Caritas Europa

4, Rue de Pascale

B-1040 Brussels





Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe

174, Rue Joseph II

B-1000 Brussels





Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community

42, Rue Stévin

B-1000 Brussels




Commission Justice and Peace

31, Rue Maurice Liétart

B-1150 Brussels





International Catholic Migration Commission

4, Rue de Pascale

B-1040 Brussels




JRS - Europe

Jesuit Refugee Service Europe

8, Chaussée d’Haecht

B-1210 Brussels





Quaker Council for European Affairs

50, Square Ambiorix

B-1000 Brussels


Lighthouse not Fortress

A Migration and Asylum policy for Europe

Our organisations represent Christian Churches throughout Europe, including Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican churches, as well as church agencies particularly con­cerned with migrants and refugees.  As Christian organisations, iIt is part of our Christian tradition to care for the oppressed and to uphold the dignity of the human individual.

The European Council of Tampere in October 1999 expressed a strong commitment of the European Union to establish a fair common European asylum system and comprehensive immigration policy. Two years later several main weaknesses can still be per­ceived in both areas. Even people in need of international pro­tection are forced onto the irregular track by the non-arrival policy of the European Union Member States. The decision-making in asylum procedures remains flawed, public attitude towards asylum seekers continues to be negative. Combating illegal immigration seems to overshadow the discussions about legal channels of immigration and establishing a welcoming society.

We take the opportunity of the upcoming Laeken summit to ex­press our appreciation to the EU Institutions, especially the Commission and the Parliament of the work carried out to date, and urge continuation of the harmonisation process. In particular, we call for:

·      Genuine harmonisation based on best practice:; harmonisation should neither lower standards nor be undermined by allowing common policies to be applicable by Member States on too much a discretionary basis;

·      An asylum system that is based on the full and inclusive application of the 1951 Refugee Convention, that ensures that those in need of protection have access to the territory, and once on the territory, that they are received in dignified conditions, and have their asylum claims examined in a full and fair way;

·      A migration policy that balances Europe’s need for labour with fairness to migrants and increased resolution to cooperating with countries of origin with due consideration of their interests.

Any harmonisation will need to overcome the major obstacle of Member States counteracting their political commitment to establishing an area of freedom, security and justice. We are very increasingly concerned by the fact that some Member States seem hardly able to compromise beyond their sole national interests. The Council negotiations on the Family reunification Directive are only the most worrisome example.

The most adequate way out of the actual dilemma in decision-making is the abolishment of the unanimity principle on asylum and immigration policy.

Evaluation of work to date

We recognize progress made by the European Institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council) to have reached agreement on the Directive establishing the European Refugee Fund, the Directive on temporary protection in the situation of mass influx, the anti-discrimination package legislation and the Regulation on Eurodac. At the same time, we are concerned about the lack of an adequate humanitarian provision in the Council Decisions on unauthorized entry and residence, carrier sanctions and combating trafficking in human beings.  We agree with UNHCR that protection needs are not sufficiently reflected in these documentsdecisions.

Regarding the pending issues we wish to commend the European Commission for the draft legislation it has proposed to date. We have already commented in detail on a number of these proposed measures like on minimum standards on asylum procedures; minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers; the revision of the Dublin Convention determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application; family reunification of third-country nationals; and the status of long term residents third country nationals. In particular we appreciate the Commission’s long-term considerations put forward in its two Communications on a future common asylum and immigration policy on which we have provided detailed comments.

We would like the Council to consider our major concerns regarding some Commission proposals, such as safeguarding asylum seekers’ legal protection in asylum procedures, fair and non-punitive reception conditions, an efficient and workable system of determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum claim. We re-emphasize the need for a comprehensive European immigration policy involving all relevant policy areas, especially the external dimension[DP1] . In order to achieve full integration one crucial precondition will be the creation of a welcoming society. This reflects our understanding of integration being a two-way process requiring also programmes directed at the local population. Furthermore, we would wish that intercultural communication and human rights education be enhanced in training programmes of executing authorities.

In the current context of the EU’s fight against terrorism we share UNHCR’s and other human rights organisations’ concerns about the definition of terrorism and by moves of Member States putting in question human rights obligations deriving from the European Convention on Human Rights. We do not see any necessity to adapt asylum legislation since the 1951 Convention offers sufficient tools to exclude from refugee protection those found [DP2] guilty of terrorist acts.

Finally, we recall that global migration [DP3] is an expression of inequality, which ought to be addressed also in view of establishing just relationships. When evaluating the progress made since Tampere, the Heads of State and Government are called upon to assume responsibility beyond National and European interests in establishing fair burden sharing and equal opportunities on a global level.


To be published: Brussels, 10 December 2001

 [DP1] I do not see that we should stress this more than it is already done all the time by the Council. It needs to be done with more sinceretly.

 [DP2]We should stress that there is a need for proof, and not only suspicion.

 [DP3]This paragraph in my view should be under the heading of partnership with countries of origin. As a conclusion, perhaps we could say:

Finally, we would like to emphasise that migration is a reality of human existence. We are convinced that we urgently need to adjust views on migration to shape positive images on migration. This is vital for the readiness of societies to welcome migrants who are needed in more and more sectors of European societies, and to establish integration concepts of mutual respect.