Anti-migrant sentiment and the spread of hate against migrants, refugees and internally displaced people are currently on the rise in Europe.
These displays of hate are often violent. They include physical attacks against migrants and refugees and, more generally, hateful acts and messages being spread throughout society.
Caritas Europa contributes to long-term solutions for building welcoming societies and fostering the integration of migrants and refugees in receiving communities, as well as of other excluded people.
We believe that integration should be a dynamic, multidirectional process in which newcomers and receiving communities work together, based on a shared commitment to tolerance and justice, to create a secure, welcoming, vibrant and cohesive society.
Migration to Europe has become a very public issue provoking visceral reactions from certain quarters, in particular from populists and the far-right.
One problem is that of perception. Poll after poll shows that the European public is ready to welcome migrants and refugees. However, instead of listening to voters, most European policy-makers have chosen to only hear the fear-mongering of the populists. This has led them to opt for short-term reactions instead of long-term strategies on migration that would benefit everyone: those in need, those looking for a better life in Europe, and Europeans.
This has allowed the populists and the far-right to gain a greater space in European societies and, helped by the Internet and social media, for hate speech to become more widely spread.
The second strand of problems is related to integration, the limited acceptance by and interaction of migrants with the receiving communities, and migrants’ limited access to many of the services that the majority take for granted in Europe.
This situation becomes more entrenched as the media and policy-makers remain largely focused on stopping migration and on security. This means that there is little room for the creation and implementation of efficient inclusive policies for migrants at European, national or local levels.
Migrants in Europe frequently lack access to:
Basic rights and services, such as safe and affordable housing, quality healthcare and specific support for post trauma and inclusive education;
Resources. Migrants generally find it difficult to find a job and are often forced to accept lower salaries, undeclared jobs and indecent working conditions, for example in agriculture or in the domestic-work sphere, where they are at constant risk of exploitation and have no right to healthcare, sick pay, or pension schemes;
Participation. Difficulties in obtaining residence permits and citizenship prevent migrants from voting in local and national decision-making processes, and they are rarely represented in trade unions, political parties or civil society movements.
Solutions to welcome migrants and refugees and to foster their integration into our communities are already in place in villages, towns and cities across Europe.
Caritas Europa believes that integration rests not with one particular group, but with all people involved in the debate: migrants, refugees and vulnerable groups themselves, governments, institutions and communities, to name but a few.
Working with migrants is just as important as working with receiving communities in order to change attitudes and to contribute to a positive, constructive narrative from which no-one is excluded.
Caritas Europa, at a local level, looks for partnerships with different stakeholders, such as local authorities, private companies, schools and social service providers to foster the integration of migrants and refugees.
We promote the active involvement of migrants in the labour market and in the community as volunteers, mentors or cultural mediators.
Caritas Europa also challenges the well-worn idea that migrants are poor and need help by showcasing the positive contributions they make to receiving societies.
To ensure that Europe truly can become a welcoming society and that communities, villages, towns and cities receive the support they need, we are calling on European governments to:
Implement national integration strategies aimed at creating welcoming attitudes in the receiving societies, in cooperation with key stakeholders, including migrants;
Find solutions to avoid competition for economic resources: to not restrict budget lines for one population over another (migrants versus poor residents);
Guarantee access to good quality healthcare services to everyone, regardless of a person’s legal status;
Ensure effective housing policies and access to education for migrants;
Ensure that the human rights and human dignity of undocumented migrants are protected.
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