Doc. 10758

7 December 2005

Integration of immigrant women in Europe

Report

Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

Rapporteur: Mrs Gülsün Bilgehan, Turkey, Socialist Group

Summary

Women - yesterday’s “invisible figures of immigration” - make up nearly half of all immigrants today and constitute a factor of social cohesion for the receiving countries in Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly denounces the two-fold discrimination to which they are subjected on the grounds of their gender and their origin in receiving countries and within immigrant communities themselves and calls upon Council of Europe member states to take specific measures to consolidate the fundamental rights of immigrant women in Europe.

The Assembly calls upon member states to promote the participation of immigrant women in public, economic, social and political life, in particular through the learning of the receiving country’s language, the putting into place of measures to combat the two-fold discrimination suffered by immigrant women on the labour market, the pursuance of active policies to combat racial discrimination and the promotion of information and awareness-raising campaigns in the media and in schools to increase the standing and the role of immigrant women in the host societies and to overcome stereotypes confining immigrant women to subordinate and passive roles.

Finally, the Assembly underlines the necessity of involving men in the process of integrating immigrant women, which must include information on democratic values and fundamental human rights in the receiving countries, including equality between women and men. The participation of men – fathers, spouses, brothers – in integration activities and the refusal of all types of cultural and religious relativism will contribute to promoting and implementing the gender equality principle in immigrant communities. In this context, the Assembly proposes to initiate dialogue with parliamentary and governmental representatives of the countries of origin on the matter of upholding the principle of equality between women and men in family codes.

I.       Draft resolution

1. According to the International Organisation for Migration, women now account for more than 45% of migrants in the developed countries. These women, who for a long time were the “invisible figures” of immigration disregarded by the public authorities, in fact take on a number of responsibilities and play a role placing them at the very heart of the integration process. Nonetheless, the Parliamentary Assembly notes that access by immigrant women to public, political and economic life remains marginal. It deplores the two-fold discrimination to which they may be subjected on the grounds of their gender and their origin and the fact that this discrimination operates both in the host society and within immigrant communities themselves.

2. In its Recommendation 1261 (1995) on the situation of immigrant women in Europe, the Assembly considered that “the member states of the Council of Europe must do everything possible to eliminate the injustice and discrimination suffered by immigrant women and adopt measures aimed at their harmonious integration into society.” Ten years later, immigrant women are still faced with particular difficulties in a Europe which continues to be beset by economic crisis and in which, since the events of 11 September 2001, intolerance and Islamophobia have become more prevalent.

3. The Parliamentary Assembly reiterates its belief that migrants make a significant contribution to the cultural diversity and economic and social development of the host country. It also notes that the nature of migration flows has changed in recent years and that there is an increasing number of immigrant women: whereas in the past the majority of women had arrived in Europe under family reunification arrangements to join their spouse, today women, often skilled, take the decision to migrate alone.

4. The Assembly deplores the emergence of a threat of a “clash of civilisations” in European societies, foreigners living in ghettos, the calling into question of the concept of multiculturalism and the violence which erupted in the United Kingdom, France and in neighbouring countries in 2005 in the neighbourhoods where the majority of the population are immigrants or of immigrant origin. The Assembly stresses that these tensions reflect the social malaise of sections of the population deprived of equal opportunities and any prospects for integrating into the host society. This malaise is also reflected in the deterioration of relations between boys and girls and the difficulties encountered by young immigrant girls in asserting and exercising their individual rights. The Assembly accordingly calls on member states to promote positive measures in their economic, social, cultural and political integration policies – targeting also immigrant women and girls – to help strengthen social cohesion in multicultural European societies.

5. The Parliamentary Assembly is particularly committed to ensuring the protection of the fundamental rights of immigrant women in the Council of Europe member states. It is for member states to protect women against violations of their rights, to promote and implement full gender equality and accept no cultural or religious relativism in the field of women’s fundamental rights. The Assembly expresses its concern at the legal shortcomings identified in relation to the protection of the human rights of immigrant women and compliance with the principle of equality between women and men in immigrant communities which may be weakened as a result of bilateral agreements, the application of personal law to immigrant women or women of immigrant origin or the absence of any legal status independent of that of the principal right-holder.

6. In this context, the Assembly is convinced that measures to promote the protection of the fundamental rights of immigrant women, their access to education, training, employment, social and cultural rights and health help ensure that immigrant women are able to integrate into society and will lead to greater social cohesion in the host country.

7. The Assembly calls on Council of Europe member states to:

7.1. ensure that the fundamental rights of immigrant women are guaranteed and upheld by:

7.1. show resolve in combating all forms of violence suffered by immigrant women and ensure that all administrative measures are taken to protect them which includes effective access to assistance and protection mechanisms and expedited granting of a legal status and residence permit independent in particular of those of their spouse or their employer, in cases of violence;

7.1. implement the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to promote the integration of immigrants, particularly immigrant women, and monitor such implementation;

7.1. offer courses targeting both immigrant women and men, especially on the local level and free of charge if possible, to learn the receiving country’s language, as well as to facilitate awareness of the rules of law, democratic values and fundamental human rights in the receiving countries and fundamental democratic principles, including equality between men and women, properly adapted to the specific needs of immigrant women, and to ensure that such mechanisms are properly evaluated;

7.1. collect gender-disaggregated data on migration flows to enable a better understanding of women’s migration patterns, the needs of immigrant women and the specific actions which could accelerate their integration into the host society;

7.1. ensure adequate vocational training for immigrant women which would aim at lifting them out of subordinate positions and professions traditionally reserved for them (e.g. in the service, health or restaurant sector);

7.1. promote immigrant women’s access to employment, adopting positive measures to combat the two-fold discrimination suffered by immigrant women on the labour market and creating favourable conditions for them to access the labour market and to balance their professional and private life (especially by putting into place accessible child-minding facilities);

7.1. pursue active policies to combat the racial discrimination adversely affecting immigrant women and men;

7.1. promote information and awareness-raising campaigns in the media and in schools to increase the standing and the role of immigrant women in the host societies and to overcome stereotypes confining immigrant women to subordinate and passive roles;

7.1. put in place programmes to promote the integration of immigrant women to include participation by their spouses, in particular in the field of parenting or access to health services, and to encourage and implement the principle of promoting equality between women and men in immigrant communities as a fundamental and inalienable principle of human rights;

7.1. take all necessary action to protect the rights of immigrant women and to combat the discrimination they face in their community of origin, by refusing all forms of cultural and religious relativism which could violate women’s fundamental rights;

7.1. guarantee the fundamental rights of young girls and adopt measures to promote and implement the principle of equality between boys and girls;

7.1. strengthen the powers of local authorities, in particular in the field of social services and active citizenship, and to allocate the necessary resources to implement action to promote the integration of immigrant women at local level;

7.1. build on the action of non-governmental organisations which are well placed to identify immigrant women’s specific needs and difficulties and which, through grass-roots action, help to improve the abilities of immigrant women and facilitate their integration into social and economic life;

7.1. sign and ratify, if this has not already been done, the European Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, the European Convention on the Status of Migrant Workers, Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families and the Council of Europe Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children.

8. The Assembly calls on Andorra and the United Kingdom to sign and ratify, and on Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey to ratify, Protocol No. 7 to European Convention on Human Rights at the earliest opportunity, avoiding where possible any reservations to Article 5 which guarantees equality of rights and responsibilities of a private law nature between spouses.

9. The Assembly resolves to initiate dialogue with parliamentary and governmental representatives of the countries of origin on the matter of upholding the principle of equality between women and men in family codes in order to assess the legal status of women in the countries of origin and to analyse the consequences thereof in the host countries.

II.        Draft recommendation

1. The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution … (2006) on the integration of immigrant women in Europe.

2. The Assembly recalls that the Heads of State and Government at the Third Summit in Warsaw (16 and 17 May 2005) strongly condemned “all forms of intolerance and discrimination, in particular those based on sex, race and religion, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia” and undertook to continue to “implement equal opportunity policies in (…) member states (…) to achieve real equality between women and men in all spheres of our societies.”

3. The Parliamentary Assembly further points out that it is essential to ensure the protection of the fundamental rights of immigrant women in the Council of Europe member states. It expresses its concern at the legal shortcomings identified in relation to the protection of the human rights of immigrant women and compliance with the principle of equality between women and men in immigrant communities which may be weakened as a result of bilateral agreements, the application of personal law to immigrant women or women of immigrant origin and the absence of any legal status independent of that of the principal right-holder.

4. In this context, the Council of Europe must assert the paramount importance of human rights and the rules of international private law which secure the legal protection of immigrant women and of migration and integration policies which include a gender equality dimension. It must pursue its activities to promote equal opportunities for immigrant women and men in the host societies, building on the work of the Council of Europe’s 7th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs (Helsinki, 16 and 17 September 2002).

