For debate in the Standing Committee — see Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure
18 July 2003
Rights of elderly migrants
Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography
Rapporteur: Mr Pasquale Nessa, Italy, Group of the European People's Party
People over 55 years of age represent a noticeable proportion of the immigrant population of Council of Europe member states. Arriving in the 50s and 60s following the economic boom in some western European countries, or as a result of decolonisation movements, they have settled, worked and lived most of their life in Council of Europe member states. Some of them have a history of hard physical labour or bad working conditions; others come from countries with low life expectancy; others have experienced stress due to racism, discrimination or poverty. Due to their past experience and age, these migrants can be considered as elderly. Their number is due to increase in the next decades, given the ageing of the population - including the population of migrant origin - in western Council of Europe member states. Council of Europe member states which are new immigration countries will soon experience the same phenomenon.
A coherent policy is needed to address the situation of elderly migrants in Council of Europe member states, whether they wish to remain in the host country or go back to their countries of origin. A comprehensive action should be conducted at the political and legislative level to protect the rights of elderly migrants, ensure their social inclusion and well-being at a delicate stage of their life, and avoid that they are subjected to a dual discrimination, both as elderly and migrants.
I. Draft recommendation
1. People over 55 years of age represent a noticeable proportion of the immigrant population of Council of Europe member states. Arriving in the 50s and 60s following the economic boom in some western European countries, or as a result of decolonisation movements, they have settled, worked and lived most of their life in Council of Europe member states. Some of them have a history of hard physical labour or bad working conditions; others come from countries with low life expectancy; others have experienced stress due to racism, discrimination or poverty. Due to their past experience and age, these migrants can be considered as elderly. Their number is due to increase in the next decades, given the ageing of the population - including the population of migrant origin - in traditional immigration countries. Council of Europe member states which are new immigration countries will soon experience the same phenomenon.
2. The Parliamentary Assembly recalls its previous recommendations in the field of ageing population and social care and security, including Recommendations 761 (1975) on payments of pensions in cases of mixed careers and on the establishment of a European passport of social security, 1573 (2002) on the ratification of the European Code of Social Security, 1254 (1994) on medical and welfare rights of the elderly: ethics and politics, and Resolution 1008 (1993) on social policies for elderly persons and their self-reliance. The Assembly also recalls the European Convention on Social Security (1977) and its Supplementary Protocol and regrets that, to date, this Convention has been ratified only by 8 Council of Europe member states and signed by an additional 5.
3. The Assembly is convinced that a coherent policy is needed to address the situation of elderly migrants in Council of Europe member states, whether they wish to remain in the host country or go back to their countries of origin. A comprehensive action should be conducted at the political and legislative level to protect the rights of elderly migrants, ensure their social inclusion and well-being at a delicate stage of their life, and avoid that they are subjected to a dual discrimination, both as elderly and migrants.
4. The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
i. instruct its relevant Committees to conduct research into the situation of elderly migrants in Council of Europe member states. Such research should embrace aspects such as demography, social inclusion, legal status, pension and other social rights;
ii. call on member states to:
a. develop coherent and comprehensive policies to address the situation of elderly migrants, through an inter-departmental approach involving the Ministries of Labour, Immigration, Health and Social Affairs and in consultation with the voluntary sector, community organisations and elderly migrants themselves;
b. sign and ratify the European Convention on Social Security (ETS No. 78);
c. ensure the portability of full pension rights for migrant workers, wherever they decide to take up residence;
d. ensure that criteria such as the knowledge of the language or the way of life of the host country are considered with flexibility when considering naturalisation applications from elderly migrants;
e. adapt the existing structures for the provision of health care and assistance to the elderly to make them culturally appropriate to the needs of elderly migrants, also through the provision of special training to social workers and health professionals;
f. encourage the employment of qualified personnel from an immigrant background in health care and assistance structures;
g. facilitate the access to health care and assistance services through the provision of interpretation upon demand for elderly migrants who are not able to communicate effectively in the language of the host country. This service should be available free of charge for destitute elderly migrants;
h. ensure that council and state housing be made available to meet the requirements of elderly migrants, bearing in mind the needs of homeless families and the particular facilities necessary for them;
i. provide clear information about access to social welfare, pension and health care in the host country and the country of origin and make it accessible to elderly migrants through public institutions as well as community centres, immigrant organisations, cultural centres and religious institutions frequented by immigrants;
j. encourage younger elderly migrants to (re)enter the labour market, if necessary granting access to vocational courses to reconvert skills and competences acquired during their previous work experience.
k. encourage the maintenance of links between elderly immigrants and their countries of origin, among other things through the organisation of cultural events, exhibitions and art performances and the support of language courses.
l. encourage cultural and educational activities involving elderly migrants;
m. promote socio-gerontological research for the better understanding of the situation of elderly migrants.
