AS (2016) CR 27
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Friday 24 June 2016 at 10 a.m.
In this report:
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The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the verbatim report.
(Ms Palihovici, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.05 a.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Debate: Violence against migrants
The PRESIDENT – The first item of business this morning is the debate on the report entitled “Violence against migrants”, Document 14066, presented by Mr Rigoni on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.
I call Mr Rigoni, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr RIGONI (Italy)* – Thank you, President. I will try not to take up all the time I have available, although we are few. Few but good, as we say in Italian.
This is a very important subject to which I personally attach great importance, and on which the Migration Committee has worked a great deal. Violence against migrants is also a very topical issue. Every day, we see in different parts of Europe sad news about assaults and other acts of aggression against migrants. This aggression is widespread. Although the rights of migrants are governed by legal instruments, violence against them is common, ordinary violence, and this problem is shared by many European countries. There is also the trafficking of migrants, as well as violence in detention centres and in the forced labour market.
This report asks several important questions. The main ones are as follows. First, what are the deep root causes of violence against migrants? Secondly, what are the most widespread forms of violence against migrants who are in our countries? Thirdly, what can be done specifically to combat violence against migrants?
The high incidence of violence against migrants is caused by intolerance, racism and xenophobia, especially when the host country is itself unstable politically. Racism and hate speech arise from a lack of education and information within local communities. As we have seen, this occurs when there are economic difficulties, because an increasing number of migrants are seen as competitors in our countries, in the labour market as well as for welfare. Furthermore, because of their status irregular migrants are not protected and are more exposed to violence. There is a lack of general legislation to criminalise the conduct of those who employ irregular migrants.
Violence against migrants assumes different forms, and may be perpetrated directly or indirectly. Direct violence includes physical violence, labour exploitation, sexual abuse, extortion and trafficking. Indirect violence is even more important, because it applies strong pressure to the personal and psychological nature of the individual. So it has become one of the ways of dealing with the migrant population and there are constant breaches of the human rights of migrants. We find many cases of violence against migrants in so-called detention centres. Indirect violence includes aggressive threats, verbal violence, sexual harassment, discrimination and xenophobia, which may all be considered hate crimes and are likely to involve the use of information and communication to convey aggressive and discriminatory messages. These messages are intended to cause psychological distress and marginalisation, and to discourage migrants from accessing services such as education, housing, health and so on.
Violence against women and child migrants is an even more heinous form of violence. It is aimed at women and children who are often fleeing from violence in their own countries, and who then find themselves exposed to violence in camps when they come to Europe. During their journey, they are abused by traffickers and smugglers. Women suffer more from a dual vulnerability to violence, through gender inequalities in both origin and destination societies, and because of their status as foreigners and refugees.
The detention of migrant children is itself a form of violence and has detrimental effects on their psychological and physical wellbeing. Children who experience this prison-like environment, lack of freedom and constant surveillance are at risk of suffering depression, high levels of anxiety, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and psychological violence.
To address the root causes of violence, it is therefore necessary to place the protection of the human rights of migrants at the forefront of migration management priorities, in order to combat racism, discrimination and hate speech. Our resolution suggests a series of measures for combating violence against migrants in Europe. They can be divided into three categories: legal measures; measures that protect and assist the victims of violence; and measures that spread information, raise awareness and promote integration. Legal measures are very important. We should facilitate access to justice for migrants. We must ensure that they receive legal assistance, regardless of their migration status, and that migrant victims of violence can freely testify before courts without fear of reprisals.
Legal measures should also include strengthening national legislation against hate speech, discrimination and xenophobia, particularly ensuring that all forms of incitement to racial discrimination are criminalised. It is important to ensure that hate crime is prosecuted as a specific criminal offence. National labour-related legislation should include special provisions for punishing employers who commit violent or illegal acts against migrants, including failure to pay wages and unlawful dismissal. Victims of violence should feel secure during criminal justice proceedings. They should also receive all necessary care, medical treatment and psychological and social assistance. As violence against migrants is often committed in detention centres, I suggest supporting our parliamentary campaign to end the detention of migrant children by promoting alternatives. Migrants who are victims of violence should be informed of their rights and of available remedies, as well as receiving information on social services to which they might have access.
Without integration, all this will be to no avail. This should be based on educating local communities and migrants, with particular attention paid to young people, helping them obtain nationality where possible. I believe that awareness-raising measures and information sharing with the host population can play a major role in preventing violence against migrants.
Finally, we should support NGOs that work with migrant victims of violence and promote migrants’ integration. Their task of combating violence is very difficult, but without them it would be even more arduous. I also want to stress the role of local communities in preventing violence against migrants. The member States of the Council of Europe should empower local authorities to support migrant integration through housing, social inclusion and job-creation programmes.
Gandhi said: “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” I believe that the role of our Assembly is to promote a model of Europe without violence. We should do everything we can to stop violent behaviour towards each other, and especially towards those who look for our protection. This is what I invite you to do, but it is also our duty.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Rigoni. You have four minutes remaining. The next speaker is Ms De Sutter.
Ms De SUTTER (Belgium, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group) – The global refugee crisis is not only a major challenge for governments around the world. As Mr Rigoni points out in his report, it also aggravates another less visible but equally disturbing global phenomenon: violence against refugee women. Migrant women often suffer double violence, which we must denounce firmly.
More than half of all refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers in the world are women and young girls. They are all vulnerable to gender-based violence such as sexual violence, forced marriage, rape and prostitution and their related medical complications. First of all, they need separate and safe toilets and washing facilities. They also need access to essential sexual and reproductive healthcare, emergency contraception, safe abortion if needed, post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection and psycho-social counselling. We need to prioritise funding for their health needs and assistance at receiving points and refugee camps, especially in the countries with most arrivals, such as Greece.
This is of course a united responsibility that goes beyond Europe. Better co-ordination is needed, between member States and in the field. Financial resources are urgently needed, but there is an every bigger need for human resources in the field. We need asylum officers, lawyers, interpreters, doctors and nurses, but also psychologists. We should pay particular attention to the psychological health, stress and traumas of all refugees. We saw that with our own eyes three weeks ago when the Ad hoc committee visited the refugee camps in Greece.
Victims of violence, especially the most vulnerable groups, such as women, children – boys and girls – but also lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, are not seen as a priority. Let us not forget that the fact that they belong to those vulnerable groups might be the very reason they are fleeing in the first place. They need protection from the first moment they set foot on European soil. We heard a poignant testimony in the joint hearing of the committee of equality and migration only last Wednesday. All those vulnerable groups are mentioned in Mr Rigoni’s excellent report. I congratulate him on that. They really need our special attention.
I believe that member States could do much more to tackle violence against migrants, especially vulnerable groups, and I will give five examples. First, we can provide better and safer reception facilities, where officials not only care about security but keep an eye open even after 6 p.m. and take responsibility for preventing domestic, sexual and gender-based violence effectively.
Secondly, we can provide better alternatives to detention. Why do we not forbid the detention of pregnant women and women who have survived rape and sexual violence? Why do we not find better places for them to stay?
Thirdly, we can provide better and safer housing for refugees after their asylum claims have been accepted, giving them a real chance to recover from stress and trauma and ensure that they receive the psychological help they need.
Fourthly, we can recognise that gender-based violence against women is a form of persecution, within the meaning of Article 1(a) of the 1951 Geneva Convention, and ensure that the grounds for asylum listed in the 1951 refugee convention are interpreted in such a way. Gender-sensitive asylum procedures should be a legal pathway for women refugees, as required by the Istanbul Convention.
