Yesterday, as Secretary General of the European Parliament Working Group on Human Dignity, I helped to organize (together with the offices of MEPs Bas Belder and Luigi Morgano) and participated in an event of the Working Group with the title "Refugees and Human Dignity". It was a very successful event that offered to all participants new insights on the situation of refugees in Europe. Seven Members of the European Parliament as well as representatives of different NGOs, Parliamentarian assistants and experts participated to this meeting. You can read below the official press release that was issued after the event.
"Refugees Deserve Human Dignity"
pronounced MEPs of the cross-party Working Group on Human Dignity in the European Parliament. On the 22nd of June it organized a hearing on the topic "Refugees and Human Dignity". The meeting was moderated and hosted by MEP Luigi Morgano (S&D).
Bastiaan Belder MEP (ECR, Chair of the Steering Committee of the Working Group, and a member of ECPM) noted in his welcoming remarks that "life is God-given and the basis of human dignity". Regarding the relations between local residents and refugees, he stressed that "identity is also a part of human dignity". "Local residents have to be informed about the refugees and the refugees have to be informed about the local situation." Luigi Morgano underlined that "if our reflections and our actions are not founded in Human Dignity, Europe will loose itself". He added that "if we lose our founding values, widely inspired from the Christian heritage of Europe, then the EU will become just a collection of interests".
Dr Shannon Pfohman (Director for Policy and Advocacy at Caritas Europa) said that "refugees need long term solutions" and that "their integration is everyone's responsibility". She underlined the need for the development of an adequate level of facilities (e.g.: housing) and services (e.g.: access to health care) before their access to the labour market.
"I am embarrassed that Christian refugees reported to us that they cannot read their Bibles openly" said Dr Thomas Muller (Persecution analyst at Open Doors International). He presented the results of a recent Open Doors survey that showed that refugees who belong to religious minorities are subject to threats and persecution that can lead up to injuries and death threats at the hands of their fellow refugees and in some cases at the hands of the security staff.
Barbara Winn - Haggelstam (Blogger and Volunteer in Idomeni) shared her personal story especially from her time of service among refugees in Idomeni.
"Human Dignity is the heart of fundamental rights and the basis for asylum rights. It's good for us to see here the human perspective. We often do not see it from our desks in Brussels" noted Michal Gondek (Policy Officer, European Commission, DG Home). He added that "the refugee crisis has exposed the limits and weaknesses of the common European Asylum system". He also outlined in detail the Commission's plans that are centred around two new regulations that will amend and replace the current Directive.
Contributions by members of the Working Group
MEP Arne Gericke (ECR) underlined that "talking about crisis means action" and commended the work of faith - based organizations like Caritas Europa in dealing with this crisis. He also highlighted the problems in poor regions like Africa by saying that "if we don't share our wealth with poor countries especially in Africa, then they will also come here". Finally, he urged the Commission to reduce the legislative burden on organizations helping on the ground to a minimum.
"We have to speak out clearly about the violations of the fundamental rights of refugees caused by other refugees and not hide it" noted MEP Branislav Skripek (ECR). In the discussion that followed, all participants agreed that the protection of the Human Dignity of the refugees should be at the centre of everyone's concern and that more effective collaboration is needed among policymakers and people on the ground.