II. Explanatory memorandum by Mr Nessa
a. A historical perspective
1. As a result of the economic boom of the '50s and '60s western European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom experienced considerable labour migration inflows. The countries of origin of these migrants varied greatly, including many current Council of Europe member states, such as Turkey, as well as non Council of Europe member states. Today's elderly migrants are for the greatest part those who arrived in western Europe in those decades and decided to stay. In those years, migration inflows into the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and France, were also the result of the decolonisation process. In addition, a minority of elderly migrants is composed of people who have migrated to their host countries at an old age, as refugees or in the context of family reunification procedures. For these historical reasons, it is mainly in some western European states that considerable numbers of elderly migrants can be found. The situation in central and eastern Europe - as well as in some western European countries - is different since until fairly recently they were primarily countries of emigration. This situation, however, is changing: the importance of these states as new immigration countries is growing and therefore in the future they will also experience the presence of a considerable elderly migrant population.
2. It is not easy to speak of elderly migrants as a category: at an individual level, their situation can be very heterogeneous and depend highly on the degree of success of their personal experience of migration. However, it can be said that elderly migrants do belong to two groups who are often vulnerable to social exclusion: the elderly and migrants.
3. When the first waves of migrant labour arrived, both the migrants and their host societies considered this to be a temporary phenomenon and that after a certain period of work activity migrants would return to their countries of origin. Therefore host governments did not consider it necessary to devise specific policies addressing the situation of elderly migrants. Contrary to expectations, in most cases return has not taken place. For example, only one third of migrants who have worked in Switzerland and reached the retirement age have returned to their countries of origin. As a result, elderly migrants are largely ignored by governmental policies and have not found a way to have their voices heard. It seems that currently no Council of Europe member state has established an integrated and comprehensive policy to address the situation of elderly migrants in the main areas where problems are liable to occur, namely: income support, pension rights, housing, healthcare, communication and informal care. The problem, however, starts being raised at political level: in Denmark politicians are debating on whether elderly migrants and asylum seekers require special care, given that their number will double in 10 years' time.
4. The definition of 'elderly' is culturally related. For example, people who come from countries were life expectancy is considerably lower than in western countries often feel themselves both physically and mentally older than their counterparts from western countries. Many elderly migrants have also a history of hard physical labour that can make them ageing at a younger age. Therefore, the often-used age limit of 65 years to define the elderly can be too high when applied to elderly migrants. For the purposes of the present report, therefore, the Rapporteur will consider those migrants who are 55 years or older as elderly. It should be noted, however, that the background information used for the preparation of this report does not always use the same age criteria as your Rapporteur. The age range referred to in these documents varies from 45 years to 65 years and over. It should also be noted that some countries do not keep statistics on elderly migrants as such, but they include migrants in elderly ethnic minority groups (or minority ethnic population). Even if these two categories are theoretically different, in reality they come closer as far as elderly migrants are concerned: in the United Kingdom, for instance, 97% of the ethnic minority population aged 45 years or older were born outside the country.
5. There is no single source for statistical information about elderly migrants in Council of Europe member states and therefore several different sources had to be used for the preparation of the present report. These sources have used various ways to categorise elderly migrants and are not fully comparable, but they should give some kind of indication on the current numbers of elderly migrants and how these numbers are likely to change in the future.