Fifthly, let us not forget that family reunification is beneficial to the integration of migrants, and that national policies should promote, rather than hinder, family reunification.
All these measures to combat violence against migrants, and specifically women, are stated in the Istanbul Convention, which some of our member States – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Lichtenstein, Moldova and Russia – have neither signed nor ratified. I urge colleagues from those countries to put pressure on their governments to do that. I urge those countries that have signed it but not yet ratified it – that list is longer – please to do so, as the resolution states, and help combat violence against women.
Our group strongly supports Mr Rigoni’s excellent report, and we will also support Amendment 2.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms De Sutter. The next speaker is Ms Pallarés.
Ms PALLARÉS (Andorra, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – On behalf of the ALDE, I would like to congratulate Mr Rigoni on this excellent report and the draft resolution. The migrant crisis is undoubtedly one of the biggest issues that all countries have faced in recent years. I have been a member of the Assembly for just one year and have participated in six parliamentary sessions, and the biggest debates that I have heard have all approached the migrant crisis from different perspectives, but always under the human rights view.
Violence against migrants, whether they are regular or irregular, is always an attack on human rights, so we have to find and implement all the measures to reduce and prevent it. The report, which contains many sad details, asks us to understand how deep, serious and worrying the situation is in our countries at the moment. We have also heard the testimonies of heroes. Migrants are suffering from all the representations of hatred, including physical violence, labour exploitation, trafficking, sexual harassment and abuse, discrimination and hate speech, which are all specified in the report.
This Organisation has made many recommendations on how to tackle all these problems, and sometimes I wonder what we really have learnt about it. In my opinion, during the migrant crisis, human rights and the values we defend have been knocked down by fear, bureaucracy and nationalism. We know that immigration has been one of the main topics discussed in the Brexit campaign, and we have seen the result today. We must analyse how the crisis of anti-immigration and anti-refugee sentiment has come about in our countries, because migration is not going to stop. It is a fact that migration will continue and many more people will arrive in Europe over the coming years, for many different reasons, as we have discussed in this Assembly.
Legal instruments to protect migrants, analysis of hate speech, co-operation with non-governmental organisations and empowerment of local authorities to support migrant integration are some of the good recommendations in the resolution proposed by Mr Rigoni and the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. We will fully support the resolution. I also want to ask something, given that Mr Rigoni is in my political family. Just yesterday, I checked the amount that the Assembly gives to local authorities. I wondered whether we could add to that, with regard to what Mr Rigoni recommended about the need for education in our cities and countries about the situation and how to respect and protect migrants. Perhaps we could take into account the fact that the Council of Europe has to do something else, on top, and add the incentive of what the Council of Europe gives to local authorities in our countries to the recommendation.
Once again, I thank the rapporteur for the report.
Mr HOWELL (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – The report identifies a number of problems. There must be general agreement on ending violence, but how that is achieved will depend on whether the migrants are settled. Since the report asks for the provision of accommodation and access to benefits, I wonder whether it might have been more helpful if it had acknowledged that we are drawing a difference between those migrants who have a right to stay in a country and those who do not, or who are still being evaluated. The issue of non-violence applies to both groups, but different countries have different rules for dealing with the right to stay, and I do not wish to interfere in those. I want to highlight what there is in common.
In any case, there should be no recourse to violence, as I have said; the police should ensure that they enforce that, rather than perpetrating violence themselves. It is a sad indictment of our societies that migrants are increasingly exposed to discrimination, racism and a whole range of violence. However, that is true not just of migrants but of existing communities such as the Jewish community. I am glad that the report recognises that the law is not the only, or indeed the most effective, way of dealing with this issue. I point to the role that faith groups can play in helping to bring people and communities together to tackle social and other problems. The need to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us is paramount.
In essence, this approach is about ensuring that we build integrated communities and create the conditions for everyone to live and work successfully alongside each other, particularly where migrants have the right to stay. The report looks at how progress is or is not being made in various European countries at various stages in that process and what is needed to make it happen. It will require, for example, the identification and successful tackling of hate crime. That will need the police to improve the way in which they identify hate crime.
We need to ensure that those accepted by countries – for example, those who have been granted refugee or asylum status – are given access to the labour market and to necessary benefits. We also need to strengthen organisations such as NGOs that specialise in these matters and can assist with integration. There is a world of difference between the experience of those countries that have granted refugee status to people and those, such as Greece, that have responsibility for providing support for a large numbers of migrants. We have already spoken at length this week about the situation in Greece and I will not repeat that debate, but there are some common factors here. The report’s point about bringing the media on side to ensure that false impressions are not created is a good one.
We need the co-operation of migrants in this. They have a responsibility to comply with local law and not make the situation worse. Language is fundamental. There must be language training for those granted asylum status; such training can reach the most isolated of communities and help them integrate, something that will be of particular help to women in those communities. Refugees need assistance with some form of language training so that misunderstandings can be avoided. I am very pleased that my own government has made funds available to carry out the necessary language training for communities in that situation.
Mr JÓNASSON (Iceland, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I thank the rapporteur, Mr Rigoni, for a very good report and set of recommendations.
This subject must be taken very seriously. The report is useful and timely. As we all know, hostility and violence against migrants have been increasing in Europe over the past years and months. As the report states, violence against migrants manifests itself “in forms such as physical violence, labour exploitation, trafficking, sexual harassment and abuse, discrimination and hate speech.” The report urges us to address all those abuses. How are we to do this? First, we are urged to engage in awareness-raising campaigns and information sharing between host countries and migrant communities. We are also urged to scrutinise our laws and administrative structures.
I note with satisfaction that the report urges us to pay particular attention to the labour market – paragraph 5.1.6 of the draft resolution says we should “include special provisions in national labour-related legislation to punish employers who commit violent or illegal acts against migrants, including failure to pay wages or unlawful dismissal”. We must also look at all conventions and international commitments and ask whether our respective countries have ratified and are implementing them. In that respect, the report references the United Nations’ 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention and Lanzarote Convention.
As I see it, the report is a blueprint for action. I reiterate my thanks to the rapporteur and pledge the support of the Group of the Unified European Left for the report and its recommendations.
Ms JOHNSEN (Norway, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – Mr Rigoni’s report is very important. Violence of all forms is unacceptable. The report tells us that migrants are subjected to various forms of violence, including physical violence, trafficking, hate crimes and violence against LBGT migrants. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to different forms of abuse, including sexual violence, especially in detention centres.
To combat violence against migrants we must first raise awareness of the problem. We must fight xenophobia and racism, and must not tolerate hate speech – as politicians, we have a special obligation to address hate speech. Governments must strengthen the law to ensure protection, and assist victims and witnesses. We must prosecute the perpetrators of violence. As the report mentions, the role of local authorities is important, but we all know that hate speech, fear and xenophobia often start around the kitchen table at home.
The vast influx of migrants and the refugee situation in Europe is a challenge to us all. Refugees will continue to come. Last night, I learned that 4 500 refugees have been saved in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya. The situation in Syria and North Africa is not getting better. Networks such as ISIL continue to spread violence and fear. I am sorry to say that extreme groups and individuals are taking advantage of this situation to spread hate and racism, the ultimate consequence of which may be the destabilisation of Europe.
In the report, Mr Rigoni provides examples of violence against migrants in certain Council of Europe member States, including France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation and Turkey. The situation in detention centres is creating alarm in many places. There is a lack of sanitary facilities and of safe areas for women and children. We hear stories of rape and violence, with women speaking out about the most degrading of circumstances. There are rapes and unwanted pregnancies, and women have to sell their bodies to get food for their children. Such horrible stories were recounted during the joint hearing in the Council of Europe on Wednesday. There is an urgent need for governments to ensure protection in detention centres. In addition to the hardships faced during their journey as illegal migrants, these women are at the mercy of men who control their movements and words. Migrant women and children are seldom covered in the top news reports in the media.
