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Joint Declaration, Athens 11 May 2007


Athens, 11 May 2007

Members of the two Committees meeting in Athens on 10 – 11 May 2007 attended a Seminar on the Situation of Migrants and Refugees in Greece and had a separate joint meeting. They heard addresses from Mr. Sotirios Hatzigakis, Vice-President of the Hellenic Parliament, Mr. Vyron Polydoras, Minister of Public Order, Mr. Georges Kaminis, Greek Ombudsman and Mr. Alexandros Zavos, Chairman of the Institute for Migration Policy, Greece.

The participants agreed to the following declaration:

1. Migration in the Euro-Mediterranean Region has reached new dimensions with regard to the number of regular and irregular migrants, entering or seeking to enter Europe or transiting through countries on the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean shores;

2. Mass arrivals of irregular migrants and asylum seekers pose particular problems  in terms of giving individuals access to asylum processes and, where appropriate, returning persons to countries of origin or countries of transit;

3. Measures to tackle irregular migration must focus on fighting criminal gangs involved in smuggling and trafficking of migrants, but also on informing potential victims of trafficking and smuggling about the dangers involved;

4. A number of countries having important numbers of irregular migrants on their territories have implemented regularisation programmes. These offer irregular migrants the possibility to stay and work, and enjoy a regular status, and they also allow migrants to take part in social security schemes and make tax contributions;

5. Many European countries are in need of labour for different economic sectors or services, either seasonal or permanent, long term or short term. These countries can offer legal labour migration opportunities.

6. Europe’s population will shrink by 67 million by the year 2050 according to a recent UN report. The population will also age. 30% of the population will be over the age of 65 by the year 2050, as compared to 15% today. Europe will therefore need migration if it wishes to safeguard its economy and social security and pension systems.

7. The South-Eastern shores of the Mediterranean will also face important demographic changes with reduced fertility rates and a greying of the population, but will still have a greater share of young people, some of whom will be looking for opportunities abroad;

8. It is therefore in the interest of Euro-Mediterranean countries to work closer together for the monitoring of migration processes and for the protection of human rights of migrants, as well as for their integration in the host country and regarding their possibilities of return (circular migration);

9. Co-development policies, including the transfer and use of remittances, but also programmes to increase circular migration, making migration a “brain gain” process as well as a process to foster inter-cultural enrichment and understanding could be conceived as a cooperative venture;

10. A mechanism that could considerably help the different stakeholders to improve their co-operation on migration issues would be the setting up of a Euro-Mediterranean Migration Observatory as asked for in Assembly Recommendation 1737 (2006) on New trends and challenges for Euro-Mediterranean migration policies, and also analysed in Recommendation 1655 (2004) on a European Migration Observatory/Agency;

11. Participants noted that the Greek authorities in 2004 in a letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe offered to host such an Observatioy/Agency/Centre. The Chair of the Greek Delegation to the Assembly in October 2006 in a letter to the Bureau of the Assembly asked for the Assembly’s support for this initiative. The Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Karamanlis, addressing the Parliamentary Assembly on 24 January 2007 made the following statement:

“As Greece lies in South-East Europe, at the border of the (European) Union, it is faced with the daunting challenge of addressing strong migratory flows. It is thus natural that my government attaches great importance to making migration issues a high priority. We participate in all relevant forums, and our extensive expertise in the field suggests that there is ample margin to improve co-operation among national and international migration policies throughout Europe. Migration is linked to one of the highest priorities in the Council of Europe: the promotion of social cohesion. We are convinced that this Organisation, as the only truly pan-European body on the continent, has an important role to play in this context. That is why, together with the Parliamentary Assembly, we continue to support the idea of setting up a European migration observatory/agency under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Such a body would co-operate directly with the European Union. Last but not least, Greece has offered – we insist on this – to host the agency. We are aware of the Council of Europe’s budgetary constraints, but we believe that migration issues, especially this project, merit further consideration and discussion.”

12. The participants agreed that this Observatory should be a joint venture between different organisations with a specific interest in migration issues, such as the European Union, the International Organisation for Migration, the International Labour Organisation, the Council of Europe and other stakeholders, not least local and regional authorities and non-governmental organisations, trade unions, employers unions and the private sector;

13. The Council of Europe’s participation should be based on its main task in the migration field, which is to devise projects, strategies and norms with particular emphasis given to its core mission, consisting of defending human rights and dignity, strengthening democracy and applying the rule of law;

14. The Council of Europe’s contribution to the Observatory’s mission would, in particular, consist of addressing the human rights of migrants, including irregular migrants, and promoting democratic processes involving migrants, which could foster the development of democracy in countries of origin and would promote integration of migrants in host countries;

15. The two Committees agree with the Prime Minister that the creation of such an Observatory should be accorded, and give their strong support to the Greek authorities to pursue their efforts aimed at the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Migration Observatory in Greece. The Council of Europe, the European Union and the International Organization for Migration are asked to give their full support to this initiative and assist in the creation of such an Observatory and in defining its mission and organisational structure.


Mr. Melvüt Çavuşoğlu                             
Chair, Committee on Migration,                          
Refugees andPopulation,   PACE                                                                                                          

Mrs. Elsa Papadimitriou
Chair, Migration Committee
Hellenic Parliament



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