6. There are some countries which already have considerable numbers of elderly migrants and where the numbers have been increasing steadily for some time. In Germany, in 1987 60 or above 60 years old migrants constituted 1,3% of the population; on the basis of estimates in 2010 this will be 6,4% and in 2020 9,8% of the population. In the United Kingdom, the whole ethnic minority population was estimated to be 4 million in 2000, which amounts to 7.1% of the total population. The proportion of the elderly ethnic minority population (aged 65 years or older) is just over 7% of the total ethnic minority population. In the Netherlands, there are 3.6 million elderly people (aged 55 or older), amounting approximately to 23% of the total population, of which about 100 000 are from ethnic minorities. The number of ethnic minority members in the 45-54 age group, however, is more than twice as large as the number of people aged 55 years or older, and it is estimated that by 2015 the size of the elderly ethnic minority population in the Netherlands will have grown to more than 300 000. In Sweden, there were 132 435 foreign-born elderly people (65 years and older) at the turn of the year 1998-1999. Compared with statistics for 1990, this represents an increase of 49 000 individuals and it is estimated that this number will greatly increase during the next few decades, irrespectively of future immigration. The Swedish National Statistics Office predicts that in 2010 there will be more than 200,000 foreign-born individuals in Sweden over the age of 65 years.
7. Other Council of Europe member states have considerably smaller numbers of elderly migrants. In Finland, there were 8 976 foreign-born elderly people (aged over 65 years) at the end of 1999. In Estonia there are only 400 elderly migrants registered.
8. The number of old elderly migrants, i.e. those who are 75 years or older, is still very limited in all Council of Europe member states.
2. Labour market, work conditions and pension rights
9. Immigrants who settled in western European countries in the '50s, '60s and early '70s often ended up in the lower ranks of the professional and social hierarchy. This was due to the specific labour requirements of the time. For example, in Germany, foreign workers were employed predominantly in the areas of industrial mass production, heavy industry and mining and were concentrated in few industrial sectors and professional groups. Since their employment was seen to be temporary, neither the state nor the employers invested much in the initial or further training of these groups, because this was not deemed as profitable. Moreover, given this background of temporary residence prospects, many migrants themselves did not undertake any efforts towards further vocational training.
10. The modernisation that has taken place in many areas has meant that qualifications have become increasingly more important. Employment opportunities for people without adequate education or recognised diplomas have become more rare. This has been one of the reasons why elderly migrants often have a history of low-paid and discontinued jobs, or even long-term unemployment.
11. Unemployment has often affected in a particular way immigrant communities. Not only do migrants run a higher risk of unemployment but also once they are unemployed, it is particularly difficult for them to find a new regular job with which they can contribute to pay their social security. For the majority of migrants, becoming unemployed usually means the end of their working life. This coupled with the fact that people close to retirement age often find it difficult to find a new job means that those elderly migrants who would still be fit to work find it almost impossible to re-enter the labour market.
12. A further consideration to be kept in mind is that in many cases migrants have bad health conditions, as a result of their work experience and stressing experiences. Therefore they are simply no longer fit to work even if they have not reached the official retirement age.
13. It has been observed that very often elderly migrants do not apply for retirement or age pension in the host country. This may be due to lack of information and unfamiliarity with the local social security system. Furthermore, broken careers - due to scattered and low-paid jobs and unemployment lead to weak old age pension rights (this is often the case, for example, in Belgium, the Netherlands and Nordic countries). In some countries (for instance Sweden, Norway and Finland) elderly migrants receive social benefits to integrate their poor old age pensions. In Sweden the Maintenance of the Elderly Scheme came into effect in the beginning of 2003: it is designed to provide income support to elderly migrants who have not worked in Sweden for long enough to be eligible for a retirement pension.
14. The question of portability of pension rights is particularly important to elderly migrants. Some of them would like to return to their countries of origin, but find that they cannot financially afford it because their pension rights cannot be transferred. This situation is not homogenous throughout Council of Europe member States. European Union citizens, for instance, can claim the pension rights matured in any EU country, in any EU country where they reside. In addition, if they have worked in different EU States they can accumulate the pension rights matured in each country. It should be noted that under EU law these provisions apply also to refugees and stateless persons legally residing in any EU member State.
15. However, the case of non-EU citizens having resided and worked legally in a EU country is more complicated. There is no EU legal framework, unless the person concerned is the spouse of a EU national. Outside these cases, every Council of Europe member State has its own regulation. Very often the issue is regulated by multilateral or bilateral agreements on social security between the State where the person has been working and the country of nationality. These agreements generally provide for equal rights for the citizens of the two countries on a condition of reciprocity. This can lead to different situations: in some systems, pension rights matured in a Council of Europe member State can be paid to a foreigner who does not reside any longer in the State where those rights were matured even if s/he resides in a country different from the country of nationality. For instance, someone who is entitled to a state pension from the United Kingdom can normally have this pension paid in any country.