The 2011 Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence specifically addresses violence against women as a form of gender-based violence, and it also applies to under-age girls. The convention states that violence can be understood as a human rights violation and as a form of discrimination. That is why a more general and faster ratification of the Istanbul Convention is necessary.
The Group of the European People’s Party strongly supports the report.
The PRESIDENT – The rapporteur will reply at the end of the debate, but does he wish to speak now? No. In that case, we will continue with the speakers list. I call Ms Kyriakides.
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Rigoni, on this concise and inclusive report. Violence should be combated in all its forms, but when violence is targeted against a vulnerable group of persons, such as migrants, it becomes particularly dangerous and thus deserves our special attention. As the report clearly demonstrates, violence perpetrated against migrants is predominantly racist in nature.
In societies facing economic hardship and scarce resources, the portrayal of migrants as exclusively beneficiaries of but not contributors to a social welfare system can lead to the further stigmatisation and alienation of these populations, which ultimately leads to their not being integrated with their host societies. Failed integration policies can lead to the radicalisation of certain marginalised groups and even to their involvement in terrorist-related activities. We need to do much more to contain anti-immigration sentiment and thus reduce the violence perpetrated against migrants. As the report clearly states, it is necessary for member States to amend legislation to criminalise incitement to racial discrimination and hate speech. Migrants’ fundamental rights should be fully protected at all levels and stages.
We need to look at the role of education. The education of the younger generation about tolerance and acceptance is crucial. The media and the messages it conveys in public discourse can breed or reduce anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate speech. Unlike negative stereotyping, positive discrimination can shape different world views and opinions and foster more inclusive and open societies. The Council of Europe has supported the promotion of positive integration policies through a number of initiatives, practices and treaties. Let us use these tools to their maximum potential. Both the Lanzarote Convention and the Istanbul Convention contain provisions that can be used to strengthen national policies on violence against migrants. Similarly, the guidelines issued by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and by the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights contain valuable recommendations on the best ways to tackle this phenomenon.
The real migration crisis in Europe is Europe’s poor response to irregular migrants and asylum seekers, including the EU’s inability to make people feel safe and secure. Let us make a difference in each and every one of our member States so that we can finally begin to change this chaotic state of affairs.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I, too, thank the rapporteur for this report, which describes the various forms of violence perpetrated against migrants. The title should really refer to refugees, not just to migrants. For migrants, immigration rules and laws apply – for example, on family reunification – but refugees are different because they should enjoy protection under the convention. The State is responsible for supporting refugees, and if we do not distinguish between migrants and refugees we will have real problems in our societies. Refugees must be given full support, but economic migrants are different because they come to our countries to seek work.
At the moment, we are experiencing not a wave of migrants to Europe, but a wave of refugees. Not all factors apply to both categories. People migrating for work purposes must know the local language if they are to be integrated into the community and there is to be social integration. However, for refugees, the first priority is to protect them from persecution from violence. They should also be given health care and medical protection, as well as accommodation, while their applications are assessed. We are talking about two different categories, because people migrating for employment purposes do not have rights to accommodation and so on.
We must keep the two categories separate because the situation of the refugees, as described by the rapporteur, is really serious. Some 10 000 children have gone missing, and many women are having to sell their bodies to pay the traffickers. There is a lot of pressure, some of it religious, on the refugees. There are various forms of violence in illegal refugee camps, but it must be pointed out that those forms of violence also occur in the UN camps. There is room for improvement in the organisation of those camps.
The real problem with migrants is: what have we done wrong so that the third generation is now facing this huge crisis? Sometimes they cannot express themselves in the language of the host country; sometimes the older generations are better at that. They feel discriminated against and marginalised and tend to withdraw into their communities. If we are talking about third-generation migrants, we have to work out what has gone wrong. These phenomena are described in the report, and they apply in part to refugees but also in part to migrants. We need to be committed to both groups, and certainly both groups should enjoy full access to human rights.
Ms OHLSSON (Sweden) – I thank the rapporteur for a very important report.
At the same time as we have the highest number of people fleeing war and conflict – 65 million – the phenomenon of violence against migrants has increased significantly throughout Europe in recent years, manifesting itself in physical violence, labour exploitation, trafficking, sexual harassment and abuse, discrimination and hate speech. Even here in the Assembly we hear members talking about migrants in a very bad way. The greatest goal of the Council of Europe is the protection of human rights. That is why this report is so important, because it is about how, together, we must combat the racism, discrimination and hate speech that lead to violence against migrants.
The report suggests a number of measures to improve legislation and to protect and give assistance to the victims of violence, and it stresses that awareness-raising measures and information sharing with the host population can play a major role in preventing violence against migrants. It also highlights the important role of local communities in preventing such violence. The member States of the Council of Europe can and should empower local authorities to support migrants’ integration through housing, social inclusion and job creation programmes. If migrants are to be integrated into the host society, the host society must be involved, and we must work together better.
We also know that migrant women and children are particularly vulnerable to different forms of violence and abuse, including sexual violence, just because they are women and children. This can happen when they are fleeing or when they are in the camps or detention centres. They must receive special protection from the receiving countries that includes the provision of safe reception facilities and alternatives to detention.
Violence and discrimination continue to be a part of migrant women’s lives, and their dual vulnerability to violence reflects gender inequalities in both origin and destination societies as well as their status as foreigners. These women can be both vulnerable and invisible, so it is very important that every member State ratifies and fully implements the Istanbul Convention on the protection of women and the Lanzarote Convention on the protection of children. All victims must have the right to medical treatment, to physical, psychological and social assistance, and to assistance in relation to discrimination and migrant status. Special attention must be paid to the vulnerable groups of women, children and LGBT people.
Information on legislation, rights, help and assistance is also very important for migrants and victims of violence. This can be shared in collaboration with non-governmental organisations such as women’s shelters, Save the Children, Women2Women and the Red Cross. It is so important to support the work of non-governmental organisations working with victims of violence and migrants and promoting migrants’ integration. Let us do this important work together in a better way and with greater solidarity. We must not forget this important report when we go home to our own parliaments. We must remember that together, as legislators and in the name of human rights, we can do more to combat all forms of violence against migrants.
Ms DOBEŠOVÁ (Czech Republic) - Chair, ladies and gentlemen, before expressing my opinion on the topic of violence against migrants, I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Rigoni, on his work.
The draft resolution stresses the need to protect the rights of refugees and to fight both racism and any form of discrimination against migrants, such as derogatory remarks about them or similar acts that provoke violence against them. It recommends the introduction of new legislative elements in the member States that are designed to lead to the better protection of migrants and the provision of better information, and it emphasises the important role of local authorities, which can be the most effective in intervening against emerging forms of discrimination and violence. I absolutely agree with that.
However, our citizens are also afraid of rising migrant criminality committed in Europe, and we should not close our eyes to that. A recently leaked confidential police report in Germany warns of spiking refugee crime, including drug and sex offences, and a rise in radicalisation against the State. The report by the North Rhine-Westphalian department of the interior says that “immigration will lead to more crime and increased police usage to combat it. The number of crimes - like violence, sexual abuse, property theft and narcotic offences - will rise".
