PACE President Lluis Maria de Puig today invited the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS) to take part in the launch of a “European Day of Integration and Intercultural Tolerance”. “This is a clear and visible sign of our shared commitment to making this goal a top political priority for Europe”, explained the President. He added that “if the IPA CIS joined this PACE/European Parliament initiative, it would become a symbol of the whole Eurasian continent”, providing an “excellent contribution to the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008”.
In his statement before the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on “Globalisation of migration processes and problems of legal regulation” organised in St Petersburg on 4 April by the PACE and IPA CIS, the President also recalled the priorities in the migration field for the “Assembly of the 47”:
- strengthening the fundamental rights of migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons, and ensuring the setting up of a legal framework which fully respects their rights;
- promoting intercultural dialogue, fostering tolerance and ensuring the integration of immigrant communities in the host society;
- managing migration and respecting the different needs of countries of origin, transit and destination.
Speech by Mr Lluis Maria de Puig, President of the Parliamentary assembly on the occasion of the joint interparliamentary conference : "Globalisation of migration processes and problems of legal regulation" (St. Petersburg, Friday 4 April, 2008)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The joint conferences co-organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS) have now become a tradition.
Our first conference, back in 2002, was on the fight against terrorism and its conclusions are still valid today. Consequently, we held conferences on the crucial role of parliamentarism and on inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
The topic of this year’s conference “Globalisation of Migration processes and problems of legal regulation” has been an excellent choice.
It is a topic which is very close to my heart and I am extremely glad that I can address this forum in my capacity of the newly elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our first task as politicians must be to recognise the enormous opportunities and advantages that migration can bring to our societies and to persuade our fellow citizens that we benefit from it.
Migration increases the opportunities for dialogue, trade and exchanges of ideas and strengthens simultaneously mutual understanding and respect. Moreover, migration can reinforce the social and economic prospects of our societies by providing a much needed supply of skills in shortage.
However, these opportunities will only be transformed into benefits, if we deal with migration in the right way.
Concerning the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, our political priorities are:
1. strengthening the rights of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons, and ensuring the setting up of a legal framework which fully respects their rights;
2. promoting intercultural dialogue, fostering tolerance and ensuring the integration of immigrant communities in their host societies;
3. managing migration and respecting the different needs of countries of origin, transit and destination.
Strengthening and protecting the rights of migrants
Given that the regulation of migration flows is a relatively recent political priority in the Eurasian region, it is crucial to establish common standards with regard to the rights of migrant workers and their families and to raise awareness of the human rights situation of irregular migrants living in Europe and the necessity to respect their fundamental rights.
In this respect, the Council of Europe fulfils a very important standard setting role, in particular through three main legal instruments: the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the European Social Charta and the Council of Europe Convention on the legal status of migrant workers.
The Assembly considers those international legal instruments, and especially the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights, applicable to all persons regardless of their nationality or status. Migrants, and especially irregular migrants, have fundamental human rights, which need to be protected including:
- the right to life as a fundamental prerequisite
- the protection from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including the protection from slavery and forced labour
- victims of trafficking should be granted specific rights in line with the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
- any detention of irregular migrants must be judicially authorised
- in cases of expulsion, the respect for private and family life is particularly relevant
- irregular migrants should be able to manage or dispose their property, including banking transfers of earnings and savings
- the right to asylum and non-refoulement should be respected
- there should never be discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity in granting or refusing admission, in authorising a stay or an expulsion
Regarding economic and social rights, the Council of Europe’s revised Social Charter provides a basic guideline concerning the right of migrant workers and their families. It is set out that their treatment should not be less favourable than that enjoyed by nationals in respect of remuneration and working condition, membership of trade unions, enjoyment of the benefits of collective bargaining, and accommodation.
Moreover, the Council of Europe Convention on the legal status of migrant workers covers the principal aspects of the legal situation of migrant workers, in particular in such areas as recruitment, travel, residence and work permits, family reunion, conditions of work and the issues of social security, medical and social assistance, etc.
Theses three legal instruments, could also serve as a source of inspiration to the CIS countries, which are not Council of Europe members.
I would like to come now to the question of integration and intercultural dialogue
In my opinion, one of the greatest challenge in achieving positive outcomes from migration is integration.
Education of migrants, of all ages, is thus essential to their understanding and acceptance of our societies and value systems.
Effective education and integration can only be achieved through a two-way process and must never be coercive, arrogant or patronising.
