Europe: states violate the basic rights of migrants

Research on migrants identified destitute as a consequence of exclusionary state policies

(Brussels) March 28, 2011 – Throughout Europe thousands of migrants are deprived access to education, healthcare, housing and social welfare services, and employment opportunities. Tuesday Jesuit Refugee Service will present first-hand evidence of how government policies directly contribute to the destitution of migrants on the continent.

The briefing, held at Les Ateliers des Tanneurs, Brussels at 09:10, will feature three key speakers:

· Mr Simon Tesfamichael, an Eritrean refugee, will speak about his experiences of destitution in Italy.

· Ms Louise Zanré, JRS UK director, will describe how state policies force migrants into destitution, based on her daily contact with destitute migrants in London.

· Mr Stefan Kessler, JRS Europe senior policy and advocacy officer, will make policy recommendations based on the 2010 report, Living in Limbo, on migrant destitution in 13 European countries.

“The current migrant crisis in Lampedusa is an indicator of Europe’s larger inability to uphold the most basic rights of migrants. If EU states are unable to protect migrant’s rights in the short term, they risk fostering destitution in the long run. Destitution is a downward spiral of human indignity. Once migrants become stuck, it’s difficult and expensive to get them out of this situation”, says Mr Kessler.

Research undertaken over the last six years by JRS demonstrates that destitution is a consequence of exclusionary EU state policies. Illustrative is the case of migrants who cannot be returned due to circumstances beyond their control, such as ongoing violence in their home countries. They are permitted to remain in Europe with virtually no economic and social support. This exclusion makes them vulnerable to racism and xenophobia.

“Destitution is a human rights violation. Making migrants destitute contravenes the core values of the Union – respect for the human rights of all persons in Europe”, Mr Kessler adds.

JRS has assembled a broad network – comprising trade unions, medical associations, education experts and migration organisations – to develop common strategies to address migrant destitution in Europe. Although the nature and depth of the problems differs from state to state, it is clear the EU has a role to play in offering common solutions.

“It just does not have to be this way. The EU is perfectly capable of enacting and enforcing legislation which empowers member states to better support all migrants. In turn, governments are capable of implementing policies that enable migrants to become self-sufficient, including access to the formal labour market, education and vocational training, and adequate healthcare”, asserts Mr Kessler.


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Contact information:

Philip Amaral, policy and communications officer, JRS Europe

Tel: +32 2 250 32 23  / Email: europe.advocacy (AT) jrs.net / http://www.jrseurope.org

Note to the editors:

· The Jesuit Refugee Service accompanies, serves and advocates on behalf of asylum seekers, refugees and the forcibly displaced in more than 50 countries around the world. In Europe, JRS staff and volunteers are present in 12 countries.

· The press briefing will be conducted in English only. All three speakers will be available for interviews.

· A public conference will commence immediately after the press briefing, beginning at 10:00. JRS staff from Germany, Malta, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain will be available for further interview. Ms Jean Lambert, MEP (Greens/UK), and Dr Nicholas Beger, Director of the Amnesty International EU Office, will make keynote speeches in the morning. See http://www.jrseurope.org <http://www.jrseurope.org/>  for the conference programme.

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