Transcript of "Address by Heather Roy to the Hearing - A more inclusive citizenship open to immigrants"
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Address by Heather Roy to the Hearing – A more
inclusive citizenship open to immigrants
Organised by the European Economic and Social
Committee 4 September 2013
(check against delivery)
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this hearing where the issue of
migration and citizenship is raised. It is very important that we have such
discussions with the range of actors here today and so I congratulate the
EESC for this initiative, especially in this the European Year of Citizenship.
On the programme you have asked me to reflect on the role of civil
society organisations in ensuring a more inclusive citizenship that is open
to migrants. It is difficult, in some ways, to say this in 10 minutes… this
is not a ten minute issue.. this is a lifelong issue for many many people
who for one way or another find themselves resident in the European
Union but lacking the right or opportunities for full citizenship.
question is, as ever, how do we move from raising the issues to seeing
concrete action taken to address the issue.
It is rather ironic that one of the biggest successes of the European Union
– mobility – also brings one of the biggest failures – our inability to
ensure the rights and responsibilities of all people in our European Union.
We need to be able to ask ourselves why this is the case and to do this
with need to look at history. When we started with free movement and
when member states developed their responses to migration it was at a
time when migration was something that happened once in our lives –
what I mean is that migration was about one move… now, a person can
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have multiple moves in their lives – a portable life – but we do not
necessarily have portable rights.. at least not for everyone.
Much of today has been about working together - and this is among the
many things civil society does very well. For those of you who may not
know Social Platform is the largest civil society alliance fighting for social
justice and participatory democracy in Europe. We have 47 pan European
members and we campaign to ensure that EU policies are developed in
partnership with the people they affect and respect fundamental rights,
promote solidarity and ultimately improve lives.
In a shorter way, we fight for equality and social justice.
And this is
important for us as it is not just about providing services – but about
looking for and changing for the better the structural and situational
issues that result in exclusion, poverty and inequality.
membership of Social Platform worked together to develop and adopt a
position paper on Migration which seeks to address the multitude of
issues facing migrants in Europe. You can get a copy on our website at
We talk a lot at the moment about people being pushed to the margins of
our society due to the crisis and the subsequent erosion of social
protection systems, increased unemployment and disenchantment with
the current economic models but recently I listened to a speaker who
took this further and spoke more about how many people are being
expelled from society – not just pushed to the margins but actively
pushed beyond the margins of our society.
One of the results of this
expulsion is an increasingly limited economic and social space where
conditionality, punitive action and fear rule and where effectively there is
a new definition of those who belong to this shrunken space. Additionally,
there is the creation, as many of you are aware, of ‘’sub spaces’ of such
expelled peoples – of peoples who do not fit into or are not accepted into
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the shrunken main space. Migrants in particular are being pushed further
and further to the edges of our society due to the lack of rights they are
facing on a day to day basis.
We have to turn this trend around and we very much share the view of
the rapporteur, in the question he raises, that if migrants participation
in the democratic process helps them to integrate why are they
excluded… why do we seem to see greater exclusion rather than
We agree with many of the points raised in the EESC opinion,
intolerance, and the need for fair treatment and indeed the need for
integration to be a two way process. I think that this last point is where
many civil society actors can lead the way.. We know that the issue is not
about integration of migrants but the integration of our societies and
communities… the responsibility is not just with migrants but with all
people in all societies to work for cohesive and integrated communities.
This is what many civil society actors do. This is what many members of
social platform are doing every day.. building projects and initiatives to
strengthen diverse local communities.
It is particularly concerning that there is an increasing rhetoric that
stresses what migrants have to do or be in order to become a good
citizen. Are the same expectations placed on existing citizens? There is a
trend towards a punitive approach with migrants access to citizenship, to
hold migrants to higher standards than we may expect of ourselves – and
indeed, what we ourselves may be capable of.
We also need to be careful about the fundaments of the notion of EU
citizenship – what do we mean by this? Is it simply a legalistic term or
does it represent the sense of belonging, of moving away from the ‘them
and us’ as has already been said by ENAR. To truly define citizenship we
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need to understand the links between citizenship, integration and
Much of the debate, as I know you have already discussed, centres
around notions and understanding of citizenship and residency and the
related access to rights.
Whereas we appreciate this focus and the
approach taken by the EESC for social platform and our members we see
a different focus on the human rights concerns of migrants, asylum
speakers and beneficiaries of international protection. We do not insist on
citizenship as being the way to access fundamental human rights, we
believe, perhaps rather simply, that all people are rights holders,
irrespective of residence or citizenship status.
That is why as Social Platform we have developed a position paper on
Migration that we hope takes us beyond out limited understanding of
citizenship and its legal status and towards an understanding of citizens
as rights holders, regardless of where they are resident and regardless of
where citizenship has originated. We want this to be the view adopted by
the European Union and reflected in European and national policies – just
as you have been discussing today and we want to be participants in the
As has already been noted participation in public and political life is an
important element to integration. However, migrants are particularly
under-represented and are either not authorised to vote in local elections
or do not have access to information about their rights and how they can
participate. Naturalisation and citizenship rights can foster the political
organisations, including migrant women’s organisations, have a key role
to play in contributing to the European migration and integration policy
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debate. So we need to keep a structural dialogue with migrant
associations and CSOs, including migrant women’s organisations, in the
European migration and integration policy debate. NGOs also play a key
role in helping to change attitudes towards migrants by providing a
platform for dialogue, opportunities and access.
Perhaps an issue that is currently under represented in debates is the
challenges that often face EU migrants. EU-citizens exercising their right
to free movement can experience similar problems as third country
nationals (when ending up in destitution), despite the different legal
framework and protection system applicable to them. We need to define
better the sets of criteria on free movement to be considered by member
states in an adequate and proportional way to ascertain if an economically
inactive EU citizen is an unreasonable burden to the social assistance
system in order to ensure that no EU citizen is left destitute.
How can we move this debate forward? Well, we could start by
strengthening the partnership principle in the future Asylum and Migration
Fund (2014-20) by making it mandatory for relevant state authorities and
bodies to include civil society organisations and migrant organisations in
the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the multiannual programmes.
We could review and reduce the co-financing requirements and develop
pre-financing schemes both for European and national-level projects, in
particular for project partnerships including migrants’ organisations, as
funding from governments and foundations has been cut in the context of
the economic crisis. Initiatives for, and by, migrants, including migrant
women’s organisations, should be supported with specific funding lines
and measures should be taken to increase the access to EU funding to
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We can strengthen the use of the European Social Fund for better support
and tailored guidance for third-country nationals and extend the scope of
the ESF to include migrants, irrespective of their residence status. This is
in order to improve the social inclusion of migrants, as well as access to
the labour market, the quality and sustainability of employment, the
working environment and health and safety at work, as well as education
We also need to see a mainstreaming of a rights-based approach
throughout the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the National Reform
Programmes, the National Social Reports and the Country-Specific
Recommendations as a part of the European Semester to ensure that all
migrants have equal access to rights, resources and opportunities. /
Monitor how member states include migrants and their families within
social inclusion and anti-poverty strategies (and its recommendations),
Recommendations, the European Platform Against Poverty and Social
Exclusion as well as the Social Investment Package. (Mainstream the
principles of the Commission’s Common Agenda for Integration).
So, if we are searching for a way forwards then the starting point for
Social Platform, and I think for you, is that the migration and integration
policies of the EU must be based on a human rights approach, where
equality is promoted and migrants are recognised and respected as rights
It is not just citizenship that needs to be more inclusive but