It is essential, therefore, for the host society to understand the cultural background of migrants, their fears and aspirations.
All too often, it is the second generation of migrants that becomes alienated and radicalised by discrimination and a lack of opportunities.
We must not allow ourselves to be accused of hypocrisy or double standards: in our own words and deeds, we must be seen to uphold the values that we expect migrants to respect.
The Parliamentary Assembly held a Conference on Migration and Integration in Aachen (Germany) in November last year.
One of the proposals made at the Conference was to inaugurate a European Day for Integration and Intercultural Tolerance: a clear and visible sign of our shared commitment to making this goal a top political priority for Europe. Our Assembly is now trying to work out with the European Parliament concrete modalities of putting in practice of this proposal. I would like to seize the opportunity to invite your Assembly to consider joining this initiative, so that this Day for Integration and Intercultural Tolerance would become a symbol of the whole Euro-Asian continent. This would be an excellent contribution to the European Year of Inter-cultural Dialogue 2008.
My address would be incomplete, if I would not discuss the situation of irregular migrants
Europe has probably over 13.5 million irregular migrants living and working in Europe. Of these approximately 5.5 million irregular migrants live within the European Union.
Europe has no ready made answers how to deal with this massive number of irregular migrants and it is deeply divided over whether and how to regularise those living in an irregular situation.
However, 20 regularisation programmes in the last 25 years affecting some 4 million persons demonstrate that Europe might have learned a few lessons in this respect.
1. the majority of irregular migrants will end up staying in Europe and very few will ever be sent back to their countries of origin.
2. if we are going to regularise large numbers of irregular migrants, we need to implement tough accompanying measures to avoid the further flow of irregular migrants;
3. if regularisation takes place, it requires the support of all sectors of our society to be successful.
Spain, for example, regularised over 570 000 irregular migrants in 2005. While this programme was not without its critics, the Government obtained the broad support of trade unions, employers and civil society. This need for such a support becomes even more important as Europe’s population becomes increasingly concerned about levels of immigration.
4. regularisation can be an effective instrument for tackling the underground economy and bringing in needed tax receipts and social security contributions.
After the Spanish regularisation programme in 2005, over 550 000 additional persons started to pay their taxes and their social security contributions.
5. the fact that irregular migrants live in the shadows of our society does not mean that their plight should be ignored. Many face serious exploitation and often work in the dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs that Europeans do not want. They need a minimum level of protection.
Finally, I would like to draw attention to a problem which affects us all: trafficking in human beings
Sometimes illegal immigration and trafficking may overlap; when illegal immigrants, as a result of their precarious conditions, may end up as victims of trafficking.
The Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings entered into force on 1st February 2008. It requires countries of origin, transit and destination to adopt a common approach and a coherent legislation in this area. It is important to stop the flow from the countries of origin, but also to stop the demand in the countries of destination. The Convention seeks at first to ensure the protection of the victims and their fundamental human rights. The Convention also provides concrete measures for prosecuting traffickers (and criminalizing the “clients”) and for improving international cooperation in this area, as well as for monitoring compliance by Parties.
In conclusion, I would like to mention that during the preparatory period for this conference, a draft joint declaration has been prepared and submitted to you for adoption at the end of our work today.
Let me say that the text is extremely well prepared. This is a result of an on-going work in both our bodies and this conference is an excellent occasion to bring our experiences together.
On the side of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I have to congratulate the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population.
The Committee pays particular attention to the migration processes in the Euro-Asian region and organized many conferences and seminars on this issue.
The texts adopted at these previous conferences have prepared the ground for the draft declaration to be adopted today. This declaration will also serve in the future, as a contribution to the report in preparation by the Migration committee on “Migration and mobility in Eurasian region” as well as for the 8th Council of Europe’s conference of European Ministers responsible for migration and integration of migrant workers to be held in Kiev on 4-5 September 2008.
In June 2008, the Assembly will also hold a debate on the participation of migrants in a democratic society. In order to allow civil society to have an input into the debate, a parliamentary conference will be held on the eve of the debate, in particular with NGOs representing migrants.
Let me conclude by stressing that I am very glad of the productive cooperation between PACE and the IPA CIS. This joint conference can play an important role in the field of harmonising legislation on migration in the CIS area and I believe that we will further enhance our authority and expertise in this field.
I therefore wish you all a most interesting, rewarding and stimulating conference.