Summary of Consultation at the European Economic and Social Committee on Migration
Consultation with Civil Society Organisations on the Topic of Migration
European Economic and Social Committee- 5 December 2019
Considerations for The Salvation Army:
- TSA can consider a more strategic approach to migrant integration across Europe and create netwroks to support this.
- Social workers and other relevant staff can be trained on migrant rights in order to better inform clients.
- EU funding is available specifically for projects which promote migrant inclusion. TSA can seek partnerships with other organisations to implement projects in this regards.
On December 5th, the European Economic and Social Committee hosted an event to offer the opportunity for civil society organisations throughout the European Union to discuss issues that they believe to be the most pressing in regard to migration as well as offer ideas for project proposals. This event is a prelude to the 6th Migration Forum, which will take place in June of next year.
Laura Corrado, the Head of Unit for DG HOME’s Legal Migration and Integration department, introduced the topics that had been proposed on the questionnaire which had been distributed prior to the meeting. These topics included ways to bring highly skilled and talented individuals into the EU; enhanced protection-related pathways which can help foster resettlement such as admission for humanitarian reasons; integration strategies to promote social cohesion in the EU; and ways to encourage communication with citizens regarding the topic of migration. The questionnaire gave civil society organisations a chance to vote on which of these issues they deemed to be the most pressing. Among the four topics, the issue of encouraging communication received the least number of votes- a mere 2.
Before the debate on these topics opened to the various civil society organisations that were present, Corrado stressed the need for fresh approaches to be used when making new proposals. She emphasised that in addition to the topic of integration being a priority, it is also a priority to overcome the poisonous debate among Member States which has surrounded the topic of migration in order to find common ground and move forward. The latter was a point that was frequently brought up throughout the meeting, as it was argued that the use of communication strategies would help address the other topics that had been mentioned. In the words of Angela Cristea, the Head of Unit for Communications and Head of Agencies and Networks for DG HOME, ‘communication should no longer be an after-thought, but a part of the decision-making process’.
Cristea built upon this statement throughout the meeting, emphasising the need for the EU to make the transition from fear-based communication to hope-based communication in order to build a bolder communication strategy. ‘We must enter into a genuine conversation that counters the narrative that is based on fear’ she said, ‘This is a horizontal subject to be tackled in order to build social cohesion’. Giuseppe Iuliano, a member of the EESC’s section for Employment, Social Affairs, and Citizenship, built upon this point by stating the need to combat the vast amount of misinformation that surrounds migration, particularly the narrative of an ‘impending invasion’. He proposed that if the EU were to win the ‘communication battle’ then perhaps dangerous Mediterranean crossings would become less and less seldom, since options besides paying large sums of money to smugglers would become more well-known. ‘People must know that there are other options. That paying 4,000 to 5,000 euros to a smuggler is not their only way to get to safety’.
Other issues that were raised by representatives from civil society organisations included access to housing for asylum-seekers, particularly how to alleviate the gap that exists when a refugee leaves a reception centre and attempts to find housing; strategies to promote the inclusion of refugee women; strategies to promote the inclusion of refugee children, particularly in schools; and the issue of displacement due to climate change. A representative from a civil society organisation based in Spain also brought up a few important points to the other attendees, particularly the need to strengthen migrant organisations through funding so that they can have their own voice in addition to establishing projects which help foster feelings of belonging so that individuals who are trying to settle in to life in the EU do not feel like second-class citizens.
The input from the representatives of civil society organisations certainly ‘captured the diversity of opinions held in the EU’ on the topic of migration, in the words of Angela Cristea. After the consultation concluded, it was announced that these topics would be discussed and debated further by a focus group, presumably to prepare for the upcoming Migration Forum in June.