Doc. 10435

25 January 2005

The Third Summit

Opinion1

Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population

Rapporteur: Mr John Wilkinson, United Kingdom, European Democrat Group

I.       Conclusions of the Committee

1.       The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population proposes amendments to the draft recommendation contained in the report of the Political Affairs Committee to underline the increasing political importance given to the problems of migration, refugees and demography.

2.       One of the amendments proposes the use of the Council of Europe as a platform for activities and projects that will call to mind the sufferings of victims of forced population movements and ethnic cleansing with a view to creating a European political and civil environment in which such tragedies will never happen again.

3.       Another amendment aims at strengthening the Council of Europe's capacity and capability to deal with the increasingly important problems resulting from and linked to migration.

4.       Finally, one amendment is aimed at reiterating political support at the highest level for the protection, respect and improvement of the international regime in favour of refugees as defined by the 1951 Geneva Convention and its 1967 Protocol and supplemented by the European Convention on Human Rights. It is suggested that the Council of Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) seek a closer co-operation to achieve this objective. A special emphasis is also given to the co-operation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

II.       Proposed amendments to the draft recommendation

Amendment 1:

In the draft recommendation, at the end of paragraph 5, add the following words:

"and to commemorate formally the sufferings of many Europeans resulting from forced population movements and ethnic cleansing during the last century with a decision in principle to create a centre of European remembrance for the victims of such evils".

Amendment 2:

In the draft recommendation, in paragraph 6, after the word "terrorism", add the following words:

", migration, demographic change".

Amendment 3:

In the draft recommendation, in paragraph 6, after the word "minorities", add the following words:

"and refugees"

Amendment 4:

In the draft recommendation, at the end of paragraph 15, add the following words:

"and fruitful co-operation on all matters within the competence of the Council of Europe"

Amendment 5:

In the draft recommendation, in paragraph 18 (ii) b, after the word "bodies", add the following words:

"such as UNHCR and UNICEF".

Amendment 6.

In the draft recommendation, after paragraph 18 (ii) d, add the following paragraph:

"create a European Migration Agency with the aim of defending human rights and dignity whilst monitoring all aspects of migration and the situation of migrants including a dialogue with non-member countries of the Council of Europe (Assembly Recommendation 1655 (2004))".

III.       Explanatory memorandum by Mr. John Wilkinson

1.       Introduction

1.       The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, as its name clearly states, covers three major political areas, that through-out the history of the Council of Europe have marked the work of the Parliamentary Assembly and the intergovernmental work programme. Already in 1950, the Assembly voted a Recommendation 30 (1950) on the urgent necessity of assistance to refugees, and the same year a resolution 18 (1950) asking for the creation of a European Refugees Office.

2.       The work of the Assembly continued during the early 1950s to focus on European refugee problems, but soon also included reports related to the baby boom following the 2nd world war. Thus in 1952 the Assembly adopted a Recommendation 34 (1952) on measures to be adopted for increasing emigration overseas due to the rapidly increasing population of Western Europe. As a result of another recommendation by the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers in 1953 appointed a Special Representative of the Council of Europe for National Refugees and Over-Population, Mr Pierre Schneiter, former Minister of Health and Population and former President of the French National Assembly.

3.       Problems related to population, migration and refugees have changed during the years, but they have always been of fundamental importance for European policies in different areas. This is also true to day and will certainly be so even more in the future. It is therefore natural that these major European policy-areas be addressed by Heads of State and Government of member states of the Council of Europe when meeting at the Third Summit in May 2005 in Warsaw with a view to assess the Council's role in these fields and to give new impetus to the Council's work.

2.       The European Population Problem

4.       The second half of the last century was still characterised by population growth in all major regions of Europe. This growth was strongest in Southern and Eastern Europe. The picture today and for the future is different and caused mainly by two trends: an increase in the ageing population and a drop in fertility. Thus, according to UN forecasts, there will be a population decline in the whole of Western Europe as from 2010, whereas the decline in Russia and Eastern Europe has already started and is much more pronounced.

5.       Assuming constancy in fertility and mortality rates at the level of 2000, the population of Europe would decline from its present level of some 700 million to around 350 million in 2050 (of a total world population of estimated 9.000 million). The population of 65 years and over will reach about 30% of the population by the year 2050, up from 8% in 1950 and 14% in 2000. The proportion of the economically active population (20 – 59 age group) will drop to less than 50%.

6.       It is evident that such developments will need to be addressed in political terms. The most urgent problem may be to reform member countries' present pension systems. A second concern is whether the health systems are capable of responding to the different age structure. Another question regards economic progress and if it can continue with drastic reductions in manpower. To which extent will outsourcing of activities influence European societies, or do we need more immigration? Will a reorganisation of the relations between work and family-life bring new life to an ageing continent?

