuss the fifty years of settlement of Assyrians in Europe from a comparative perspective. Exchanging experiences, mapping the problems and searching together for effective and sustainable solutions for the existing problems and challenges will be a very important input for the Assyrian diaspora and for its diverse civic and religious institutions.
  • Besides discussing the experienced problems, it is also very important to highlight good practices in the integration of Assyrians. This approach will show different ways and solutions for dealing with the experienced problems. Furthermore, it will have a benchmarking function in different fields and increase the integration level of the group.
  • Applying the American political scientist Robert Putnam's social capital theory to the case of Assyrians, the Assyrian diaspora has a strong 'bonding capital' which enables a high level of group solidarity and strong group ties. However, the level of 'bridging capital' among Assyrians has not been developed after five decades of settlement in Europe. The further integration of the Assyrian community to a large extent depends on the development of bridging capital among the group. Thus, partnership activities will develop the possible ways of increasing the level of bridging capital.
  • So far, in the discussions among the community, the gender and inter-generational dimensions of integration have not received a specific attention. The discussions of both dimensions will bring important insights to the topic. Therefore, it is urgent to pay attention to the integration of Assyrian women and the tension between the first and second generation Assyrians.
We consider the Grundtvig partnership project as an important chance for achieving the above-mentioned aims.
The main objective of the partnership is to discuss the problems, challenges and achievements in the field of integration among Assyrians in four EU countries, to identify best practices and successful experiences and to disseminate the conclusions of the project. Furthermore, this partnership aims to promote active citizenship among the target immigrant group. The partners consider it important to create an opportunity to evaluate the last 50 years of settlement, adaptation and integration processes in Europe.
Questions and Problems to be addressed
  • What kind of integrational problems and challenges do Assyrians experience in EU countries?
  • What are their positive achievements in terms of integration? How is their social, economic, cultural and political situation?
  • How is the situation of the second generation Assyrians in European societies? Which intergenerational tensions can be identified? To what extent and in which areas does intergenerational learning among Assyrians take place? Is it possible to talk about "upward mobility" among the second generation?
  • How is the situation of Assyrian women in European societies? How has the settlement in Western societies influenced the position of Assyrian women women in the Assyrian community and in broader society?
  • Is there a relationship between awareness of one's own culture and identity and integration effects? What is the role of mother tongue education in this respect?
  • What are the best practices in the integration of Assyrians in EU countries? What strategies may be effective for the integration of Assyrians and for increasing their active citizenship?
To achieve the aforementioned objectives, we will mainly focus on educational activities, such as seminars, workshops and a conference. These educational activities will be directed to learners and will be open to a broader public. Furthermore, with these activities we aim to bring experts, people in the field and learners together and create a discussion platform which will also cooperation in potential future projects which will result from this first established platform in this field.
European Added Value
As Assyrians settled in different European countries and their diaspora is characterized by this dispersion it is important to cooperate with institutions who are concerned with this group at transnational level. Most of the activities and studies conducted so far have focussed on Assyrians living in a single country. By studying the integration of Assyrians in different European countries, the involved institutions will bring in insights into the partnership in relation to the integration of the Assyrian community in specific countries. Learning from each other's insights will develop synergy in knowledge. Partners can learn from each other's experiences and strategies in tackling problems and challenges of integration in a European context. By lifting up the best practice in the integration of the concerned group and addressing the main conditions for the integration success, the project indirectly intends to the contribute to a common European policy in the field of integration. Another important point which this project addresses is the situation of the second generation Assyrians in Europe. Commonly, integration theories deal with this topic in terms of "upward mobility" among the second generation. However, in practice, segregation, the formation of parallel societies and ethnic enclaves have become the reality of many European cities. With this project, we aim to analyze the situation of the second generation Assyrians in Europe which will also be useful for a broader understanding of the situation of the second generation migrants in Europe. We expect that the outcomes of the project will be useful for local, national and European policy makers who work in the field of migrants and their integration in society.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication (communication) reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.