While there is a growing influx of immigrants from outside the European Union (EU), the structure of immigration is changing and family reunification an important element. In this context, two distinct categories of immigrants stand out: immigrant families and children of immigrants. The question is whether, apart from providing benefits, European social protection systems really take their situation into account.
This is the question that provided the starting point for this study, which will explore the situation in six EU countries in order to find concrete examples of activities undertaken by social protection organizations for the benefit of immigrants and their children.
The concept of children of immigrants, used as a distinguishing factor, would make it easier to take the specific needs of this group of individuals into account. However, national integration policies avoid the use of this concept and this is reflected in the activities undertaken by social protection organizations.
The absence of activities aimed directly at the children of immigrants is counterbalanced by activities for the integration of immigrant families: the family, the spouse in particular, plays a central role in the integration process. This makes it difficult to implement programmes for children without involving their families.
Observed good practice centres on a certain number of themes: reception, mastery of the language, concern about cultural factors, particularly in the health sector. The aim of the projects examined, was indeed to encourage and facilitate access to public services for children of immigrants. The objectives were clearly defined, and bore the marks of a desire to correct a certain number of inequities affecting access to these services rather than those of positive discrimination. Their existence is proof that social protection organizations are becoming aware of the value of this approach.
Our institutions can no longer restrict their role in the integration of children of immigrants, to providing benefits. The main outlines of integration policies may be conceived at the national level, but their implementation is local or regional, and that is where the social protection organizations can intervene. There is no question of asking the latter to replace other bodies responsible for the integration of immigrant families and their children. It is a question of convincing them of the value of the activities they can undertake while remaining within the boundaries of their competencies and mandates.