“Looking at Immigration in Europe through the Human Rights Perspective”
European Youth Centre, Strasbourg, France
15-22 November 2009
In response to the thirst of social justice and human rights protection, we, 26 participants from 7 European countries and from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Middle East gathered at the European Youth Center in Strasbourg, France from 15-22 November 2009 to study, reflect and seek for actions on the theme ‘Looking at Immigration in Europe through the Human Rights Perspective’. This study session, organized by JECI-MIEC* European Coordination in collaboration with Council of Europe, aimed to build a higher awareness of the students on the reality of immigration and the human rights violations happening in Europe and across the world, at the same time, to indentify our roles as Christian students to promote and protect the human rights and especially the rights of the immigrants.
We realised that
Immigration has always been a reality in the history of humanity. The colonization, wars, conflicts, unfavourable economic conditions and natural disasters have generated voluntary or forced movements of the masses. Around 20% of the world’s population is expected to be on the move by 2012. Among these, the most vulnerable are undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. This movement will provide the new opportunities for the global human resources but it will also bring the challenges of the promotion and protection of the human rights.
A) Social cohesion: when the collision between different cultures results in a continuous process of transformation, by promoting the communication and interaction as a means of surpassing inherent barriers of culture and tradition. Thus, mutual efforts should be made to achieve social cohension in order to avoid the accentuated division among people and not to block human development.
B) Mutual gain: an immigrant is also a valuable resource. As long as his rights of working in dignifying conditions and being paid for the workload are respected, the immigrant brings to the receiving states enrichment in terms of economy, culture and traditions.
C) Refreshment of the spiritual life by reconsidering the position of the Church towards this reality: “to renew humanity and proclaim the Gospel of peace” (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi)
D) “Brain – drain”: Poor countries will be put in a more disadvantaged position due to the instability and incapability of offering viable jobs.
E) Discrimination, racism and intolerance come as a result of self preservation and the fear of the unknown which hinders the formation of relationship, preventing the genuine approach among people.
We reflected that
The immigration should be judged through the human rights perspective. Being Christian students, we also reflected on the issue through theological perspective. The history of migration is linked with the history of the Church and our salvation: ‘Israel traced its origins back to Abraham, who in obedience to God’s call left his land and went to a foreign land, taking with him the divine promise that he would become the father ‘of a great nation’’ (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi). Jesus himself was a living symbol of immigrant. Throughout his life, he was always on the move from place to place to avoid persecution, to preach and to help the people in need. ‘I was a stranger and you made me welcome’ (Mt 25: 35). If we all are the followers of a foreigner, a refugee ‘who has nowhere to lay his head’ (Mt 8: 20), we must not fail to see his image in the face of the migrants around us and make them welcome in our land as we have welcomed Jesus.
The Catholic Social Teachings also reminds us that we all are the children of God who were born in His image and have the equal dignity. “They have the right to migrate or not have to migrate” (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi). As Christians, we must respect all the times the dignity of the migrants and live with them in love and harmony despite of all the difficulties and differences we are facing while living together.
We committed ourselves to the following actions:
On personal level, each individual will:
- Behaviour change: fight our prejudgement and ways of approach towards the immigrants
- Make our friends, family to be aware of the issue and influence their perception towards the immigrants.
- Sharing our learning and experiences gained through this study session
- To be more actively involved in all the activities and campaigns related to immigration and human rights at local level.
On community level through our movement we will involve ourselves by:
- Unleashing the potential of migrants by favouring inclusion into our movements, organisations and workplaces. Migrants are no longer to be seen as mouths to be fed but that they come with hands that can produce and minds that can create
- Collaborating with other NGO’s who share similar values and together proposing to policy markers on a European and an International level, while increasing awareness of the European Court of Human Rights
- Having the local JECI-MIEC local forum meet up on a regular basis and which is composed of representatives from different spheres of life, including immigrants to discuss current issues pertaining to migration. Thus immigration is no longer seen as a burden but as an opportunity to strengthen humanity, and which needs the vital contribution of everyone in all countries.
- Since most of the issue is hidden from the public eye, it is imperative to bring the subject to the forefront in the media in order to break barriers and improve awareness on this painful reality.
- We assert that undocumented migrants
- should be given the possibility of applying for permanent residence if they meet certain pre-determined requirements (refugee status or temporary humanitarian protection for not less than 5 years, employed for 5 years, have been living independently for 2 years)
- Should have the right to apply for local citizenship if they are stateless for 5 years.
6. We demand that migrants kept in detention centres have decent living conditions and are not kept in detention for an indefinite length of time.
Immigration is a necessary process of development throughout history. It must be viewed not as a problem but as a fact. Each individual, group, organization, authority and NGO has the responsibility to ensure that the dignity and the rights of all immigrants are protected throughout this process.