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2000 | 56th Regular Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (20 March - 28 April 2000)

Migration and human rights in Europe

March 20 – April 28, 2000
Palais des Nations, Geneva

Joint statement delivered on behalf of FI/OP and the International Catholic Migration Commission.

On 11 April 2000, Franciscans International, Dominicans for Justice and Peace and the International Catholic Migration Commission concluded a two day seminar at the United Nations entitled: “Europe: an area of freedom, security and justice?” It was a contribution to the UN CHR’s deliberations on item 14 (a) and to the Ist Preparatory Committee to the World Conference on Racism.

Ninety participants representing governments, NGOs, legal experts, Church and social workers addressed four main topics:

A. European laws in reference to refugees and asylum seekers,

B. Refugees, asylum seekers and the conditions of their reception,

C. National and international migration,

D. The situation of trafficked women and children in Europe.

For two days, conference participants explored their convictions about the dignity of each human being and the responsibility of the State to act towards its citizens and guests with decency. We would like to bring to the Commission some points for consideration and reflection which were identified by conference participants:

1) We see a great need for consistent harmonized asylum procedures, a common operable definition of refugees, as well as the need for decent reception conditions among European Union countries. Unfair and unequal readmission policies are also problems.

2) Even though Europe has been formed and re-formed positively by migration of peoples, migration receives bad publicity in the press and in the minds of many Europeans. Contrary to its fears Europe benefits from migration. In fact, migration is a practical necessity that keeps the human race healthy. It is critical that prejudices and xenophobia be addressed as Europe is replacing North America as the international destination of migrants.

3) For personal and economic reasons people need to move. Governments responsible for the common welfare either have to address the need of people to move from their place of origin or to find ways to integrate these people into another society. Whenever there is a large demand in the market and there are at the same time various competing ways to satisfy the demand, that demand will seek its own advantage. People will move when they need to move and they will use whatever means possible to help themselves. Countries establish legal barriers to protect their borders from their neighbors. Different laws and standards within so many countries that are so close to each other are not only confusing for the migrant but they encourage people to rush toward the most favorable option. In their own self-interest European countries need to implement a fair and consistent set of immigration standards and to dismantle uneven immigration legislation that encourages and forces people to misuse asylum procedures.

4) Contrary to common public opinion migration meets the economic needs of the host as well as those of the migrant. However, a lack of decent uniform immigration laws keeps the greater proportion of the profit in the pockets of the rich who are the real beneficiaries of a illegal underpaid labor force.

5) Trafficking human beings is a high-profit and low-risk business especially when it is compared to trafficking drugs and weapons. It is easily controlled by organized crime with no respect for the human rights of people who are bought and sold as merchandise. In the European Union there is a need for consistent and effective legislation to punish smugglers who disregard and grossly violate human rights. Severe penalty fines could be used for rehabilitation programs for the victims.

Conference participants saw an inconsistency in the thinking of those who advocate a laissez- faire open market that eliminates tariffs so that money and goods can travel freely but then restricts the movement of the laborers.

Ironically, even though many in the wealthier countries protest against migration they profit the most from it. There was agreement with the classic Roman axiom that the one who benefits should pay for the benefit. Developed countries should reimburse or re-invest in developing countries for the education and training of the doctors, nurses, computer technicians who are part of the brain drain that flows from poorer countries to wealthier ones.

Franciscans International, Dominicans for Justice and Peace and the International Catholic Migration Commission have expectations for the possibilities in the work of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Ms. Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro. We regret the limitations to both the scope of her mandate and the resources provided for her work.

We urge States to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families.

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