16. Also in the case of the United Kingdom, however, there are some limitations. If someone is in receipt of a UK pension while living in a EU country, s/he will receive any increases in the State pension. If someone lives outside a EU country, pension increases can be paid only if they live in countries with which there is a specific agreement to this effect (Barbados, Bermuda, Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Serbia and Montenegro, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Guernsey, Mauritius, Philippines, Israel, Jamaica, Jersey, Malta, Sark, Switzerland, Slovenia, Turkey and the United States). In other countries pension would continue at the level paid at the time the person concerned moved from the UK.
17. The 2.5 million ethnic Turks residing in Germany present a relevant case of the issue of portability of pension rights. Some of them came to Germany as foreign workers following the 1961 agreement between Germany and Turkey on the recruitment of Turkish workers for the German labour market. Whereas the agreement has been suspended since 1973, many Turks have continued to emigrate to Germany. There are a number of social policy agreements in force between Germany and Turkey. These include in particular the social insurance agreement of 1964 together with an additional agreement of 1984, which gives Turks and Germans equal status in the other country with regard to health, pensions and accident insurance. Turkish workers can have the employee's pension contribution paid out to them on their return to Turkey as long as they do not take up any employment in Turkey which is subject to social insurance contributions. Financial transfers from Germany to Turkey on the basis of the social insurance agreement currently have a volume of approximately EUR 230 million p.a. and are expected to increase considerably.
18. In Italy, under a recent reform passed in 2003, foreign workers having acquired pension rights in Italy can transfer them to their countries of origin if they return there, when they reach 65 years of age. This is irrespective of any bilateral agreement on social security.
19. Within the Council of Europe a multilateral European Convention on Social Security (ETS No. 78) has been opened for signature and has been in force since 1977. It is integrated by a Supplementary Agreement (ETS No. 78A), which contains provisions for the immediate application of the European Convention on Social Security. The Convention applies to all persons who are nationals of a party, as well as refugees or stateless persons resident in the territory of a party, and who are or have been subject to the legislation of one or more of the parties, as well as the members of their families and their survivors. The Convention includes provisions on old-age benefits and survivors benefits and establishes four basic principles: equality of treatment, single set of legislation applicable, maintenance of acquired rights and rights in course of acquisition, and payment abroad. However, the Convention has been ratified only by 8 Council of Europe member States and signed (but not ratified) by additional 5 (including the Czech Republic and Moldova).
20. In the last decades there has been a remarkable change in the role of some Council of Europe member States from emigration to immigration countries. Besides, countries that had been completely closed to migration movements have become countries of emigration (Albania, Moldova, Poland, Russia) or countries of immigration (Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Slovenia). With a few exceptions, these countries are not part of bilateral or multilateral social security agreements to protect the pension rights acquired by their citizens abroad. Hardly any of these countries has provisions similar to the Italian legislation, allowing workers returning to their country to benefit from their pensions irrespective of the existence of a social security agreement to this effect. In addition, many of them will not become EU members in a foreseeable future (or have not even applied) and therefore will not benefit from the special treatment reserved to EU nationals exercising their right to free movement and settlement.
21. The length of legal residence represents one of the main conditions to apply for citizenship in all Council of Europe member states. For example, in Austria, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, and Slovenia it is necessary to have resided legally for 10 years; in Germany and Hungary for 8 years; while in the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, 5 years are sufficient.
22. Elderly migrants are very often eligible to naturalisation because of the length of time they have been legally residing in the host country. In case where the competent authorities of the host country consider additional elements when deciding over a naturalisation request, they are often in a very good position, since they may have worked, founded a family, in a nutshell they may have built strong links with the host country. On the other hand, recently some Council of Europe member states have introduced additional requirements for granting citizenship, namely the knowledge of the language and way of life of the host country (for instance in Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). Even if such requirements have been introduced in an attempt to reinforce the integration of naturalised immigrants, they may result in discriminatory effects against elderly migrants. It is well known that many of them have difficulties in learning the language of the host country, also due to their poor degree of literacy, and can communicate but not completely fluently even when they have been living in the host country for a long period of time. In addition elderly migrants tend to live with their families and in ethnically homogeneous areas, sometimes not necessarily out of their choice but because of the allocation system for state/council housing, or because of the low-cost of accommodation. As a result, they have spent most of the time in the host country speaking their own language of origin. The same can be said for the language spoken at work: very often recruitment is based on word-of-mouth among people belonging to the same nationality, and often people of the same nationality work in the same firm, farm or company. Your Rapporteur, therefore, wishes to recommend Council of Europe member states to apply these new naturalisation criteria with flexibility when receiving applications from elderly migrants, so not to penalising them in having access to the nationality of the host country.
