This is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) from refugees and migrants about living in Europe. The “Welcome to Europe”-FAQs can be downloaded in 11 languages. Feel free to adapt or elaborate the suggested answers!
Guidelines for Higher Education staff to help migrants and refugees.
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Welcome to Europe – Frequently Asked Questions
This is a preview of the FAQ template “Welcome to Europe” in English language. Find all 11 translations in the download-section below.
The evolution and history of European women coincide with the evolution and the history of Europe itself. Categorically, modern-day women in Europe are women who live in or are from the European continent.
Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s founding values. It goes back to 1957 when the principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of Rome.
The Commissioner for Human Rights published a Human Rights Comment on 6 March 2014 calling for hate speech against women to be specifically tackled in all member states. Against a background of proliferating hate speech, notably on the Internet, with daily calls for violence against women and threats of murder, sexual assault or rape, the Commissioner urged member states to prohibit by law any advocacy of gender hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. The Commissioner stressed that political and opinion leaders in Europe should send a signal to the public that clearly shows that violent discourse against women has no place in a democratic society and will not be tolerated.
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) came into force on 1 August 2014. The Commissioner for Human Rights called on all member states of the Council of Europe to ratify this landmark treaty, as it addresses all forms of violence against women (either in the context of domestic violence or through stalking, sexual harassment, sexual violence and rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and forced abortion and sterilisation). The Convention clearly spells out the state obligation to prevent violence, protect victims and punish the perpetrators, and offers a holistic set of measures to take action where it is needed.
Text extracted from https://rm.coe.int/ref/CommDH(2015)4
Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights are the basic values embedded in the EU treaties. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is a clear and strong statement of EU citizens’ rights. Citizens of the EU and Europe are legally protected against violation of these rights.
EU policy includes:
- working to promote the rights of women, children, minorities and displaced persons
- opposing the death penalty, torture, human trafficking and discrimination
- defending civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights
- defending the universal and indivisible nature of human rights through full and active partnership with partner countries, international and regional organisations, and groups and associations at all levels of society.
All agreements on trade or cooperation with non-EU countries (over 120 now) include a human rights clause stipulating that human rights are central to relations with the EU. The EU has imposed sanctions for human rights breaches in a number of instances.
Read more about the human rights by following these links:
Historically, religion in Europe has had a major influence on European art, culture, philosophy and law.
The largest religion in Europe is Christianity, with 76.2% of Europeans considering themselves Christians, including Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and various Protestant denominations.
Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church, has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization since at least the 4th century, and for at least a millennium and a half, Europe has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, even though the religion was inherited from the Middle East. Christian culture was the predominant force in western civilization, guiding the course of philosophy, art, and science.
The second most popular religion is Islam (6%) concentrated mainly in the Balkans and eastern Europe. Other religions, including Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism are minority religions.
Europe has become a secular continent in the Western world.
Freedom to choose and practice a specific religion is a right for all European citizens. The choice of religion has to be respected by all European citizens.
“Europe” as a cultural concept is substantially derived from the shared heritage of the Roman Empire and its culture. The boundaries of Europe were historically understood as those of Christendom (or more specifically Latin Christendom), as established or defended throughout the medieval and early modern history of Europe, especially against Islam, as in the ‘Reconquista’ and the Ottoman wars in Europe.
This shared cultural heritage is combined by overlapping indigenous national cultures and folklores, roughly divided into Slavic, Latin (Romance) and Germanic, but with several components not part of either of these group (notably Greek and Celtic). Cultural contact and mixtures characterise much of European regional cultures; Kaplan (2014) describes Europe as “embracing maximum cultural diversity at minimal geographical distances”.
European languages mostly fall within three Indo-European language groups: The Romance languages, derived from the Latin of the Roman Empire; the Germanic languages, whose ancestor language came from southern Scandinavia; and the Slavic languages.
