Employment is a core part of the refugee integration process: it not only provides an income, but also builds social networks, status and confidence, and enhances independence, as well as physical and mental health. Integration through employment can also contribute to host countries by boosting their working-age population and contributing to human capital, taxes and social income. Despite the demonstrable benefits of integration through employment for both refugees and host countries, significant barriers and gaps persist in European countries such as Cyprus. Refugee protection mechanisms in particular remain weak. While a third National Action Plan (NAP) on integration is currently been drafted, 2015 was the last year in which a comprehensive policy was put together by the Cyprus government. As no monitoring or evaluation mechanisms had been put in place, evidence on the impact of prior NAPs (2010-12 and 2013-15) is limited. The lack of a solid integration policy has left many refugees struggling to find gainful unemployment, exposing them to much higher rates of homelessness, trafficking and labour exploitation. In the absence of a comprehensive NAP, funding from European institutions has been the only avenue for third sector organisations and municipalities to implement integration projects. The local authorities are now more than ever involved in integration policies. However, they are faced with huge challenges as social policy in Cyprus is heavily centralised, leaving municipalities with no mandate and little resources to facilitate their own integration activities. Integration through the labour market remains one of the more weakly developed and under-explored fields in Cyprus government policy. Yet, certain developments at the moment include the forthcoming NAP, impending reforms on the legislation governing local authorities, and the broad expertise offered by local NGOs working with and for migrants and refugees. These may provide the momentum for the challenge to be turned into an opportunity. This policy brief presents research findings and provides recommendations to facilitate the successful integration of refugees in the labour market.

DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5082867