Remarks by Mr. Filippo Lombardi,
Chair of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration
(Session II, 24 October 2017, Palermo)
Mr. President, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all let me thank – on behalf of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly – the Italian Presidency of the Mediterranean Contact Group for the opportunity to inform you about the activities and recommendations of our Assembly in the very sensitive and dramatic area of migration.
Since March 2016 I have the honour to chair the newly established and very active “Ad hoc Committee on migration and refugees” of the OSCE-PA. A Committee composed of 24 parliamentarians from 20 participating States, which met in Brussels and Geneva with all relevant international organizations dealing with migration and refugees, but also operated a number of field visits in the most concerned countries. We do not all agree in everything, but after working intensively together for more than one and a half year – and exchanging “good practices” of each other’s country – I can say that we’ve reached a significant level of common understanding on this difficult and controversial political issue.
I would also like to commend the organizers of this year’s Mediterranean Conference not only for focusing on large movements of migrants and refugees, but also for their comprehensive approach to this topic, which interacts with all three dimensions of OSCE, from peace and security, to economic and social development, not forgetting the fundamental human dimension. Because security and solidarity have always to be equally preserved and promoted!
This second session of the Conference encourages us particularly to look beyond the immediate and urgent challenges such as save lives, set up adequate reception facilities, and counter the hateful but very lucrative business that has developed worldwide around human smuggling and trafficking. We are here also to look on the economic and social opportunities presented by migration in the longer term.
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Indeed, it is vital that we first address the deep causes of migration, starting from poverty, natural catastrophies and climate change, but also highlighting the destabilization of many African and Middle-eastern countries initiated both by regional powers and by powerful international strategic players. If we don’t have the courage to denounce the heavy political mistakes that have been made from many sides, and we don’t take serious measures to stabilize again the concerned regions, all what we may say in our international conferences remains a cynical rhetorical game: much ado for nothing!
At the same time, our political duty remains to move from the emergency short-term response towards long-term and sustainable migration policies, which shall enable migrants and refugees – keeping in mind their different status – as well as the host countries to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship, thus contributing to development, peace and stability of the whole OSCE region.
Finally, although acknowledging the positive effect of migrants for demography, economic growth and pension system of their host countries, we shall not forget the problems left in the countries of origin by massive departure of the younger and often better educated part of their population. A sustainable migration policy can’t just consist in moving millions of people, empting some countries and creating unbalances in others, where populist political forces can easily profit from the citizen’s discontent resulting of this sudden changes. The conclusion is self-explaining: balanced, legal, guided migration can be beneficial for all sides; sudden, illegal and uncontrolled migration can’t. It’s up to us to decide the way we want to go!
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Our Committee’s recommendations were presented to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last July in a Resolution on “Ensuring a Coherent, Shared and Responsible Governance of Migration and Refugee Flows,” which was adopted by a large majority of the delegates as part of the 2017 Minsk Declaration (majority vote is a privilege of the Parliamentary Assembly inside the OSCE system, which allows us to vote in favour of “shared responsibility” and “moral duty to participate to agreed relocation programs”, even if some members may not agree). Recently, the Committee published a significant Report on its first 15 months of work, which has been widely circulated inside OSCE. This Report also contains seven sets of detailed recommendations, including on “Facilitating Integration and Combatting Intolerance and Xenophobia”. The Committee thus calls on States to ensure fast family reunion once a claim has been recognised, and to host refugees in smaller housing units rather than in ‘ghettos’, following the model of Italy through its ‘SPRAR’ system. Smaller units are more conducive to integration; they are also more appropriate for vulnerable groups and tend to garner broader public support.
The Committee also places a great emphasis on education, urging OSCE participating States to ensure that refugee and migrant children are able to integrate mainstream schools as soon as possible and to ensure that there are sufficient opportunities to learn the language and traditions of the host country also for adults.
Our Migration Committee has also underlined the importance of providing recognized refugees access without delay to the labour market and to offer asylum-seekers the possibility to engage in meaningful occupation such as volunteer work.
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Integration is a two-way process and works best when the local community is onboard. Throughout the course of their work members of the Migration committee have shared a number of examples of ‘good practice’. In this context, we would like to highlight the Canadian programme of private sponsorship of refugees which pairs up refugees with a private sponsor who has agreed to provide financial and other support for one year. Sponsors are typically individuals associated with a faith-based organization, community association, humanitarian organization, or educational institution. Refugees are thus able to draw upon their sponsor for assistance with banking services, transportation, searching for housing, employment, childcare, etc.
The lessons learned from Canada are largely positive. Statistics over the past decade show that 50 per cent of privately sponsored refugees reached employment income in their first year, as compared to 10 percent of government-assisted refugees. Such programs build support by mobilizing local communities, and facilitate integration by providing refugees with a longer-term support network. By ensuring a broader distribution of refugees throughout the country, the Canadian initiative also contributes to building more diverse local communities, which in turn also enhances integration chances.
The Committee has agreed to continue its work and already tomorrow I will continue on to Rome for meetings with authorities to discuss the effectiveness of strategies to counter the surge in irregular crossings across the Central Mediterranean. Together with my fellow parliamentarians, we have a duty to fully understand the issues at play in the migration debate as these are of concern to our constituents and often involve legislative work in the participating States themselves.
We hope therefore that our recommendations will be immplemented at the national level and will contribute not only to enhancing OSCE work in the field of migration but also to improving the treatment of and prospects for refugees and migrants in OSCE countries, but also in their countries of origin and in the transit countries.
Before concluding, let me once again encourage the OSCE to pursue next year, under the Italian Chairmanship, the full implementation and further development of the Hamburg Ministerial Council Decision No. 3/16 on the OSCE’s role in the governance of large movements of migrants and refugees.
In particular, let’s increase dialogue and joint action between the OSCE participating States and the Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation, in order to participate to the definition of the UN Global compact on migration, and develop a long-term strategy to ensure a coherent, shared, responsible and secure governance of migration.
Thank you for your attention