Topical issues for the next European Migration Forum

Last week the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) invited civil society organisations to hear their views in preparation of the third meeting of the European Migration Forum that will take place at the beginning of 2017. Social Platform is represented in the Forum’s consultative bureau, along with our member the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM).

Yonous Muhammadi, a member of the European Migration Forum’s bureau, from the Greek Forum of Refugees, illustrated the urgency and importance to speak about family reunification as a key safe passage to the European Union, which is an avenue currently restricted by many Member States. Mr Muhammadi shared his personal experience of applying for his wife to reunite with him in Greece where he got a permanent permit to stay. After waiting for seven years, he turned in desperation to smugglers and paid more than €10,000 to enable his wife to join him.

Participants agreed with the European Commission and the EESC that safe passages, reception and integration are topical issues for the next Forum. The discussions could pick up where they left off after the last Forum meeting, which was on safe passages, how to manage the mixed flows of migrants across the Mediterranean, and on a long-term approach to sustainable labour migration and successful integration. Besides family reunification, it will be important to also discuss the EU’s resettlement proposal (for Member States to accept migrants that will be moved from country of arrival), as well as complementary good practices, such as sponsorship schemes.

Conditions to enter as an economic migrant and employment opportunities if already in the EU, especially for low- and medium-skilled workers was also proposed as a topic for the Forum as the European Commission is currently carrying out a fitness check of its “legal migration” legislation, and evaluating where there are any gaps. The urgency for migrants to be able to access rights and services, such as housing, healthcare and education were issues Social Platform and several of our members called for during the meeting. EU and Member State implementation of the EU Action Plan for Integration of Third-Country Nationals is key for both resettlement and initial reception of migrants. Participants agreed that it will also be important to look at public and political perception when discussing different topics during the Forum. I added that it can be relevant to make the link to the Fundamental Rights Colloquium on Media Pluralism, organised by Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans on 17 November.

Irini Pari, Vice-President of the EESC closed the meeting by expressing her concerns about the increase of negative attitudes towards the EU, also expressed by members of the Committee. The Bratislava Declaration from the EU Heads of State and Government meeting on 16 September demonstrates that Member States no longer refer to the EU as a union, but rather as an instrument; basic values and fundamental rights, democracy, rule of law and equality are being put at stake, and they must be defended, said Ms Pari.

You can also read my blog from last week about safe passages here.