23. Another issue that your Rapporteur would like to raise is the acquisition of nationality by people who go back to their country of origin, of which they have never had or have lost the nationality. Council of Europe member states should modify their law to allow facilitated access or reacquisition of nationality in such cases. This legislation change would have an important and humane impact on the life of elderly people coming back to their countries of origin, from which they often had to depart against their will.
4. Language, family and housing conditions
24. The knowledge of the language of the host country is very important for all migrants, but has special implications in relation to elderly migrants: as your Rapporteur mentioned above, in many cases elderly migrants do not have a good knowledge of the language of their host country even if they have resided there over a long period of time.
25. Even if they are offered the possibility, some elderly migrants do not feel motivated to study the language of the host country. There are several reasons for this; some of them believe that they are too old to learn anything new, some have never studied other languages or are even illiterate and find the idea of participating to a language course too daunting. Some are unwilling to participate in language classes with younger people, because they are afraid of the attitude that the youth would have towards them. Poor health can also play a role in making it difficult to attend classes. It should also be considered that many elderly refugees have suffered traumatic experiences which may have affected their learning and concentration skills. Also the idea that their stay in the host country is temporary affects the motivation to learn the local language. Finally, some elderly migrants feel that they do not need to be able to speak the language of the host countries in order to manage their daily lives, especially because in their cultures it may be the task of their children or other younger relatives to take care of the elderly.
26. For those migrants who have used the language of the host country at work, the capability to express themselves in the local languages often decreases greatly when they retire. Also memory problems related to ageing can affect language skills.
27. The knowledge of the language of the host country is a powerful means of integration. For younger elderly migrants language skills facilitate the access to the labour market. For all elderly migrants, better knowledge of the language reduces the dependence on others. Getting in touch with neighbours, looking for housing, participating in social activities, visiting doctors, coming in contact with the administration become challenging activities without a good knowledge of the language. Therefore, it is important to offer elderly migrants the possibility to study the language of the host country, through courses which are accessible to them in ways that would be more suitable for them. These include, for example, slower pace in teaching, special attention to everyday spoken language and more informal teaching. In addition, interpretation and translation services should be made available to elderly migrants who request it, in order to deal with doctors, with the administration or other essential service-providers.
28. In general, migrants are not completely familiar with the housing market of the host country. Besides, sometimes states pose some restrictions to housing availability for migrants: some of them have regulations restricting owner-occupancy by migrants; for example, in Sweden until 1994 only migrants who had acquired Swedish citizenship or married a Swedish citizen could buy a house. Now the requirement is that a migrant has lived in Sweden for at least 5 years. On the other hand in the United Kingdom council housing was practically not accessible for most migrants since beneficiaries should have resided in the area for a certain time. Therefore buying cheap proprieties or renting were the main housing option for many migrants. It has been noted that many elderly migrants live in the worse quality housing in terms of size, poor design, poor insulation and disrepair. More often than their non-migrant contemporaries, they live in housing that is not suitable to old people, e.g. with stairs, and hardly any elderly migrants lives in housing specifically designed for the elderly.
29. Elderly migrants often consider important to live with or close to their family, or to live close to a place of religious worship, local shops and other facilities, or simply other people from their ethnic background. When this is not possible they feel socially isolated. The preference of many elderly migrants for living in extended families often means that they suffer from overcrowding, since most houses are not designed for this type of living.
5. Health and social questions
30. Health and medical services occupy an important place in the lives of all elderly people. In general, it has been found that unfavourable socio-economic position and low level of education correlate with poorer health. A larger proportion of elderly migrants encounter these unfavourable factors than the rest of the population. These are coupled with risk factors specific to migrants such as high unemployment and incapacity rates as well as previous stressful working conditions, and other factors resulting from often stressful experiences as migrants, including experiences of xenophobia and racism as well as feelings of homesickness and dislocation. It is also important to note that many elderly migrants come from countries where life expectancy is relatively low, which can also affect their health condition. Elderly migrants perceive themselves less healthy than other elderly people. Whether they are actually less healthy is unclear, but it is obvious that people's own perception of their health is as such an important measure of their condition.