How are we going to safeguard our citizens? Our current failure to control and stop illegal migration undermines public confidence in the integrity of our government policy. I am very concerned that current illegal immigration could threaten the existence of the EU and peace in Europe. We should do everything possible to ensure that both sides – migrants and EU citizens – can co-exist in peace to the benefit of the whole of society. There is a need not only to create a legal framework to combat violence but to take all possible steps to grant asylum to eligible applicants from outside EU territory in order to avoid the disappointment of unsuccessful migrants, which often leads to frustration, violence and criminality. If we accept legitimate asylum seekers and economic migrants whose professions are needed for the development of the EU and focus on their proper integration into our society, we can avoid increasing violence.
Mr MELKUMYAN (Armenia)* – The problem of flows of migrants coming from regions in crisis is becoming a very undesirable phenomenon. It should certainly be on the agenda of our meeting. It is proper that that is so.
The problem of migrants and refugees is also very topical for Armenia. More than 30 000 Syrians have reached Armenia. Since 2012, we have welcomed more than 17 000 refugees from Syria, but we have not received appropriate aid from the international community to deal with this problem. Our country is investing huge financial resources with a view to ensuring the welcome and future integration of these migrants, despite the fact that we have not yet solved all the problems arising from refugees coming from Azerbaijan.
Today, more than ever before, the most topical problem for us is to ensure the security of refugees and to contribute to their social integration. The 30 000 Syrian refugees whom Armenia has welcomed and who have settled in the country must have a job. Over the last few years, the Republic of Armenia has done enormous work in this respect. In our opinion, the social integration of refugees presupposes providing them with a dignified job, training for a new profession and a solution to their problems of social security. It is important, however, to consider not only the economic and financial aspects but the social and moral ones. The time has come to design innovative new instruments to ensure the integration of migrants. In order to overcome these problems, we must deploy a joint policy that takes into consideration the interests of all countries. I am convinced that we will succeed and that the Republic of Armenia will lend its support.
At the beginning of April, the authorities of Azerbaijan started military operations along the frontier line between the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan and used several types of destructive weapon – combat tanks, drones, missiles and so on. This was done by the President of Azerbaijan, who wanted to extend the life of his corrupt government by drawing his people’s attention away from domestic social and economic problems. The Azerbaijanis attacked the peaceful populations of the villages of Talış, Madagiz, the city of Martakert and others areas, and mutilated the cadavers of the victims by cutting off their heads, their ears and other parts of their bodies. This is an inhuman, fascist policy being carried out by the Government of Azerbaijan.
Of course, the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh reacted with dignity to these attacks, but the international community must assess these events from both a legal and a political point of view. If it does not stop selling arms to Azerbaijan, it will be responsible for the consequences. Azerbaijan has undermined the efforts of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and that cannot be ignored. It is necessary to put in place surveillance and detection mechanisms along the frontier to establish cases of the ceasefire being violated. This issue must be on the agenda of the negotiations. Azerbaijan has jumped the gun with its military operations. As a member of the national council of Armenia and a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, I warn Aliyev Junior that next time the reaction will be so strong that he will not forget it.
Mr PSYCHOGIOS (Greece)* – I thank Mr Rigoni for his report, which is extremely well put together and which we will be able to use in our country.
The phenomenon of violence against migrants – physical violence, forced labour, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and so on – has increased in Europe in recent years. It is important, in particular, that we underscore the protection that should be given to women and children – particularly vulnerable groups who are sexually exploited. We must tackle violence against migrants in Europe by taking a consistent line throughout Europe that is in line with UN standards. The text makes it clear that the challenge for us is to provide appropriate facilities for these people and to help them to integrate. I place a particular emphasis on women and children, who are often stigmatised and subjected to sexual assault and violence but who enjoy rights as refugees.
Greece is making an exceptional effort. It has provided €1.8 billion from its national budget to deal with the problem and has set up migrant and refugee centres. This effort should be copied by all Europeans, as the Greek Prime Minister pointed out this week in this Chamber. The government has adopted a special procedure to regularise and recognise the status of undocumented migrants, but discrimination is still a problem. Where we find it, it will be sanctioned under the law. We cannot allow this violence unleashed against migrants to go on, and we must do something about the populist calls in that direction. The Greek people have shown enormous respect for migrants and refugees who are transiting through our country or still in our country. This sets an example to all Europeans.
Mr SHAHGELDYAN (Armenia)* – I thank Mr Rigoni for his very good report. Over the last 100 years, Armenia has experienced five waves of inward migration. The first large group of immigrants came from Turkey after the Armenian genocide carried out by the Ottoman Turks. Between 1988 and 1998, we had waves of immigrants from Azerbaijan fleeing persecution by the Azerbaijani authorities. After the last Gulf War, migrants came from Syria, and as my colleague has already mentioned, we now have some 30 000 migrants from Syria. In April, after the aggressive attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenian villages and cities in Nagorno-Karabakh, we experienced a fifth wave of immigration. So we have a lot of experience of welcoming and hosting immigrants.
We have found a mechanism that works – we manage these individuals, provide them with education and health care and help them to integrate into our economic fabric – but unfortunately our economic situation is not very good. Nevertheless, we have done a lot to help these individuals to integrate and to live normal lives in Armenia, and we would be very happy to share this. As Armenians, we know how difficult the psychological situation of immigrants can be. Many European countries welcomed a lot of Armenians after the genocide in Turkey and our earthquake, and we are very grateful to those countries and are prepared to co-operate with them and to share our experiences. The model deployed in Armenia has been studied by international organisations, and they find that it works fairly well.
The dangers and threats facing immigrants, as discussed in the report, are based on hatred and intolerance. Just two days ago, one of our Azerbaijani colleagues stated in this Chamber that for him a tolerant approach was unacceptable. I find that statement unacceptable. Aggression and violence always start with intolerance, and a lack of tolerance ultimately leads to people being killed. A tolerant and humanistic approach is necessary. We need to provide migrants with comfortable and appropriate circumstances. That is important for them and for us. That is certainly what we, the people of Armenia, intend to do and what we have been doing.
Mr ÖNAL (Turkey)* – Unfortunately, the migration crisis in Europe has aggravated reactions towards and violence against migrants. The rapporteur has made a thorough analysis of that trend, which contradicts all European values, and made a number of key recommendations for the fight against such violence. I thank him for his efforts.
In the aftermath of 9/11, xenophobia, discrimination and racism all acquired a new dimension that is religion-oriented and anti-Islam. Unfortunately, extreme right discourse and practices are on the rise in Europe. We can clearly see that xenophobia, discrimination and racism are increasing in response to the increasing waves of migration towards Europe.
A relatively recent example of violence against migrants in Europe took place in January this year in Sweden. A group of 50 women and men, who apparently looked like foreigners, were attacked at Stockholm central station. In the leaflets they handed out before the attacks, the attackers claimed that the police were not providing security and justice, and were not protecting them against foreigners. As you can see, violence against migrants is a form of racism. The perpetrators of such acts target foreign-looking individuals. I am saddened to see such incidents in the Europe of the 21st century.
The following issues must be taken into account in the fight against such violence. First, investigations into these acts of violence must be carried out thoroughly and be brought to a conclusion. Secondly, politicians and the media must avoid hiding behind the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the media when using their discourse to escalate discriminatory behaviour and anti-Islamic attitudes. Thirdly, anti-terrorism measures must not turn into a fight against Muslims. It is imperative that our educational systems develop trust between migrants and their host communities, and portray Islam and Muslims correctly. We must advocate such policies to our governments. It is our duty as parliamentarians to contribute to this issue by advocating such policies.
