Address by Heather Roy to the Hearing - A more inclusive citizenship open to immigrants


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Presentation by Heather Roy (President of the Social Platform) on the occasion of the EESC hearing on 'A more inclusive citizenship open to immigrants' - Brussels, 4 September 2013

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Address by Heather Roy to the Hearing - A more inclusive citizenship open to immigrants

  1. 1. Page 1 of 6 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. The 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 1
  2. 2. Page 2 of 6 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. Recently the 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 2
  3. 3. Page 3 of 6 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 inclusion? particularly We agree with many of the points raised in the EESC opinion, those regarding administrative obstacles, increasing 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 3
  4. 4. Page 4 of 6 need to understand the links between citizenship, integration and democracy. 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 debate. 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 participation of migrants. Migrant associations and civil society organisations, including migrant women’s organisations, have a key role to play in contributing to the European migration and integration policy 4
  5. 5. Page 5 of 6 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 migrants’ organisations. 5
  6. 6. Page 6 of 6 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 and training. 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), including the Active Inclusion Strategies, the Country Specific 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 holders. It is not just citizenship that needs to be more inclusive but societies. Thank you. 6