31. As already mentioned, elderly migrants often have worse health than other people in their age group. This is due to the hard working conditions and often stressful experiences as migrants including experiences of xenophobia and racism. The latter probably explains - at least partly - that several studies of the self-assessment of the health status show that elderly migrants feel that they are in worse health conditions than the other elderly even when “objectively” there is no difference.
32. Elderly migrants residing legally in Council of Europe member States use very little or not at all the health services they are entitled to. They also distrust their quality. There are several reasons for this: lack of sufficient knowledge of the language, poor knowledge among migrants of patients' rights, insufficient communication skills to explain fully to doctors and other health professionals what the problem is. Moreover, the lack of self-confidence about their legal status further compounds the problem of dealing with the administration. In some countries (UK and Netherlands) it has been noted that although elderly migrants are high users of the primary care services they are less likely to gain access to the appropriate health services and treatment. Employees in social and health care services cannot usually speak the migrant's language and are unaware of the culture and background of elderly migrants. Many elderly migrants therefore get informal care and assistance from their children and other relatives and therefore often fall short in meeting the specific needs of elderly migrants. For example, many elderly migrants would like to be examined and cared by members of their own sex, or the hospital diet does not take into account religious dietary regimes and people's preference for their own cuisine. The command of the host language can also effect level of service that elderly migrants get. In many cases the medical and health care staff do not have a full understanding of these shortcomings, but feel that they have already taken into account the needs of elderly migrants.
33. There are several care providers aiming at assisting elderly people to live independently as long as possible. It seems that in many cases elderly migrants are not familiar with these services, such as meal provision, alerting services, district nursing or day care and recreational activities, or do not want to use them because these services often lack cultural sensitivity. Many elderly migrants, therefore, rely heavily on informal care and assistance they get from their children and other relatives. The lack of cultural sensitivity concerns also residential and nursing homes. However, there seem to be some good examples of multicultural approach, for example, a residential scheme called Abyssinia in London, which caters for each ethnic groups' dietary needs, has a prayer room with provision for different faiths and also celebrates all major religious festivals to help to break down barriers between ethnic groups. Overall, very few elderly migrants live in care homes. This is partly due to the fact that only very few of them are “older elderly” (aged 75 or over) - who are the most in need for this type of service. Another reason is that many elderly migrants have negative attitudes towards care homes. Beside the lack of cultural sensitivity, this is because many elderly migrants come from countries which do not have - or at least did not have at the time when migrants left the country - an organised system of professional facilities for the care of elderly. In the countries of origin, care for elderly consisted almost entirely of informal care, and many elderly migrants would like to see this tradition to continue. Institutional care is often seen as a failure of the care provided by the family, and admittance to a care home something to be ashamed of. There is obviously some uncertainty whether the younger generation will follow these traditions. It is also worth noticing that elderly migrants often do not receive appropriate social care because of racism, which can be overt or inadvertent and exists at individual and institutional levels, including professional assumptions that care will be provided by the elderly's family.
34. There are also other issues affecting the social well-being of elderly migrants. Inter-generational issues are especially important to elderly migrants, including the extent to which their children adapt to the customs and way of life of their host society or follow the traditions of their country of origin and the attitudes of elderly migrants towards that. An important psychological issue is that elderly migrants often have not emotionally decided where they want to spend their last years. Many of them would like to return home. However, in reality, many decide to remain in the host country because of their children and grandchildren, better social security systems, living standards, safety and political stability. Although the abandonment of plans to return to the country of origin can also be seen as a sign of increased integration in the host country, in some cases elderly migrants have become outsiders for their countries of origin, but at the same time they remain foreigners to the host country.