In the explanatory part of the report, in which the rapporteur expresses his own opinions, he raises allegations of violence against migrants that are apparently based on a report of Amnesty International. Those allegations state that migrants who tried to cross into Turkey from Syria were subjected to ill treatment. Such allegations do not reflect the truth by any means. Turkey is currently hosting 3 million refugees; there is simply no reason to stop 300 from entering. The international community clearly acknowledges that Turkey has implemented an open-door policy to all Syrians fleeing the human tragedy in their country.
By the way, I say to the Armenian speaker who referred to the practices against Armenians during the Ottoman Empire that our ancestors did not commit a genocide. They have always been tolerant and fair, and have always given communities the right to exercise their religion and other rights. Furthermore, Markar Eseyan, a Turkish citizen of Armenian origin, is currently serving in the Turkish Parliament.
The PRESIDENT – I do not see Ms Centemero in the Chamber, so I call Ms Boriana Ĺberg.
Ms ĹBERG (Sweden) – I thank the rapporteur for this important report. I agree with the conclusion that women and children are the most vulnerable groups of migrants.
Over the past two years, 250 000 refugees have arrived in Sweden. Sweden has always been a leading country in providing refuge to people fleeing oppression and persecution, and we are proud of this. However, there is room for self-criticism. Recently, it has been reported that women living in State-financed asylum accommodation are subjected to harassment and sexual abuse by male asylum seekers. That is a tremendous betrayal of all those women who have fled from Daesh and sacrificed everything to get to a safe and free country. Once they have found refuge in Sweden, these women are exposed to the same type of oppression they fled from. The situation is especially dire for Christian women, who are severely threatened because of both their sex and their religion.
The authorities and the staff in the asylum accommodation are not helping, because the issues that arise when people from different cultures and religions live together not only in the same country, but under the same roof, have long been neglected. Until now, the only solution that has been proposed is to help these women by offering them protected housing away from the men. That might work temporarily, but it can never be a permanent or long-term solution. If a woman has managed to get here, she has to feel safe and be able to live freely with other women, children and men, without once again being threatened and oppressed or having to live hidden and apart from others. In a free and democratic society, it is not acceptable to have to separate men and women in order to avoid conflict.
Those who have applied for asylum and received refuge should never be allowed to bring their religious, ethnic and political conflicts to their new country. We should demand that the people who come here adjust to the values of our society, such as respect for different opinions, religions and sexual orientation and, not least, gender equality. However, we must not be naďve. People are coming to Europe from societies where women have an inferior position to men. They will not, by themselves, accept women and men as equals. It takes a clear and consistent policy from those of us who live and operate in countries that are accepting migrants. We owe that to the vulnerable women who have fled terror and oppression.
Ms KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR (Turkey)* – I, too, extend my gratitude to the rapporteur for this report.
In many parts of the world, refugees and migrants are referred to along with the word “problem”. I do not think that migrants and refugees constitute a problem, because the world belongs to us all and we are all global citizens. We all have the potential to become a migrant or a refugee, as history shows us. That is why we should not link the word “migrant” with the word “problem”. This is an issue on which we all have to act together.
Sometimes it is the family members of those in camps who abuse children. I would like to draw your attention to this problem, because children cannot express themselves. They need to be heard, but they do not have the means to make themselves heard. Whichever country is receiving refugees and migrants, whether it is Greece, Turkey or Germany, we have to take the necessary measures and supervise the conditions in which children are kept. If we do not supervise detention centres, for example, that could become a problem for vulnerable refugees and migrants such as children and women.
Of course, no country can tackle this issue on its own. In Turkey we are hosting 3 million refugees, 50% of whom are children. We have to protect children, but the full implementation of the Istanbul Convention and other international conventions to protect the rights of women and children cannot be done by Turkey or Greece alone. We have 1.5 million child refugees, and in Turkey we are also victims of impunity. It is impossible for Turkey to protect all these refugee children on its own.
A couple of months ago I visited Nizip refugee camp, together with three deputy colleagues. However, we were not let in, even though we are members of parliament; therefore, the situation in our country is not open to supervision by politicians. That is why it is important to consider supervision by NGOs and civil society. Members of the Council of Europe have to abide by international obligations. If we do not adopt a strong policy on abiding by international obligations, history will judge us poorly when it comes to refugees and migrants.
Mr REISS (France)* – In January, European defenders of children’s rights meeting in Amsterdam warned that migrant children in Europe are confronted with many dangers. In May, we learned from a Europol report that more than 10 000 unaccompanied children have disappeared from holding centres in Europe since 2014, and this year 4 700 unaccompanied children have disappeared in Germany. The Europol report also warns of the existence of a pan-European criminal infrastructure that seeks to take advantage of the worst migration crisis in Europe since the Second World War.
Unaccompanied minors are particularly vulnerable. They are a favoured target of traffickers, smugglers and criminal groups that take advantage of the disorder on the Balkan route to exploit them, but even children travelling with their parents or other adults are in danger. The violence can take several forms: forced labour in clandestine workshops, trafficking in organs or even sale on parallel markets. Very young children, often separated from their families when crossing chaotic borders, can apparently be sold for €4 000. Some children are subject to extortion by smugglers, for example through threats to family members remaining in their country of origin or refugee camps. They are also particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, even when placed in holding centres, because they are surrounded by adults.
This violence and trafficking is facilitated by the inherent difficulties in determining the age of young migrants. Many unaccompanied adolescents do not want to reveal to the authorities that they are minors because they are afraid of being put in holding centres, making it impossible for them to continue their trip towards northern Europe. In the case of Syrian children in particular, UNHCR officials have denounced adults pretending to be uncles or close relatives in order to have children entrusted to them, as it can sometimes be impossible to verify the supposed family link.
On the other hand, defenders of children’s rights have denounced the lack of appropriate holding centres for minors and in particular the absence of special dormitories or bathrooms. The situation has inspired UNICEF to introduce “blue dot” centres – resting areas reserved for women and children – but this does not solve the problem of holding centres as such and the violence against migrants that can occur in them.
Children’s rights must be an integral part of the financial assistance provided to third countries that assist refugees. In particular, European Union aid to Turkey should include the right to education for all children, with special areas for children in refugee camps and systems to protect children. As Mr Tsipras stressed on Wednesday, unaccompanied asylum seeker children who have an identified family prepared to welcome them should be given priority in the relocation processes provided for in the agreement.
Protecting children is a priority, but it is meaningful only if the criminal organisations that have infiltrated the migration routes are combatted forcefully, in particular on the basis of co-operation with countries of origin and transit. This is not just about smugglers; it is about all those who wreak havoc along this route of hope and take advantage of the chaos to kidnap children and commit violence against them.
Finally, it must not be forgotten that the greatest violence against these children is undoubtedly the war they are fleeing, the distress of their exile and their fear for the future. For them, we must find a political solution, not only to the Syrian conflict but to all the other conflicts that are so many wars without name.
I congratulate Mr Rigoni on his excellent report.
Mr FRIDEZ (Switzerland)* – I thank Mr Rigoni for his excellent report on a difficult but hugely important subject.
The violence from which migrants suffer is twofold. The decision to migrate is rarely taken without duress – in a spirit of adventure, for example. We are talking about people whose physical integrity is at threat and whose close relatives are under threat too. We are talking about the suffering of people who have been torn from their lives, their traditions and their past. This twofold suffering is something they can face when they get to us as well, as rightly described in Mr Rigoni’s report – violence, poor reception facilities, xenophobia and exploitation, particularly of women. In the main, when these people come to us, they are just asking for assistance and protection. I appeal to Europe’s humanitarian spirit: do not let us make them suffer twice over.
