A change in the tone and content of the European Union’s never-ending migration debate is much-needed to tackle 21st century realities. Rather than simply legislating to keep people away from Europe, the EU should focus on ensuring safe and legal ways for people to enter and settle down.
At the 29 January Friends of Europe debate “It’s broke, let’s fix it: rethinking migration management” participants agreed that the rules on border control were not the main problem. In fact, EU agencies such as Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) should be strengthened, they argued. But there were also repeated calls to switch the focus from restrictive law-making to real life.
The recently approved (but roundly panned) UN Global Compact for Migration is “useful as a set of goals and standards” to guide lawmakers, one contributor said. But the answer lies in taking a multi-dimensional approach to inclusion. This means funnelling more resources to local communities and working with local authorities, charities and NGOs to help meet the needs of both newcomers and locals for jobs, housing, education and general quality of life. The issue “is not the presence of migrants but the absence of integration”, a participant concluded.
The debate, held under the Chatham House Rule, also revealed that the EU needs to get a better message out about migration - one that focuses not only on security and border controls but on positive stories from people who have gone through the system. While it is important to share facts and figures, several participants noted the need to ensure that the narrative take a human approach without treating newcomers as just “a labour force”, as one participant put it.
Read Friends of Europe’s “Real people, true stories: refugees for more inclusive societies”, a set of 13 recommendations on how to make societies more inclusive, based on refugees’ own experiences.
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