7.       Member countries may be well advised to seek closer co-operation on demographic analyses and on debates on consequences for different policy areas. It is against this background that your rapporteur welcomes the holding of a major European Population Conference in April 2005 on Demographic Challenges for Social Cohesion. It is particularly useful that policy-makers at local and regional levels as well as in central government and parliament will take part in this event, which could bring new impetus to this work in the Council of Europe and its member states. The Conference will not be about counting people, but will focus on policy-measures to make people count.

3.       Migration related challenges

8.       At the start of the twenty-first century, one out of every 35 persons worldwide was an international migrant, or a total of approximately 175 million. The annual flow of migrants has been estimated to between 5 and 10 million, the latter figure represents roughly 1/10th of the annual growth in world population. According to some estimates as many as 2 million women and children could be the victims of trafficking each year. In 2000 the migrant stock of Europe was 56.1 million (according to the UN), which meant 7.7% of the total population.

9.       While borders are coming down within Europe, intra-European migration movements will become more and more part of our daily life. Migration policies will therefore increasingly focus on migration movements into Europe, but also from Europe (the problem of brain drain).

10.       Migration management, including the integration of migrants in Council of Europe member states, has become a priority issue on the European political agenda. Each Council of Europe member country is increasingly trying to come to grips with problems linked to migration and migrants, and in particular problems of irregular migration and trafficking, but also social tensions provoked by extremist groups of migrant origin as well as of the host society. The Parliamentary Assembly's recommendation 1577 (2002) for the Creation of a charter of intent on clandestine migration was a positive initiative.

11.       The working out of solutions to these problems demands a closer pan-European co-operation. And such co-operation must extend beyond the Council of Europe member states, involving countries of origin as well as countries of transit and destination for migration movements.

12.       The many reports of the Assembly on improvements of European legislation and practices with regard to integration, the handling of irregular migration and migrants, human trafficking and the victims thereof give proof of the need to strengthen the Council of Europe's capacity to serve member states in this area.

13.       The holding of Euro-Mediterranean, Euro-Asian and Euro-Americas parliamentary encounters on migration, organised by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, have clearly illustrated the interest for the Council of Europe in developing a political dialogue with its neighbouring regions – of origin or transit for migration movements.

14.       Your rapporteur, consequently, give his full support to Assembly Recommendation 1655 (2004) on the creation of a European Migration Observatory/Agency within the Council of Europe and in close co-operation with the European Union and other relevant international bodies. This is fully in line with the declaration from the joint meeting of the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly, which took place on 25 September 2003.

15.       The main added value of the new European Migration Agency is that it will help putting the focus in the migration debate on human rights and human dignity. Its work will thus be complementary to the work of other intergovernmental organisations with regard to migration management as well as concerning irregular migration, the situation of irregular migrants and the integration of migrants. It could be an important instrument for the preparation of legal instruments in these fields, for example by drawing up a charter of intent on clandestine migration, mentioned above.

16.       The Agency could become an important instrument in promoting dialogue between countries of origin, transit and destination of migration, including with non-member countries of the Council of Europe. It can be entrusted with the development of the concept of co-development and the creation of the framework for the implementation of co-development policies between the countries of North and South, East and West. The elaboration of the Ethical Charter of the Council of Europe on co-development could be another important task of the Agency. It could also exploit the Council’s structure for the active involvement of Governments, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and NGOs in its work.

4.       Refugees, Asylum and the problem of internally displaced persons

17.       Europe has known forced population movements throughout centuries. In the 20th century the Great War gave rise to migration of a wholly new scale, involving millions of people. This period was followed by economic migration into the most industrialised countries and regions and the return movements linked to the economic recession. The coming into power of fascist governments led to new refugee movements. In the Soviet Union mass deportations also started from the 1930s and were also carried out following the Soviet invasions of the Baltic states and Poland as a result of the Molotov Ribbentrop pact.

18.       The Second World War caused millions of deaths and forced vast numbers of people to flee racial and political persecution. The end of the war was followed by migration on a massive scale involving in particular Germans, Poles and Czechs, but also many others.

19.       The “Cold War” period resulted in refugee movements from East to West. The reconstruction efforts and the rapid expansion of industrial production mixed with decolonisation led to a new wave of economic migration. The emergence of military, non-democratic and authoritarian regimes, particularly in various Third World countries, forced many individuals and members of political movements to flee their countries and seek asylum, including in Europe. The independence of many former West European colonies led to huge migration flows to their former “mother countries” in Western Europe.

20.       The break-up of the Soviet Union led to new migratory movements, mostly for groups of people to return to their home lands. Following the break-up of Yugoslavia, new refugee waves to all parts of Europe were caused by wars and ethnic cleansing.

21.       The Parliamentary Assembly, since its creation, carefully followed these tragedies affecting Europeans and it made recommendations for the Council's intergovernmental work on how to better cope with such human disasters. The main emphasis was on the protection of the Human Rights and Dignity of those who had been forced to flee their countries or had been forcibly uprooted within their own countries.

