Press Release, 27. May 2002
“If the EU is serious about human rights it has to start combating root causes of forced migration instead of combating migrants in their attempts to reach EU territory” – this was one of the conclusions of church officials from Southern Europe and the Middle East after a three-day conference on migration and asylum in the Mediterranean.
Participants who gathered 23-25 May in Brussels for the annual meeting of the “Amman process” met with European Commission officials, members of the European Parliament and representatives of the Spanish EU Presidency to learn about the EU´s approach to migration and Mediterranean cooperation and to share their own experience in the daily work with migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean region.
The Amman process is a cooperation and exchange between the Churches´ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) on migration.. For the for the 7th consecutive year, it brought together churches´ experts in the field of work with refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean. This year´ s debates took place in the context of increasing migration from conflict situations in the Middle East, spectacular cases of mass migration to Southern Europe (such as the ship “Monica” which landed in Sicily) and increasing anti-migrants sentiments in many EU countries. At the same time EU institutions are presently working on several pieces of legislation to harmonise EU countries´ approach to questions of asylum and migration.
The Churches´ officials who were meeting in Brussels generally welcomed this approach of harmonisation. However, many also expressed strong criticism of the EU´s tendency to limit legal migration possibilities and reinforce border controls. “The policy of closing the borders for legal migration leads to the many dead bodies of the so called “illegals” on our shores” Dr. Annemarie Dupré of the Service for Refugees and Migrants of the Protestant Churches in Italy told an official from the European Commission’s Justice and Home affairs department.
Representatives from the Middle East Council of Churches equally expressed their concern about the current EU tendency to clamp down on migration. “None of us wants our young people from Palestine or Iraq to leave for Europe – but if you want to help to avoid that you need to combat the root causes” said Rev. Habib Badr from Beirut. The representatives from the Middle East in this context highlighted their wish for a pro-active role of the EU in the Middle East conflict resolution process and their worries about the desperate conditions faced by the majority of citizens in Iraq – both situations leading to increased migration to Europe.
Much attention was given to concrete proposals how Churches can improve their responses to migration. The churches involved in the Amman Process will over the next years try to establish a joint project on migration counselling, which will build on the expertise developed over the years of mutual exchange. The next steps will be agreed upon at the next meeting in Beirut in May 2003.
information, please contact: Doris Peschke or Dr. Torsten Moritz,
CCME, the Churches’ C0mmission for Migrants in Europe, is an ecumenical agency on migration and integration, asylum and refugees, and anti-racism and anti-discrimination in Europe. It works in cooperation with the Conference of European Churches and the World Council of Churches.