Transnational meeting on employment of the WELDI project by Fundão, Portugal

Edited on 03/04/2024

Migration Centre of Fundão

Transnational meeting on employment of the WELDI project by Fundão, Portugal 

WELDI’s second transnational meeting took place online and was organized by the city of Fundão. Fundão has a rich history influenced by various cultures over the centuries. Its development is linked to agriculture, crafts and other local economic activities. This first thematic meeting addressed the subject of employment for newcomers. This is an essential aspect of the project, and one in which Fundão has a great deal of experience.

 

Employment: a key human right issue for both new-comers and hosting community

Migrants often face significant challenges in securing decent employment upon arriving in a new country. These hurdles may include language barriers, lack of recognition for foreign qualifications, lack of decent housing and unfamiliarity with the local job market dynamics. Access to decent work is crucial for migrants as it not only provides financial stability but also contributes to their overall integration and sense of belonging in the host society. Beyond individual benefits, allowing migrants to obtain decent employment is essential for the broader community and economy. Embracing the skills and talents of newcomers enriches the workforce, fosters diversity, and fuels economic growth. Policies that facilitate the recognition of international qualifications, promote language acquisition, and encourage inclusive hiring practices can play a pivotal role in ensuring that migrants have the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to their new communities, ultimately fostering social cohesion and prosperity.

Fundão’s solutions to face the demographic crisis

This meeting began with a presentation of Fundão by councillor Alcina Cerdeira. Fundão is a rural town where the population fell drastically between 1950 and 2011. The town is famous for its cherries, which are often harvested by hand to preserve their delicacy. The production of these cherries is an important tradition in the region, making a major contribution to the local economy. However, the demographic crisis that the town has been experiencing for decades was threatening the prosperity of this crop, as the population aged and workers became scarcer. To meet this vital challenge, the city has focused on two major areas: technological innovation and welcoming foreign workers and students with dignity.

Fundao’s innovation strategy involves developing the city's attractiveness to businesses and entrepreneurs, for instance in the ICT and polishing sectors, by working with public and private players. This policy has also led to the inauguration of a number of infrastructures and research centres to support the work of engineers. Fundão has succeeded in attracting hundreds of engineers from all over the world, but there is still a great need. The city has therefore set up a training system for the unemployed, giving them access to different types of jobs. By doing so, the city has not lost its roots, and these initiatives remain coordinated with agriculture and cherry plantations, hence the creation of the Fundão Agrotech Center, whose research aims to encourage the development of ecological and sustainable methods.

Fundão not only welcomes engineers and science students, it also has a major need for farm labour. The region has always been a destination for seasonal migrants, but is seeking to attract as many as possible. The public authorities have therefore put in place a number of infrastructures to make life easier for these migrants. These include the Fundão migration centre (see below), a stock of ready-to-live-in accommodation, schools ready to welcome their children, and the organisation of activities to optimise their integration.

As Ms Cerdeira stated, "we can't have the best cherries in the world if we don't give a proper welcome to those who help us to harvest them". To ensure that the rights of foreign workers are respected, Fundão​ works together with ​​ has set up ​the ​government’s ​Authority for Working Conditions, which is ​a central State inspection body ​responsible for verifying legal compliance in the field of work and occupational health and safety, thus having an inspection nature with a more social aspect within the scope of its intervention, protected by the international conventions of the International Labour Organisation. The partners had the opportunity to hear from Ângelo Valentim, inspector of the Authority for Working Conditions, who described how this body plays its role in guaranteeing labour rights and social protection. It is about ensuring that migrant workers receive their wages, are covered by social security and contribute to it, which allows them to access quality health care.

Stakeholder mapping - Baseline Report

 

Exemplary Initiatives in Fundão: The Migration Centre as a Hospitable Hub

The Migration Centre in Fundão, Portugal, distinguishes itself by offering a phased and empowering approach to migrant integration. Initially, the centre welcomes newly arrived migrants, providing them with essential support and information crucial for their initial settlement. As part of an empowerment process, the centre gradually transitions migrants towards full-fledged independent living. This involves a step-by-step approach where individuals are encouraged to take on increasing responsibilities, such as covering water and electricity expenses before progressing to full rental payments. The overarching goal is to foster autonomy and self-sufficiency among migrants as they acclimate to their new surroundings. This infrastructure enables Fundão to welcome refugees, particularly those who have left their country and arrived by boat, or who have been rescued at sea. Since 2018, the city has welcomed a total of 277 refugees, without ever making a distinction between individuals, underlining the municipality’s commitment to providing a dignified and humane welcome for migrants.

The city of Fundão plays a pivotal role in this integration process by strategically locating infrastructure near the centre that can accommodate the families of migrants, with a particular emphasis on facilities for children. This thoughtful approach not only supports the migrant workforce but also emphasizes the city's commitment to creating a nurturing environment that considers the well-being and needs of the entire family unit. In this way, Fundão’s Migration Centre goes beyond immediate assistance, actively contributing to the long-term success and harmony of migrant communities within the region.

Submitted by Sofiane Youssef on 03/04/2024
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Sofiane Youssef

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