22.       Your rapporteur is of the opinion that the Council of Europe must take action with a view to avoid similar human tragedies in Europe for the future and at the same time honour the memory of all those individuals and groups who un-rightly were forced to suffer such injustice, violating their human rights and dignity. In this connexion the Assembly should give its full support to the report drawn up by Mr Einarsson on the creation of a European remembrance centre for victims of forced population movements and ethnic cleansing. This item should be one of the main items on the agenda of the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the member states of the Council of Europe.

23.       The Holocaust and their victims have another dimension compared to the scope of Mr Einarsson's report and should, as is the case, be dealt with separately, although strong links may arise in the work on the two themes.

24.       Unfortunately, people are still being persecuted in many parts of the world and even in Europe, leading them to flee their homelands. Some are taken care of close to their countries of origin, others wish to seek asylum in Europe or elsewhere. With tight employment markets in Europe, many migrants, most of them irregular, try to use the asylum system to get entry into Europe, although most of them do not qualify for obtaining refugee status. The 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, which defined the responsibilities of States toward refugees, are not sufficient to address all the pressing issues pertaining to refugees' protection in today's world. To respond to questions on how durable solutions for refugees can be pursued more effectively and how the responsibility for admitting and protecting refugees can best be shared, the UNHCR has launched the "Convention Plus" process.

25.       The three main priority areas for new multilateral agreements under the “Convention Plus Initiative” have been identified as follows:

–       agreements designed to ensure more effective and predictable responses to mass influxes of refugees;

–       development assistance designed to achieve more equitable burden sharing and to promote refugee self sufficiency in host countries, local integration in areas hosting refugees, and reintegration in countries of origin;

–       multi-lateral commitments to offer third-country resettlements to vulnerable refugees.

26.       For the European region, the issue of the strategic use of resettlement is of special importance. The Convention Plus approach to this problem suggests to use resettlement as a protection tool, a durable solution as well as an instrument of burden sharing. It means that the quality of resettlement should be improved and countries with a more developed economy should significantly increase their capacities for resettlement. A committed effort to resettle a sizeable number of refugees from states hosting large numbers of refugees for protracted periods may lead to greater ability and willingness to continue to protect and find other durable solutions for those refugees who remain.

27.       It is against this background that your rapporteur believes that a closer cooperation is needed between the Council of Europe and the UNHCR with a view to guarantee the right for refugees to seek asylum in Council of Europe member states. It is equally important to observe the basic rights of irregular migrants as guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights as well as in other international treaties. Such closer cooperation is particularly timely in order to assist the UNHCR in developing its new “Convention Plus Initiative”, which aims at enhancing and broadening the refugee protection regime.

5.       Conclusions

28.       Your rapporteur is convinced that, in the near future, population and migration issues will become even more important in the European political debate – at regional, national and European levels. Unfortunately, due to poverty and disregard for human rights and democracy there will also in the future be refugees seeking asylum in Council of Europe member countries. Migration movements will also be caused by natural and man made disasters. For these reasons, and as described above, the Council of Europe needs to take steps to improve its capacity and capability for management and monitoring of migration movements by setting up, in close co-operation with the European Union, a pan-European Migration Agency as called for in Assembly Recommendation 1655 (2004).

29.       The 20th century has shown us how fragile the stability of our society and democracy can be, resulting in the suffering of millions of Europeans fleeing atrocities committed in the name of ethnicity, religion, government policy or for other reasons. Europe must invest in projects that will remind of the sufferings of those who had to flee their homes and at the same time take new initiatives with a clear aim of preventing such human suffering from happening again on our continent. The Council of Europe could be the umbrella organisation to host such a project in the form of a European remembrance centre for forced population movements and ethnic cleansing as proposed in Assembly Recommendation … (2005).

30.       The right of refugees to seek asylum is guaranteed by the 1951 Geneva Convention and its 1967 Protocol. The European Convention on Human Rights also defends the basic rights of refugees. The present stress on the asylum regime in Europe and elsewhere has led to the introduction of new practices and legislation that in some cases undermine the refugee protection regime at a time when the UNHCR is launching a new “Convention Plus Initiative” to enhance and broaden refugee protection. The Parliamentary Assembly must put its weight behind the defence of an improved asylum regime by asking the Heads of State and Government of the member states of the Council of Europe, on the occasion of the Third Summit, to encourage closer cooperation between the Council of Europe and the UNHCR for the defence of refugee rights. UNICEF is another privileged partner in this context.

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Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee

Committee for opinion: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population

Reference to committee: Doc. 10272 and Reference No. 3001 of 8 October 2004

Opinion approved by the Committee on 24 January 2005

Secretaries to the committee: Mr Lervik, Mr Neville, Ms Kostenko, Ms Sirtori-Milner


1        See Doc. 10381 prov. tabled by the Political Affairs Committee.