Mr Rigoni sets out a catalogue of measures, and I very much agree with him. He talks about the need for legislative measures, measures to support victims – that is essential – and also preventive measures, which are vital. I am sure the Assembly will support this excellent report, but to my mind there is one essential question when we come to discuss the amendments: should clandestine or irregular immigration be deemed a criminal offence? In another case, a member of our committee asked whether it is really acceptable for people to move from one country to another without a visa.
We are talking about people who are in a desperate situation. People are fleeing for their lives and experiencing human tragedy, so labelling them criminals would ensure twofold suffering. They are victims of war, intolerance, poverty and suffering.
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan)* – I thank the rapporteur for the report, which I fully endorse. Violence against migrants in Europe angers us all. Physical violence, labour abuse, trafficking, rape, xenophobia and hate speech should disturb us, and we must take effective measures against them. Migrants are not at fault. They did not start the economic crisis, and it is therefore imperative that we fight against media discourse showing migrants as scapegoats. We must take steps to ensure a more realistic portrayal.
My country has accepted among the highest numbers of refugees. Twenty-four years ago, after Armenia occupied our territories, we accepted more than 1 million Azeri refugees – that is one in eight Azeris – after they lost their land and homes. We were not well off, but we understood that we had to take them. We also had to accept Ahıska Turks from Uzbekistan, and we did our best to accommodate them as well as possible. We continue the same policy of always trying our best to respect the rights of migrants. People are fleeing Syria for humanitarian reasons, and we need a humane open-door policy.
Armenia is using Syrian migrants to continue its policy of taking our land. Armenia is resettling migrants on occupied territory – it is our land – and the Assembly should not remain silent. I appeal to the Armenian delegation: you have vast lands, so why are you resettling these refugees on the occupied territory of Azerbaijan? A few years ago, the OSCE monitoring committee visited the areas occupied by Armenia, and its report stated that Armenia should not use these lands for resettlement. The report reiterated that the resettlement was against international law.
I repeat my call for the Assembly not to remain silent. Please make sure that you condemn Armenia. I respond to my Armenian colleagues by saying that intolerance is, indeed, very bad, but lying is even worse. They say that Armenia hosted Armenians who fled the Ottomans in 1915, but there was no Armenia to host them until 1918. On the claims against Azerbaijan, take a map and look at where the armed conflict happened in April. You will see that it happened on the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. What are Armenia’s occupying forces doing on our land? An answer to that question would answer all these claims.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Pashayeva. That concludes the list of speakers. I now call Mr Rigoni, the rapporteur, to reply. You have four minutes.
Mr RIGONI (Italy)* – I thank all colleagues who have spoken. I have no doubt of the report’s topicality and importance. The phenomenon of migration is the major problem facing our countries, and I will take the speeches of Mr Howell, Mr Schennach and Ms Dobešová as reference points. I am convinced that the response to violence against migrants should be cultural – the management of migrants should be improved. If that does not happen, the physical and psychological violence will continue, either directly or indirectly.
A superficial distinction is still made between migrants and refugees. We split immigrants between those who are fleeing war in fear and those who are fleeing hunger. That distinction masks a fundamental cultural problem, which is that the management of migratory flows, and the prevention of violence against migrants, cannot be based on whether a migrant is fleeing in fear or is fleeing hunger. Violence should always be combated and condemned, regardless of why someone is fleeing.
The right of movement and the right to live are universal rights that we should pursue and defend. We cannot imagine that we are building a new world in which there is no more migration. The problem will not be resolved in the immediate future; migration will continue for many years. We will not stop migration with walls, barbed wire and barriers. That is no solution. Our report must ensure that the grassroots in our 47 countries understand that the problems of migration and violence against migrants must be strongly combated. If we do not overcome these difficulties, we will not be able to build a society for the future in Europe.
I thank the committee’s secretariat, the chair and Ms Kostenko, without whom the report would not exist. I hope that the Assembly will support the report.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Rigoni. Does the chairperson of the committee wish to speak?
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – Yes; thank you very much, Madam President.
Mr Rigoni’s report highlights many forms of violence that migrants encounter and that our authorities, which often avoid tackling such difficult phenomena, have not addressed sufficiently. The precarious situation of most migrants, and their isolation when compared with settled populations and communities, increases the risk of violence from both outside and inside as frustrations and tensions arise.
As a general rapporteur on violence against women, I am particularly concerned about the situation of migrant women. Mr Rigoni rightly stresses that migrant women are particularly vulnerable to violence. I therefore support his appeal for the widespread and fast ratification of the Istanbul Convention, in order to broaden its scope to cover all migrant women.
The recommendations in the report include measures ranging from the promotion of positive thinking about migrants in our society to the strengthening of prosecution for hate crimes. Although those recommendations have a universal scope, they are sufficiently precise to serve as guidelines for member States in combating all forms of violence against migrants. They can be used to address the root causes of that violence and to better protect and assist victims.
The report’s emphasis on education, awareness raising and training rightly identifies the problem of violence against migrants as one of adaptation to the fundamental change in the composition of our towns, regions and countries. We need to help people in their everyday jobs and lives to understand the world that we live in today, and we must not sweep under the carpet tensions and incidents that are hard to come to terms with.
We must tackle violence against migrants before we are overwhelmed by it, which is what the Assembly’s #NoHateNoFear campaign is doing. I urge members to use the report and promote follow-ups at home in their national parliaments.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Gafarova.
The debate is closed.
The Committee on Migrants, Refugees and Displaced Persons has presented a draft resolution to which two amendments have been tabled. They will be taken in numerical order. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.
I understand that Mr Fischer wishes to withdraw Amendment 1 in favour of Amendment 2, which has the unanimous support of the committee. Does anyone else wish to move Amendment 1?
That is not the case. Amendment 1 is withdrawn.
I call Mr Rigoni to support Amendment 2. You have 30 seconds.
Mr RIGONI (Italy)* – Amendment 2 takes on board the points made in Amendment 1. In our draft resolution, we ask the Assembly to consider the possibility of reviewing and amending domestic laws that include the offence of clandestine immigration. My country is considering such a possibility right now – there is an open debate going on, and we hope that things will go in that direction. We also hope that other European countries will follow the same direction and reject the idea of legislation containing the offence of clandestine immigration.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?
That is not the case. What is the opinion of the committee on the amendment?
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – The committee is in favour.
The PRESIDENT – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 2 is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in document 14066, as amended. A simple majority is needed.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 14066, as amended, is adopted, with 42 votes for, 0 against and 0 abstentions.
2. Debate: Road safety in Europe as a public health priority
(Mr Rouquet, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Palihovici.)
The PRESIDENT* – The next item of business this morning is the debate on the report entitled “Road safety in Europe as a public health priority”, Document 14081, presented by Ms Karapetyan on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.
I remind you that speaking time is limited to four minutes.
I call Ms Karapetyan, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – It is a great pleasure to present this report. Every year, approximately 1.25 million people die on the world’s roads and another 20 million to 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result. Road accidents continue to be a major public health issue in Europe, and are the leading the cause of death among children and young adults aged from five to 29 years old. Those data make us realise the considerable consequences for the victims, their families and society as a whole.
What is so frustrating is that we know that most of those deaths and injuries could be prevented. One of the United Nations sustainable development goals is to halve the global number of deaths and injuries on our roads by 2020. The Council of Europe thus needs to support international and European efforts to increase road safety. Indeed, I firmly believe that we can help to prevent many road accidents, first by raising awareness of the need to tackle the problem and secondly by taking action through the concrete measures proposed in the draft resolution. I encourage members to make legislative and policy changes in their parliaments where necessary, to allow the implementation of best practice in an efficient way. Notably, it is necessary to obtain proper data and to make a comprehensive assessment of the current road safety situation in our countries.
