Ateliere Fara Frontiere: supporting the work integration of people fleeing Ukraine to Romania

Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, the need for aid is now greater than ever. If the initial needs of the refugees from Ukraine arriving in Romania were related to housing and food, they now need a job to ensure their daily living. At the end of August, more than 55,000 refugees were registered in Romania trying to resume their lives in the country.

Ateliere Fără Frontiere (AFF), an association of Groupe SOS, has been among the first organizations that have opened its doors for the employment of refugees from Ukraine since March. At first, AFF provided a  dozen refugees with employment services through its workshops, counseling sessions, and vocational guidance, but also information and mediation services on the labor market. 

Since August 2022, in order to continue this mission and to bring help to even more refugees, AFF has started the project “Support to the self-reliance of vulnerable refugees from Ukraine” supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), that aims to enable the self-support and integration of people from Ukraine alongside vulnerable host population in Romania.  

The project consists in helping the Ukrainian refugees to find stability by guiding them in their process of entering the Romanian job market through counseling and integration. AFF also took it upon to help them in finding other needed tools and services such as: 

  • free Romanian language courses,  
  • legal assistance, 
  • knowing how to obtain healthcare,
  • housing,  
  • childcare,  
  • where to find out about community events  
  • etc.  

Therefore, in its first 6-month pilot phase, the project aims to support 75 Ukrainian refugees in finding the right job opportunities for them, while supporting their families. 

Every aspect of the project will be documented and based on statistical evidence in order to test and scale up the successes for a follow-up phase after the 6-month pilot. A good practice guide for social enterprises working in the job integration sector is to be developed for advocacy purposes, both targeting political will and legislative actions for easing the career pathways of marginalized and excluded people in Romania. 

 UNHCR, is the United Nations organization for refugees that leads various international actions to protect those who are forced to flee their home countries, mostly affected by conflicts and wars. Therefore, the UNHCR’s mission is to offer the main basic necessities to people such as clean and warm shelters, food, and water as well as to ensure refugees’ fundamental human rights and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future.  

AFF is a non-profit, Romanian organization, affiliated with Groupe SOS. Founded in 2008, AFF’s mission is to support the most marginalized and excluded groups of people. AFF creates workshops and programs to integrate these people into the job market, and offers social and professional support, guidance, and hope to all.   

The UNHCR / AFF partnership is complementary in ensuring a medium to long-term integration of vulnerable populations in Romania, starting with current refugees fleeing Ukraine. Whether Ukrainian will want to stay in Romania or will be able to go back to their home country; the project’s mission is to support them in their journey by listening to their needs and trusting their skills and projects.  

Making Europe the world epicenter of the SSE.

We, actors of the social and solidarity economy (SSE) in Europe, call for an ambitious European policy aiming at making Europe the world epicenter of the SSE. 

The challenges facing Europe today – be they political, geopolitical, economic, ecological or social – oblige us to rethink our economy in favor of a system that is more respectful of people and nature.

The European Union cannot tolerate 72 million people living below the poverty line and 15% of young people aged 15 to 29 without job nor training. These are alarming numbers, aggravated by the cumulative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis. These figures also contrast with record-breaking economic growth.

Economic performance and common good can no longer be opposed. They meet in the social and solidarity economy, which is composed of social enterprises, cooperatives, associations (including charities) and foundations. They all maximize their social and environmental impact rather than their financial profit.

The social economy, the future of Europe

The SSE is the future of Europe; it’s also its roots. As early as 1957, the Treaty of Rome mentions « economic and social progress » as an objective. In 2007, the Treaty of Lisbon made the « social market economy » a reference combining economic prosperity, social justice and environmental protection. This triptych is also at the heart of the Green Pact for Europe of 2020, as well as the Action Plan for the Social Economy of 2021. We salute the acceleration of this movement.

The social economy already represents more than 13 million employees across Europe, spread over nearly 3 million structures. It accounts for 25% of the continent’s new business creations. This is just the beginning, and the world is watching. Our European SSE genius inspires major international organizations. The SSE is on the agenda of the 110th session of the International Labour Conference, as well as on the agenda of the UN, which is already preparing a resolution for worldwide recognition of the SSE.

Based on our experience in the field and the expertise we have acquired over the years, we are proposing three levers of action to amplify this dynamic.

