If I were the leader of an EU country, I would state in a news broadcast that if refugees want to live in my country, they would have to learn our language first, and I would give high priority to refugees with high language exam scores (our government would test refugees directly during interviews). Extra points if they learn two or three EU languages. The advantages of this would be:

• Refugees can work and help themselves

• Probably less resistance from the public if they accept that refugees already know the language

• Refugees need to think about which country they want to move to

• Refugees have something to do while in their refugee camps

But I never see or hear about any leaders encouraging refugees to learn the local language before trying to move to the EU. Have EU leaders ever thought about this idea?

  • By that measure you would deport any citizens that did not meet minimum language standards? So you would deport all native citizens for not achieving a minimum score on their Baccalaureate tests. Good to know. Jun 22 '18 at 12:40
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    This about accept NEW people. Now many EU country not want refugee, but if refugee already know country's language already easier defend bring refuge because they can care for themselves more, talk with local people, and work jobs and pay tax.
    – Châu
    Jun 22 '18 at 16:03
  • So if someone in your country does not pay tax will you deport them? Jun 22 '18 at 16:14

The primary reason why countries take refugees in the first place are humanitarian concerns. The EU Charter of Fundamental Human Rights Articles 18 and 19 say:

Article 18

The right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the status of refugees and in accordance with the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Treaties’).

Article 19

  1. Collective expulsions are prohibited.
  2. No one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Saying "we only save people from certain torture and death if they speak our language" would violate this charter.

But when it comes to integrating refugees into the local population, countries do indeed make efforts to help them. Germany, for example, offers both language courses and social integration courses for refugees. Refugees who cannot prove that they already have these skills are expected to take these courses. This is a prerequisite for obtaining a work permit.

Note that the right to asylum is different from regular immigration. When it comes to regular immigrants from non-EU countries, then the EU does indeed apply rigorous meritocratic principles and requires language skills, education and acceptation of cultural values before accepting them. The advantage of being a regular immigrant is that a regular immigrant is not sent back if they are from a country where they are not (or no longer) in danger.


A refugee is someone fleeing a war-torn country. A migrant is someone seeking to move to a country for economic (or familial, etc) reasons.

The EU accepts refugees for compassionate reasons. If the refugee were to be sent back to their country of origin, they are likely to be killed. There often isn't time to take a language course if bombs are falling on your city.

Each EU country gets to decide which migrants they want to accept (from non-EU countries), mostly on economic and language reasons. If the migrant were to be sent back to their country of origin, nothing significantly bad happens to them.

The problem is distinguishing who is a refugee and who is a migrant.

  • 2
    Nice answer, but AFAIK, the term migrant describes both refugees and non-refugees. The later are usually called economic migrants to differentiate them from the former.
    – SJuan76
    Jun 22 '18 at 11:02
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    I've asked on English.SE if there is a word which can be used to describe non-refugee immigrants.
    – Philipp
    Jun 22 '18 at 11:26
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    @SJuan76 - simply false. Migrant and Refugee are separate terms and this issue is covered by the UNHCR. Unless you can provide an authorative source I would suggest deleting your comment for factual inaccuracy. unhcr.org/uk/news/latest/2016/7/55df0e556/… "Countries deal with migrants under their own immigration laws and processes. Countries deal with refugees through norms of refugee protection and asylum that are defined in both national legislation and international law." Jun 22 '18 at 12:43
  • I'd broadly agree with the difference outlined between refugee and migrant; I'm sure finer distinctions can be made - but this is a good start. Jun 23 '18 at 5:20

Well, one line of thinking relies upon the fact that immigrants tend to assimilate into the native culture of their host country.

It's much more difficult for adults of any age to learn a new language easily; but much, much easier for young children - they're primed to learn to socialise and get on where they are now.

So all one has to do is to give the process time...

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