6. Conclusions and recommendations
35. Your Rapporteur believes that the Council of Europe should establish coherent policies to address the situation of elderly migrants in Council of Europe member states, whether they wish to remain in the host country or go back to their countries of origin. This action is particularly necessary in the following areas:
a. Labour market: efforts should be made to stimulate younger elderly migrants to (re)enter the labour market and appropriate vocational training should be provided or reconvert their skills and previous professional experience;
b. Social security and pension rights: Council of Europe member States should be strongly encouraged to sign and ratify multilateral social security agreements, such as the European Convention on Social Security (ETS No. 78), or otherwise to conclude bilateral social security agreements; otherwise, Council of Europe member states should make it possible under their legislation to pay pensions to migrants having returned to their country of origin or habitual residence and having worked legally on their territories, irrespective of the existence of a social security agreement to this effect;
c. Naturalisation/access to citizenship: Criteria such as the knowledge of the language of the host country or its way of life should be interpreted with flexibility by the authorities considering naturalisation applications from elderly migrants; access or reacquisition of nationality should be facilitated for people returning to their countries of origin and who never had or had lost its nationality;
d. Access to information: information about the existing social welfare and public health care institutions should be improved and made accessible to elderly migrants. To this effect there is a need for an innovative, structural and continued interculturalisation of the existing institutions in the fields of public service, healthcare, and social welfare, and the ways they use to communicate with their 'customers'. In this regard it is also important to remember that many elderly migrants are illiterate and they need to have access to audiovisual and other non-written information. Authorities should also provide practical information about receiving social benefits abroad;
e. Health care and assistance: in general, and given the information considered so far for the preparation of the present memorandum, there is no need to create new forms of care support for elderly migrants. There is a strong need, however, to adapt the existing structures and make them more 'culturally appropriate' also through the provision of special training to social workers and health professionals working with elderly migrants. The employment of qualified personnel from an immigrant background should be encouraged. Elderly migrants should be effectively consulted and involved in the development and provision of culturally sensitive services. There is also need for more research on the situation of elderly migrants in Council of Europe member states.
36. Finally, your Rapporteur believes that those elderly migrants who decide not to come back to their countries of origin should be given the opportunity of maintaining close contacts with their countries of origin and the political, social, and cultural developments which occur in such countries. Old age is a very delicate stage of the life of a person, particularly for those who left their homes when they were young and have therefore lost touch with the changing reality of their countries of origin.
37. In order to develop a coherent and comprehensive policy to address the situation of elderly migrants, Council of Europe member states should apply an inter-departmental approach involving the Ministries of Labour, Immigration, Health and Social Affairs, and when existing the Ministry for nationals abroad, and establish consultation structures involving the voluntary sector, community organisations and elderly migrants themselves
Reporting Committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography.
Reference to committee: Doc. 9443, Ref. No. 2730 on 29.5.2002.
Draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the Committee on 26 June 2003.
Members of the Committee: Mr Iwiński (Chairperson), Mr Einarsson (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Bušić (2nd Vice-Chairperson), Mrs de Zulueta (3rd Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Akgün, MM. Akhvlediani, Alibeyli, Arabadjiev (alternate: Kirilov), de Arístegui (alternate: Agramunt), Arzilli, Bernik, Van den Brande, Branger, Braun, Brînzan, Brunhart, Cabrnoch, Çavusoğlu, Christodoulides, Cilevičs, Çörüz, Dačič, Danieli, Debarge (alternate: Salles), Debono Grech, Dmitrijevas, Dokle, Donabauer, Dubié, Mrs Err, Mrs Filipiová, Mr Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg, Mrs Frimannsdóttir, MM. Grzesik, Grzyb, Gülçiçek, Hagberg, Hancock, Higgins, Mrs Hoffmann, MM. Hovhannisyan, Ilaşcu, Jovašević, Lord Judd, Mr Karpov, Mrs Kósá-Kovács, MM. Koulouris (alternate: Ms Katseli), Kulikov, Kvakkestad (alternate: Akselsen), Le Guen, Liapis, Loutfi, Matviychuk, Mrs Nabholz-Haidegger, MM. Naro, Nasufi, Nessa, Olin, Popa, Prijmireanu, Puche, Raguž, Rakhansky, Reymann, Mrs Saks, Mrs Shakhtakhtinskaya (alternate: Mr Aliyev), MM. Slutsky, Soendergaard (alternate: Poulsen), Mrs Stoisits, MM. Stübgen, Tekelioğlu, Tkáč, Vera Jardim, Mrs Vermot-Mangold, MM. Vieira, Wilkinson, Wray (alternate: Etherington), Yáñez-Barnuevo, Zavgayev, Zhirinovsky (alternate: Ms Gamzatova), Mrs Zwerver.
N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.
Secretariat of the committee: Mr Lervik, Mrs Nachilo, Mrs Sirtori-Milner