Multilingualism and the protection of regional and minority languages are recognised political goals in Europe today. The Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Council of Europe’s European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages set up a legal framework for language rights in Europe. Whilst each country has its own official language(s), English is spoken widely as a second language in Europe.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) considers Europe to be home to the highest number of migrants of all global regions at 70.6 million people. In 2005, the EU had an overall net gain from immigration of 1.8 million people. In 2008, 696.000 persons were given citizenship of an EU27 member state, a decrease from 707.000 the previous year.
Pan and Pfeil (2003) count 87 distinct “peoples of Europe”, of which 33 form the majority population in at least one sovereign state, while the remaining 54 constitute ethnic minorities. According to United Nations (UN) population projection, Europe’s population may fall to about 7% of world population by 2050. Within this context, significant disparities exist between regions in relation to fertility rates. The average number of children per female of child bearing age is 1.52. According to some sources, this rate is higher among Muslims in Europe. The UN predicts a steady population decline in Central and Eastern Europe as a result of emigration and low birth rates.
The demographics of Europe – In 2016, the population of Europe was estimated to be 741 million according to the 2017 revision of the World Population Prospects, which is slightly more than one-ninth of the world’s population. A century ago, Europe had nearly a quarter of the world’s population, which shows a decrease in natality in Europe and an exponential increase in the rest of the world, particular in certain Asian countries such as China and India. Most of Europe is in a mode of sub-replacement fertility, which means that each new(-born) generation is being less populous than the older.
The Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century and the 19th century changed the economy of Western Europe. Economies were disrupted by World War I and II that recovered slowly afterwards.
The majority of Central and Eastern European states came under the control of the Soviet Union after World War II and became members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). The western states moved to link their economies together, providing the basis for the EU and increasing cross border trade. This helped them to enjoy rapidly improving economies, while those states in COMECON were struggling in a large part due to the cost of the Cold War.
Until 1990, the European Community was expanded from 6 founding members to 12. With the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1991, the post-socialist states began free market reforms. By the millennium change, the EU dominated the economy of Europe comprising the five largest European economies of the time namely Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain.
Figures released by Eurostat in 2009 confirmed that the Eurozone had gone into recession in 2008. In 2010, debt crisis in Greece, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal were confirmed.
Europe has a large variation of wealth among its countries. The European Union comprises the largest single economic area in the world. There is huge disparity between many European countries in terms of their income.
 The Cold War was a state of geopolitical tension after World War II between powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its satellite states) and powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others)
 Eurostat is a Directorate-General of the European Commission, which main responsibilities are to provide statistical information to the institutions of the European Union (EU) and to promote the harmonisation of statistical methods across its member states and candidate countries.
European integration is the process of political, legal, economic (and in some cases social and cultural) integration of European states as it has been pursued by the powers sponsoring the Council of Europe since the end of World War II. The European Union has been the focus of economic integration on the continent since its foundation in 1993.
28 European states are members of the politico-economic European Union, 26 are members of the border-free Schengen Area and 19 of the monetary union Eurozone.
 Democracy is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament.
 Republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through elections expressing the consent of the governed. Such leadership positions are therefore expected to fairly represent the citizen body. It is a form of government under which the head of state is not a monarch.
 Monarchies in Europe are constitutional monarchies, which means that the monarch does not influence the politics of the state, apart from in Liechtenstein and Monaco, which are usually considered semi-constitutional monarchies.
The earliest hominid discovered in Europe dates 1.8 million years ago. The European Neolithic was marked by the cultivation of crops and raising of livestock. The European Bronze Age began c. 3.200 BC in Greece. The Myceneans around 1.200 BC, ushering the European Iron Age, unpinned by the Greeks and Phoenicians’ colonisation that gave rise to early Mediterranean cities.
Ancient Greece is considered the birthplace of Western civilization. The fall of the Western Roman Empire marked the end of ancient history and the beginning of an era known as the Middle Ages. Renaissance Humanism, exploration, art, and science led to the modern era.
Age of Enlightment
The Age of Enlightenment, the subsequent French revolution and the Industrial revolution modelled and structured the European continent, culturally, politically and economically from the end of the 17th century till the first half of the 19th century.
Both World Wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945) decisively changed Europe geographical, political and culturally.
