Wednesday 17 February 2016, European Commission HQ, Berlaymont building, Brussels. Nine representatives of human rights NGOs and networks* enter into one of the countless vast conference room to meet with the first Vice-President of the Commission. Surrounded by only five European functionaries from different units, Mr. Timmermans wants to talk about integration of migrants in Europe and fundamental rights.
A rare advocacy opportunity for civil society activists to engage into a genuine dialogue with the highest level of European executive power about the migrant and refugee crisis – for sure – but why now?
Because Europe is living today one of the most challenging period of its time. Timmermans does not hide his worries and talk openly about how the confusion around the migration crisis is leading to unprecedented reactions among member states and their citizens. Paying the price of a mismanaged European migration policy is one reason. And for years Italy and Greece were left alone dealing with irregular migration flows on their coasts. But Universal – and European – values are now becoming distorted, and more and more openly diverted into questionable orientations. Timmermans takes notes of the recommendations from the NGOs, especially on the specific needs and rights of children on the move. He says he will certainly use some of these the day after, at the European Council meeting.
Today, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, warns that “it has become impossible in Europe to have a meaningful discussion about migrant’s rights, diversity, and integration.” The opinion of the UN rights experts is very clear, and most of the specialised NGOs can share the same point of view and somehow despair.
However, there is hope: 79 percent of all Europeans are in favour of a common European asylum and migration policy,
indicates two days ago a study conducted by Bertelsmann Stiftung, a renowned German private Foundation. Its director insists: “The European heads of state and government should take on board the fact that their citizens are clearly calling for a European solution.” And when Terre des Hommes repeats this very message to Timmermans, the answer of the European leader has a bitter taste: this study is about refugees only, not migrants in general: to approve relocation can also mean to place refugees somewhere else than in your own country…
The Vice-President concludes on one of the solution to combat cultural fears around migration: “we need to mobilise our societies!” The nine NGO representatives asked for a follow up of the meeting; Timmermans agreed.
European Council on migration : on 18-19 February 2016, the Heads of States assessed the progress in the implementation of its decisions in response to the migration and refugee crisis. Read the European Council conclusions on migration (18 February 2016)
* In alphabetic order
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