COMMENT: To mark world refugee day, Red Cross board member Luc Scheer explains why we need greater awareness about issues impacting asylum seekers and an in-depth reform of a sustainable and responsible migration policy.
Day after day, UN refugee agency the UNHCR counts the number of dead people, drowned at sea, trying to reach our European coastline. Periodically, some pictures awake our consciousness but, more often, these human lives come to an end in general indifference.
Worldwide, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement works with vulnerable people. Whether for victims of natural disaster, war wounded, disabled children, elderly people or families who cannot afford to dress or to feed themselves, we are here to welcome, to protect, to care for and to support.
In respect of the law and our principles and values, we do not judge the motives of these people or national migration policies; we are not here to encourage or discourage the migration; we do not have any political role, our mission is humanitarian.
People forced to flee their homes are vulnerable. Whatever their reasons to leave are, they are far from their family, tired and anxious. But often here they are not welcomed, instead they are excluded.
“Should we host them?”, “Can we host them?”, “How to host them?”. In all of our countries, these questions are sometimes exacerbated by the debate where passion and ideological position face.
On world refugee day, we offer some simple ideas to address this complex issue. Through these ideas, we express the hope that the discussion may calm down and that societies come together.
States should define their migration policies according to their material and social capacities in hosting and in integration. To take this decision, they should consider the world’s state and its economic crises, conflict contexts, and climate change which are all common reasons for migration.
While states may regulate the presence of migrants on their territory. It has to be in respect of international law and domestic law, which protect the rights and the dignity of the people, particularly the right to live with one’s family, without stigmatisation and xenophobic discourse.
Whatever the situation and the administrative future of the people, we have a duty to welcome every human being with dignity. To achieve this, we must all ensure:
The effective access to an asylum process that fully examines often complex individual situations;
The respect of the right to family unity, especially for unaccompanied minors;
The humanitarian assistance and access to basic care and psychosocial services;
The access to housing, which respects the rights and the dignity of all;
The non-use of detention, especially for children, which can cause a real trauma.
An effective integration programme should follow an unconditional welcome and a fair administrative decision. This effectiveness is based on a good balance between rights and duties. The right to train, to work, to decent housing, to be reunited with one’s family, to access medico-social support and the duty to learn the host country’s language and to comply with the law and the common social habits.
In order to achieve successful integration, society as a whole has to mobilise. The public authorities and the staff and volunteers of civil society organisations certainly have a major role to play, but every citizen can take part. Only this spirit of solidarity will be able to reduce fears, to build trust, to foster mutual understanding, to conciliate points of view and to benefit from the economic and social contribution of these people whose differences do not jeopardize us, but rather enrich us.
Finally, we have to understand that migration is a sustainable and global phenomenon and not a temporary and European crisis. Europe should play a central role in the coordination of the migration policies but it is at the global level that we have to show social creativity and to work tirelessly for the respect of human dignity, of international law and against the causes of forced migration--poverty, inequalities, environmental destruction and all kinds of violence.
On world refugee day, we, European national societies of the Red Cross, call for awareness and for an in-depth reform of a sustainable and responsible migration policy.
This article has been prepared and co-signed by the Red Cross Luxembourg honorary chair Grand Duchess Maria Teresa and Red Cross Luxembourg managing director Michel Simonis. The signatures of 22 other national Red Cross societies are also included.