  1. Recognizing the social and solidarity economy in national, European and international law

The development of the social economy is currently slowed down by the absence of a clearly defined European legal framework. National legislations are heterogeneous, and sometimes non-existent. It is urgent to recognize the specificity of SSE organizations at the European level in order to encourage their financing and their internationalization. The leadership of the EU must also be strengthened at the global level. This is why EU Member-States must stand together behind the project of the UN resolution of recognition of SSE.

We also need to define common tools and standards for measuring social and environmental impact – the same way that we share accounting and financial standards which, for the moment, are only oriented towards financial performance.

  1. Strengthening financing tools dedicated to SSE organizations

Existing financing tools do not always match the specificities of SSE organizations. It is harder for them to get access to equity and loans. As for projects financed by European funds, they require significant administrative resources, with long delays.

We advocate for a strong development of capital and debt funding tools dedicated to social innovation, for example by allocating a part of employee savings funds. Access to these funds should be open to early-stage startups, and to all types of organizations, including associations and cooperatives. It is also necessary to simplify the application processes for European funds, so that small structures can apply.

  1. Generalizing work-integration programs in the 27 countries of the EU

Work Integration Social Enterprises give both a salary and a training to people who are far from the labour market. They rely on public funding covering a part of the employment costs, with significant leverage effects: they unlock self-confidence in finding a job, they fight unemployment, they help reduce informal economy, territorial fractures and inequalities. Yet this type of public support is absent from many European countries.

We ask for a strong political will at the European level, to encourage all Member-States to adopt ambitious policies of inclusion through employment, in particular through the local financing of work-integration programs dedicated to the most vulnerable people.

The social economy, the economy of peace

SSE is an economy of peace, redistribution of wealth and inclusion of all social and environmental impacts. It has the potential to make Europe the greatest social and ecological economic power. This is why we, European actors of the SSE, call on our European leaders to seize our proposals to make Europe the world epicenter of the social and solidarity economy.

Signed by 33 Social and Solidarity Economy players from 16 European countries:

Belgium: EVPA, Bantani Education, Pour la Solidarité

Croatia: Uni. of Zagreb’s Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology

Denmark: Sociale Entreprenører i Danmark

Estonia: Sotsiaalsete Ettevõtete Võrgustik (Social Enterprise Estonia)

France: Groupe SOS, FAIR, Impact Tank, Pulse, Impact Business Angels

Germany: Pleistocene&Permafrost Foundation, Uni. Heidelberg Germany and Cancer research center, Higher Order Strategy, Cabinet Collective, Media Foundation

Ireland: The Wheel

Italy: Venezia Autentica and Overtourism Solution

Latvia: Latvijas Sociālās uzņēmējdarbības asociācija

Netherlands: Catalyst2030, Designathon Works, Circular investment

Northern Ireland: Alison

Portugal: i3L – Social Impact Investments, Girl Move Academy, Action for Systemic Impact

Romania: Ateliere Fără Frontiere

Slovenia: Foundation BiT Planota

Spain: Grupo5, Efecto Colibri, Uni. Pontificia Comillas, ICI Network

Sweden: Forum for Social Innovation Sweden

For more information please consult the Euractiv website.

MigrantVoicesHeard: Enhancing the participation of migrants through the creation of “migrant councils“

A dynamic and intercultural society implies the participation of all individuals in the decision-making process that affects their communities and their future.

Migrants and refugees are directly affected by integration decisions and policies implemented at local, regional and national level.

Yet they are under-represented in political life.

The project « MigrantVoicesHeard”  aims at setting up migrant councils to foster the participation of foreign citizens in the development and implementation of integration policies at local, regional and national level in seven EU countries. (Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Austria, France, Romania, Hungary).

Groupe SOS  is involved in this project and promotes a better understanding of migrants needs and conditions. 

Migrant Voices Heard project is co-financed by the European Commission with the support of the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (FAMI).

The project has the following objectives:

  • The creation of 5 migrant councils and the reactivation of one in Italy allowing direct public action on integration policies.(working closely with local authorities)
  • Promoting the exchange of experience between local and regional public authorities regarding the involvement of migrants in the design of integration policies and their implementation
  • Strengthen the capacity of local and regional authorities to effectively consult migrants on policies that directly affect them.

We are in a mobilisation phase so if you are:

  • An association working in the field of integration and political rights
  • A foreigner who wants to change political rights

The MVH project is there to propose a new way to make your voice heard and to allow you to be real actors of change. By bringing together associations and migrants, our objectives are to discuss needs, create dialogue and a safe space for improving migrants rights.

Don’t hesitate to join us!

Together for a better integration and a better Europe.

For more information please visit this website: