This qualitative exploratory study sought to understand highly educated Iraqi and Syrian refugees’ perceptions of their learning experiences during economic integration in Luxembourg. This research sought to elucidate how these new migrants learned to integrate in a country with a long tradition of migration but little exposure to Arabic-speaking groups. Further, it sought to explore participants’ experiences of what knowledge, skills, and practices they required, how these were learned, what facilitators and inhibitors they faced, and the impact of identity and religion.In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 refugee participants who had arrived in Luxembourg since 2015 and from 10 professionals working in refugee integration programs. Additional data were collected from critical incident questionnaires and document analysis. Several key findings emerged from interviews. First, participants reported high professional status prior to their forced migration and gratitude toward Luxembourg for its support, despite their many challenges. Second, participants identified linguistic skills, market-relevant experience, Western qualifications, and adaptability as essential for integration, which (apart from academic qualifications) were learned informally. Third, timely professional exposure was a facilitator to integration, while Luxembourg’s multilingualism, job market, work regulations, and discrimination were inhibitors. Fourth, participants reported stigma and invisibility around their refugee identity. Their religious beliefs did not influence their economic integration. This research draws four main conclusions. First, migrants navigated the impact of wars which disrupted their lives alongside an uncertain present, fraught challenges and mixed feelings. Second, while linguistic skills, relevant academic qualifications, and adaptability were important, there exists tension between the non-formal learning refugee integration ecosystem failing to account for the informal learning that new migrants required. Third, while timely professional exposure facilitates economic integration, Luxembourg’s ‘equal-for-all’ (but pragmatically restrictive) frameworks and multilingualism delay new migrants’ integration. Fourth, there is little shared understanding among stakeholders on the impact of identity and religion in economic integration. The recommendations of this study are to (1) champion timely access of migrants to the job market through intensive language training and professional exposure; (2) assess fairness of employment frameworks for non-majority groups; and (3) reflect on an inclusive, fair, and diverse national adult education strategy.

DOI: 10.7916/3cjz-mb08