One of the concrete actions suggested in the report is to designate lead agencies to introduce effective long-term policies where those policies do not yet exist. Other actions, such as changing key behavioural risk factors, may be especially difficult to take in some countries, but they are nevertheless an essential element of any action plan, including any awareness-raising campaign. The committee supported the idea of including road safety education in school curricula from an early age, to improve children’s knowledge of and attitudes about road safety. I would also like to point out the importance of adequate training for new drivers, and the necessity to protect cyclists and pedestrians, which should be the central point of any urban planning.
In this report, we have proposed concrete actions to be taken, including that authorities mandate that 10% of road infrastructure expenditure is used to improve road safety. Co-ordination between international, national and local levels should be strengthened, taking into account the technical and scientific information from all stakeholders in order to support pilot projects and action plans in our countries. The report calls on member States to encourage technological improvements to roads and vehicles.
We should also focus on health-related issues, such as the use and abuse by drivers of alcohol, drugs and medicines, which creates a danger for all road users. From a public health perspective, it is again crucial to have proper driving tests, medical checks, and first aid and rescue systems. Equally, we cannot forget the importance of having a high level of quality in post-crash care, hospital treatment and any rehabilitation that is necessary. I realise that to achieve these measures governments must ensure that there is adequate financing of road safety programmes, in order to have safe, affordable and sustainable transport systems for all.
I ask for your full support of the draft resolution this morning, because if we implement the recommendations they will have a real impact on our everyday life. An accident can happen to any of us or to any of our loved ones at any time and in any place. I trust that you will convey the message the report sends to your national assemblies.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Madam Rapporteur. We shall now move on to our general debate.
Mr van de VEN (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – On behalf of ALDE, I thank Ms Karapetyan for her report, which provides a broad analysis and overview of the critical issues about road safety in Europe. The identification of potential causes of road accidents, as well as the detailing of a wide range of measures to prevent road accidents, is very useful indeed.
ALDE wishes to use this opportunity to express its compassion with the direct and indirect victims of road accidents. It cannot be stressed enough that individuals who suffer from the consequences of a road accident are in a very pitiable position, and deserve our sympathy. Nevertheless, ALDE is somewhat puzzled. Road safety concerns practical aspects of daily life in any given European State that should be taken care of by the national government per se, as one of its prime governmental tasks. Also, ALDE wonders about the question of a direct causal link between road accidents and unsafe roads, the use of stimulants, including drugs or medicines, by drivers, the carelessness of drivers and other factors. Human rights must also be considered.
In addition, ALDE would like to ask Ms Karapetyan why her report did not deal with the EU directives on road safety and whether these directives could be used as guidance to improve safety on European roads.
Mr JÓNASSON (Iceland, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I thank the rapporteur, Ms Naira Karapetyan, for her excellent and very important report.
Let me say why I think the report is important and should be taken very seriously. It is because, as the report says, “Every year, approximately 1.25 million people die on the world’s roads, and another 20 to 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring disability as a result.” The cost in human suffering, not to mention the social and economic costs, is, of course, enormous. However, the important point is that this suffering can be reduced. We cannot eradicate it all together, but we can drastically reduce the number of traffic accidents by taking various actions that are set out in the report and its recommendations.
There is a reference to the UN millennium goal on road safety, and the report says “that a considerable proportion of road traffic injuries can actually be prevented.” There is also a reference to a long-term plan to that effect that has been adopted by the European Union. My country, Iceland, is not part of the European Union, but we are working towards the UN millennium goal of halving fatal traffic accidents globally by 2020. We know that that is possible and we are already seeing a drastic reduction in fatal road accidents, after we started our concerted actions in this area.
Fifty years ago, we lost many seamen in Icelandic waters almost every year; now we lose none. This is the exception to the general rule on accidents, so what did we do? Of course, the ships have become safer, but we also increased safety measures in every respect and of course there were endless awareness-raising campaigns. This report is an awareness-raising report, with an abundance of useful information and recommendations to be scrutinised and taken very seriously. We are dealing with avoidable human tragedies, and enormous social and economic costs. The subject should, of course, be treated accordingly.
I reiterate my thanks to Ms Karapetyan, the rapporteur, for her excellent report and its recommendations.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova, spokesperson for the European People’s Party) – On behalf of the EPP, I extend my congratulations to our colleague, Ms Karapetyan, who has prepared a good report and presented to us a good draft resolution. Regrettably, on Friday at this time there are only a few MPs in this Chamber; there is not much interest in this debate. If we had known the outcome of the UK referendum and changed the title of this report, we would probably have had more MPs here. Instead of calling the report, “Road safety in Europe as a public health priority”, we could have called it, “Road safety in Europe as a political priority”, meaning the road that the UK has chosen. We need to remember that life is a road.
Speaking seriously about this report, I believe that Ms Karapetyan has touched on very important issues. For us, it is important to be aware that we live in a world of developed infrastructure, and so we have higher and higher speeds on our roads, but that leads to fatalities. It is important to be aware of this problem and to tackle it. At the same time, there are differences between countries. Those who travel to eastern Europe can probably see the difference between the quality of roads in western Europe and in eastern Europe. That is probably as true of Armenia as it is of Moldova.
As politicians, we have campaigned many times to improve the quality of roads. I do not know whether you still make this promise in the West, but in the East we are always talking about better roads. We need to improve the quality of our roads, but we must also recognise that road safety is important.
I am glad that Ms Karapetyan emphasised the role of education, which is important not only for children and young people, but for society. As Mr Jónasson said, raising awareness is important. We need to take these matters seriously. Unfortunately, one of the challenges we face – particularly in my country, but also in others – is lack of finance. We do not have enough resources to invest in infrastructure, particularly road safety infrastructure. The draft resolution calls upon member States to invest at least 10% of their road infrastructure expenditure in safety. Another problem for which we need to find more efficient solutions is the use of alcohol and drugs when driving, because so many people are killed as a result.
In conclusion, I thank Ms Karapetyan once again for her report and draft resolution. I think that it is important to support it, even though so few members are present in the Chamber. It deserves our full support.
Mr BONET (Andorra, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – I congratulate the rapporteur, Ms Karapetyan, on this report, which offers a particular take on an important public health issue. Road traffic accidents cause large numbers of fatalities and injuries, often leaving people paralysed and sometimes even quadriplegic. In 2015, road traffic-related issues resulted in 1.25 million deaths worldwide, so we are talking about a very large number of avoidable deaths, quite apart from the disabilities that ensue. I understand that for everyone who dies on European roads, there are 10 cases of serious injury – spinal and brain injuries are the examples cited. There have been improvements over the past 10 years, but still 56 people die every day in Europe as a result.
Some countries have improved their legislation, but there are a lot of people who need to get on with improving the situation. Only 40 countries comply with the road traffic safety arrangements recommended by the UN. Road traffic accidents are the leading cause of avoidable deaths among young adults. We must also consider the need for safety arrangements that recognise the particular vulnerability of motorcyclists, who can suffer injury when they come off their vehicles. There have been a significant number of deaths in that group.
We need to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. We are talking about vulnerable people. Pedestrians, people on motorcycles or bicycles and the elderly are all particularly vulnerable. We are talking about urban problems and inter-urban road links. There ought to be proper arrangements for pedestrians and cyclists. We have to look, in particular, at those sections of our road network that have the highest accident rates. We must do something about people who drink alcohol or take drugs before driving. We must also stop people using mobile phones while driving. We have to ensure that drivers and passengers are properly protected, with safety belts, child seats and proper helmets for cyclists.