In 1955, the Council of Europe was formed in Strasbourg with the idea of unifying Europe to achieve common goals. It includes all states except for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Vatican City.
Further European integration by some states led to the formation of the European Union, a separate political entity that lies between a confederation and a federation. The EU originated in Western Europe but has been expanding eastward since 1991. At present (2018) there are 28 Member States.
The currency of most countries of the European Union, the euro (€), is the most commonly used among Europeans; and the EU’s Schengen Area abolishes border and immigration controls among most of its member states.
The European Anthem is “Ode to Joy” (from the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony composed in 1823). States celebrate peace and unity on Europe Day.
The European climate is largely affected by warm Atlantic currents (Gulf Stream) that temper winters and summers on much of the continent, even at latitudes along which the climate in Asia and North America is severe. Further from the sea, seasonal differences are more noticeable than close to the coast.
The Gulf Stream carries warm water to Europe’s coast and warms up the prevailing westerly winds that blow across the continent from the Atlantic Ocean.
Useful online resources to help newcomers to settle in Europe are:
EURES, The European job mobility platform, provides information about the labour market in Europe as well as in the individual countries. Information about living and working in the countries is also available on the platform.
Sometimes it is not easy to start working when you arrive to Europe. The first step is to regularise your status. During the first months upon arrival maybe you are not allowed to work. This is the perfect moment for you to learn the national language and habits of your welcoming country. And maybe an opportunity to find some courses to update your studies.
Once you have permission to apply for jobs, find the office where unemployment is dealt with and register. Depending on your skills and experience your search for a job will be more or less successful – do not despair!
Some jobs will require proof of academic competences. If you have lost your diplomas or accreditation of your studies, please read the “Welcome to Validation” guide.
Each country of Europe has its own education system. In general terms the different levels of education start with Pre-school, Primary school, Secondary school and Further and Higher education. Compulsory education can vary from country to country, but education from 6 to 16 is normally compulsory.
For Further and Higher Education, Europe has developed a European Qualification Framework (EQF) that groups education in 8 different levels, depending on the level of knowledge, skills and competences of the student.
More details about the education system in Europe (and country by country) can be found at the following links:
For details on how Higher Education is structured, please visit the Welcome to Higher Education-Guidelines.
Each type of education and each country has different fee rates. In some European countries the compulsory education for children is free. In some countries Higher Education is also free. Newcomers must refer to the national regulations once they have settled in a specific country and find out the details.
Both the European Union and the Council of Europe guarantee in their human right instruments the right to education. Newcomers arriving to Europe with children should be appointed a school where the children could attend.
Newcomers have to request access to the public healthcare system in the country where they have register. The normal procedure should be to go to the Social Security office assigned to the area where the newcomer lives and request the healthcare national card. Newcomers’ children should be entitled to receive healthcare attention too.
Healthcare in Europe is provided through a wide range of different systems run at the national level. The systems are primarily publicly funded through taxation (universal health care). Private funding may represent personal contributions towards meeting the non-taxpayer refunded portion of costs or may reflect totally private (non-subsidized) healthcare either paid out of pocket or met by some form of personal or employer funded insurance.
Although not explicitly included in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) of 1950, the right to housing is enshrined in numerous concrete legal norms, which are relevant in the fight against homelessness and housing exclusion. Welcoming countries should offer a solution for housing and/or sheltering to newcomers.
Please refer to the answer above for the asylum period. For migrants who have been granted a residence permit, mobility within Europe includes the right to enter higher education in another EU country. Regardless of the other entry conditions, applicants may not be refused access to training or education in another EU country on grounds of the nationality.
There is a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). According to the Dublin Convention 2013, countries who have joined the Dublin Convention are obliged to accept that asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the first EU country they arrive in.
You need to register (normally at a police station or at the immigration service) as new arrival and request a residence permit. You should also find out where is the Embassy or Consulate of your country of origin in the city that you have arrived and visit them – the Embassies/Consulates are normally able to help and give some advice to newcomers.
Download the “Welcome to Europe”-Guideline in your language and adapt it to your needs: