|EuroMeSCo 2007 Annual Conference 1st Preparatory Meeting "Migrants Rights-From Existing International Conventions to a Euro-Mediterranean Charter"|
The Association of International Studies (AEI), in collaboration with the EuroMeSCo Secretariat and with the support of the European Commission, organised a seminar on “Migrants Rights – From Existing International Conventions to a Euro-Mediterranean Charter”, on 30-31 March 2007 in Tunis.
This seminar acted as a preparatory meeting for the EuroMeSCo Annual Conference 2007 that took place on 3-4 October 2007 in Lisbon during the Portuguese EU Presidency on the issue of “A Common Agenda Against Intolerance: Human Rights as a Shared Concern”.
To see the full programme, please click here
Mustapha Benchenane (René Descartes University, Paris V) spoke of the rise of islamophobia in Europe and wondered about how Europeans and North Africans can live together peacefully. In his opinion, islamophobia is a symptom of the identity crisis, or perhaps even the true civilisational crisis Europe is going through. This crisis is a consequence of Europe’s enlargement, globalisation and uncertainty as to the future that the former entails, as well as of the fact that in less than 30 years immigration became a structural phenomenon. In addition, Mr. Benchenane argued that in the light of this situation the EMP becomes an extremely important instrument, as it should work toward the treatment of common problems to both sides of the Mediterranean by all partners through interdependent development mechanisms, well beyond co-development.
Speaking at the introductory session, Álvaro Vasconcelos (IEEI, Lisbon), explained this initiative in the background of the EuroMeSCo 2007 work programme, stressing that migrations should become a central issue in Euro-Mediterranean relations and that a new perspective on this matter should be adopted.
During the following session entitled “Are there violations of migrants’ rights in the Euro-Mediterranean Region? If so, of what kind are they?” George Joffé (CIS, Cambridge and Kings College, London) dwelled on the relations between majority and minority communities in Europe in the light of the current situation on migration. Mr. Joffé argued that, thanks to the Barcelona Process, northern countries have begun to accept the fact that contrarily to what their views were in the past, migrant communities are permanent rather than merely temporary. As a result, this topic became the object of a European common policy. However, following the September 11th, 2001 events, this policy took a security turn to the detriment of migrants, who since then have been subject to formal and informal discrimination.
Lamine Klaï (AEI, Tunis) dwelled on a few of elements of international human rights instruments aimed at the protection of migrants. He argued that the call for a Euro-Mediterranean charter in this field has come from countries in the north as well as in the south.
During the session dedicated to the topic “To what extent international, regional and national legislation is fully implemented? Is it enough to guarantee migrants’ rights?”, Ahmed Driss (AEI, Tunis), who surveyed existing instruments on migrants’ rights and wondered whether they are enough to ensure their protection, reminded that the international convention for the protection of all migrant workers and members of their families stresses, for the first time, the key link between migration and human rights. This convention represents a moral norm that could be used as a model for the protection of migrants in every country.
Christophe Bertossi (Ifri, Paris) tried to answer the question of knowing what could be the effectiveness of a Euro-Mediterranean charter on migrants’ rights and how it could come into existence. In his view, migrants’ rights should empower the migrant as an actor in the Euro-Mediterranean area. For this, a collective mobilisation from all partners is necessary.
In his presentation, Ridha Tlili (AEI, Tunis) stressed that each migration takes place in a specific context (historic, geopolitical, etc.). In his view, the difference between immigration in the 1950’s and today is that the latter has trues political implication. In addition, Mr. Tlili presented the scenarios that, in his view may be suggested in the political environment of the countries of the north and south of the Mediterranean in terms of migration.
During the session on “What could be the role of the EMP in the protection of migrants’ rights? To what extent is it necessary to adopt a migrants’ charter?”, Alima Boumediène-Thiery (Senate, Paris) argued that migrants are bearers of a democratic process, which they experience on a daily basis in Europe, and they contribute to the development of their country of origin. A regional migrants’ charter should consider that we are all migrants. In order for the already existing conventions to be applied political will is necessary. In addition, migrants’ rights means, before anything else, the acknowledgment of freedom of movement that allows people to move and settle elsewhere.
Azzam Mahjoub (Tunis University) tried to demonstrate to what extent it is possible to measure the degree of protection of migrants’ rights. Indeed, thanks to benchmarking techniques, by examining the way international and regional instruments are implemented it is possible to measure the way in which these rights are applied. It is a difficult exercise but one that is possible based on the evaluation of the enjoyment of civil and political rights.
Finally, ambassador Gonçalo Santa-Clara Gomes (IEEI, Lisbon) mentioned the dangers of a possible Euro-Mediterranean charter of migrants’ rights. In his view more concrete action is necessary that would begin with the adoption of an action plan in this area and eventually lead to a charter. In sum, in order for this charter to make sense, a Euro-Mediterranean community must be built beforehand.
The seminar ended on the idea that migrants suffer from several types of discrimination and that their rights are violated at different levels in the Euro-Mediterranean area. The events of September 11, 2001 and the ensuing effects they had on migration policies, as well as phenomena such as the rise in islamophobia only worsen the situation of migrants. The fact that Europe is experiencing an “identitary” transition toward multiculturalism and that countries in the south of the Mediterranean are going through a democratic transition was also mentioned. This often explains the lack of understanding toward the realities experienced on each side.
In addition, the presentations throughout the seminar showed that the current international, regional and national legal framework is not enough to guarantee the protection of migrants, mainly due to the lack of political will from States, especially those in the north, which continue to consider migration as an internal issue. A Euro-Mediterranean charter on migrants’ rights could indeed fill the legal void in this region and work for an improvement of the current situation. However, this step is limited and entails the acknowledgment of other realities such as freedom of movement and the right to regularisation. In addition, it was stressed that migrants can truly play a key role in this region and also contribute to democratisation on both banks of the Mediterranean.