We must ensure that the people who drive do not suffer from medical problems that have a negative impact on their ability to drive safely. We have to ensure that people are made aware of their responsibility as drivers, so there has to be proper outreach and education, especially for young people. We need to have a properly equipped accident and rescue service. We must ensure that our emergency services can get to accidents quickly and treat people effectively. In my country, as in others, young people can get a driving licence at the age of 16 and drive for two years if accompanied by an adult. We find that that leads to a greater awareness of their responsibility and a lower accident rate.
It is important to develop policies that reduce road traffic accidents. We are talking about avoidable deaths and injuries and a huge amount of suffering. The World Health Organisation has pointed out that one of the sustainable development goals for 2030 should be to reduce road traffic deaths by 50%.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Bonet. We will now hear from the rapporteur, Ms Karapetyan.
Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – I thank all members who have spoken for underlining the importance of this problem and for their detailed explanation of it. Several questions were asked about the EU and UN goals on road safety. Armenia is one of the countries that followed the UN declaration that called for a decade of action of road safety from 2010 to 2020. We are implementing the recommendations of that programme and are really seeing results, which is why we have talked about the UN going further and having longer lasting goals. Any approach that can avoid these deaths is valuable, because there is nothing more important than people’s lives. Money must be found to solve this problem so that we have fewer deaths on the roads and eventually bring the number down to zero.
There are not many members in the Chamber today, because it is Friday and most have already left, but I would like to mention that our committee discussed the report in great detail and adopted it unanimously, and many amendments suggested by our colleagues were made. Once again, I call for your support. We all think that a road traffic accident could never happen to us, but unfortunately it could. Let us improve our lives. I ask you to support this report.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Karapetyan, Does the chair of the committee wish to speak? You have the floor.
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – I thank the rapporteur, Ms Karapetyan, for her excellent work on this report. I also thank the committee. I would like to say that we found the help we received from experts very constructive.
Sometimes, we think this issue is not important. We each need to give a moment’s thought to someone we know whose life may have been impacted by a road traffic accident. We will then realise the importance of our committee’s report. If we are able to implement its recommendations we will be able to talk about prevention. Doing so is very important.
Ms Karapetyan mentioned that, late in the day on Friday as it is, there are not as many members as we would like in the Chamber, but in the committee there was a great deal of lively and interesting discussion. As chair, I say that if members of the Assembly simply read the report I am sure they will all learn something from it.
I thank Ms Karapetyan again. I also thank the secretariat of the committee and all colleagues for their hard work. I hope that we adopt the report and draft resolution, and start implementing some of the proposals in our countries.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Kyriakides. That brings the debate to a close.
The committee has submitted a draft resolution to which no amendments have been tabled. We will therefore now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 14081. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 14081 is adopted, with 19 votes for, 0 against and 2 abstentions.
3. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
The PRESIDENT* – The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees for ratification by the Assembly, set out in Document 14086 Addendum IV.
Is there any objection to the proposed references to committees?
There is no objection, so the references are approved.
I invite the Assembly to approve the decisions of the Bureau requiring ratification by the Assembly, as set out in Document 14086 Addendum IV. Are there any objections to approving those decisions? I do not see any.
The decisions of the Bureau as set out in Document 14086 are approved.
4. Voting champions
The PRESIDENT* – Before I close the third part-session of the 2016 Parliamentary Assembly session, I would like to announce the names of our voting champions. The parliamentarians who have voted in all votes are Ms Maury Pasquier of Switzerland from the Socialist Group and Mr Gunnarsson of Sweden, who is also from the Socialist Group. You may come up to the podium to receive your gifts.
5. End of the part-session
The PRESIDENT* – We have now come to the end of our part-session. I thank all members of the Assembly, particularly the rapporteurs of committees, for their hard work during this part-session.
On behalf of President Agramunt, I also thank all the Vice-Presidents who have assisted by presiding during sittings this week. They are Sir Roger Gale, Ms Gambaro, Ms Mateu, Mr Nikoloski, Ms Palihovici and Ms Schou – and I might also mention myself.
As always, I thank all the staff, including the interpreters who have faithfully translated our debates.
I announce that the fourth part of the 2016 session will be held from 10 to 14 October 2016.
I declare the third part-session of the 2016 session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe closed.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 12.05 p.m.)
1. Debate: Violence against migrants
Presentation by Mr Rigoni of the report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Document 14066
Speakers: Ms De Sutter, Ms Pallarés, Mr Howell, Mr Jónasson, Ms Johnsen, Ms Kyriakides, Mr Schennach, Ms Ohlsson, Ms Dobešová, Mr Melkumyan, Mr Psychogios, Mr Shahgeldyan, Mr Önal, Ms Ĺberg, Ms Kerestecioğlu Demir, Mr Reiss, Mr Fridez, Ms Pashayeva.
Draft resolution in Document 14066, as amended, adopted
2. Debate: Road safety in Europe as a public health priority
Presentation by Ms Karapetyan of the report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, Document 14081
Speakers: Mr van de Ven, Mr Jónasson, Mr Ghiletchi, Ms Bonet.
Draft resolution in document 14081 adopted
3. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
4. Voting champions
5. End of the part-session
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 12.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk
Lord Donald ANDERSON
Mehmet BABAOĞLU/Salih Firat
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Anna Maria BERNINI*
Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*
Andris BĒRZINŠ/Boriss Cilevičs
Tobias BILLSTRÖM/ Boriana Ĺberg
Mladen BOSIĆ/Saša Magazinović
Piet De BRUYN*
Joseph DEBONO GRECH*
Manlio DI STEFANO*
Francesc Xavier DOMENECH/Miren Edurne Gorrotxategui
Sir Jeffrey DONALDSON*
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Lady Diana ECCLES
Franz Leonhard EẞL*
Joseph FENECH ADAMI*
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU*
Doris FIALA/Manuel Tornare
Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Ivana Dobešová
Axel E. FISCHER
Sir Roger GALE*
Xavier GARCÍA ALBIOL*
José Ramón GARCÍA HERNÁNDEZ*
Mihai GHIMPU/ Alina Zotea
Francesco Maria GIRO
Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES
Rainer GOPP/ Karin Rüdisser-Quaderer
Alina Ștefania GORGHIU*
Emine Nur GÜNAY*
Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU*
Denis JACQUAT/ Frédéric Reiss
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Frank J. JENSSEN
Nina KASIMATI/Georgios Psychogios
Filiz KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR
Ksenija KORENJAK KRAMAR*
Yuliya L OVOCHKINA*
Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’*
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*
Luís LEITE RAMOS
Filippo LOMBARDI/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter
Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík
Meritxell MATEU/ Carles Jordana
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE*
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA*
Ana Catarina MENDES*
Anouchka van MILTENBURG*
Thomas MÜLLER/Hannes Germann
Hermine NAGHDALYAN/Mikayel Melkumyan
Florin Costin PÂSLARU*
Cezar Florin PREDA*
Lia QUARTAPELLE PROCOPIO*
Melisa RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ*
Helena ROSETA/António Filipe Rodrigues
Ingjerd SCHOU/Kristin Řrmen Johnsen
Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Egidijus Vareikis
İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN*
Leyla Şahin USTA*
Snorre Serigstad VALEN*
Mart van de VEN
Stefaan VERCAMER/Petra De Sutter
Vladimir VORONIN/Maria Postoico
Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN/André Schneider
Levon ZOURABIAN/Mher Shahgeldyan
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Sílvia Eloďsa BONET
Marko Antonio CORTÉS MENDOZA
Partners for Democracy