5. The Parliamentary Assembly calls on the Committee of Ministers to:

5.1. gender mainstream all its work concerning migration in Europe;

5.2. with this in mind, instruct the competent steering committee(s) to place an emphasis on strengthening protection of the fundamental rights of immigrant women, and in particular to:

5.3. invite the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men, in conjunction with the European Committee on Migration to:

6. The Parliamentary Assembly invites the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) to ensure the implementation in member states of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers to promote the integration of immigrant women and to continue examination of the situation of immigrant women in the Council of Europe member states.

7. The Assembly encourages the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to pursue its activities on the integration of migrants and cultural diversity at local level, paying particular attention to measures to facilitate the integration of immigrant women in host countries.

III.       Explanatory memorandum by Ms Bilgehan

1.       Introduction

1. Women now account for more than 45% of migrants in the developed countries1 and have become a factor for social cohesion in Council of Europe member states. In Recommendation 1261 (1995) on the situation of immigrant women, the Parliamentary Assembly highlighted the problems encountered by this group. It later called on member states to “encourage the active involvement of immigrant women in all aspects of the host society, including political life, as well as their access to education, vocational training and the labour market”2.

2. The Parliamentary Assembly points out that it has repeatedly stressed the need to promote the integration of migrants in European societies3. It has drawn attention to immigrants’ contribution to cultural diversity and to economic and social development in Europe’s host countries and has encouraged immigrants’ participation in the life of these countries, with due regard for their democratic rules and values. The economic, social, cultural and political participation of migrants lawfully resident in European countries is a factor for social cohesion in the host countries.

3. The profile of immigrant women has evolved in recent years. Female migration now has a wide range of characteristics and varies according to the generation, country of origin and the length of time during which the women have been in the country. Whereas in the past, women tended to join their husbands under family reunification policies, many immigrant women are now successfully developing strategies for social mobility. In particular, we are seeing an influx of skilled women immigrants, who are finding jobs in sectors of the economy where there is a shortage of labour, such as nursing.

4. The concept of “immigrant women” is a wide-ranging one and includes more specific categories such as women refugees4 and women from illegal immigrant backgrounds, which would perhaps be better dealt with in a separate report. However, it is worth mentioning here that such women are especially vulnerable and often suffer various forms of exploitation, in particular trafficking in human beings or domestic slavery5.

5. All these immigrant women have one point in common: the two-fold discrimination to which they may be subjected on the grounds of their gender and their origin. The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has identified immigrant women as a vulnerable group in the Council of Europe member states and in its country-by-country reports it has focused particular attention on them (for example, foreign domestic workers in certain countries; veiled Muslim women; Roma women; foreign women who have married citizens of the European Union, and women victims of trafficking in human beings)6.

6. These women who for a long time were the “invisible figures” of immigration, disregarded by the public authorities, now take on a variety of responsibilities and play a role placing them at the very heart of the integration process. Today they are seen as a key target group in the field of immigration7. However, their access to public, political or economic life remains marginal.

7. In the light of recent developments, in particular of the emergence of an ever growing threat of a “clash of civilisations” within European societies, of foreigners living in “ghettos”, and of the calling into question of the concept of “multiculturalism”, it is becoming more and more evident that the integration of immigrant women is an important factor in social cohesion.

8. The hearing on the integration of immigrant women, jointly organised by the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population in Paris on 1 March 2005 highlighted the need to view this problem from the angle of promoting equal opportunities for women and men in immigrant communities. The hearing identified three main focal areas: protection of the fundamental rights of immigrant women, promoting the participation of immigrant women in public, political and economic life, and involving men who, to a different extent, are also part of – or are subject to – this integration process

2.       Guaranteeing access to fundamental rights and the protection of immigrant women

2.1.       Facilitating the granting of a legal status that is independent of and separate from that of the principal right-holder

9. The status of migrants – the majority of whom are women – joining their spouse under family reunification arrangements is linked to that of the principal. This directly affects the personal situation of immigrant women who may, in France for example, lose their provisional residence permit and therefore find themselves in an unlawful situation in the event of divorce, repudiation or the departure of their husband in the year following their arrival, which dissuades certain women who have suffered violence from making an official complaint8.

10. Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec (2002) 4 on the legal status of persons admitted for family reunification contains a section on the autonomy of the family member’s residence status in relation to that of the principal right-holder, providing for a period of four years of lawful residence to qualify for a separate residence permit, independent of that of the principal and leaving it to the state in question to decide whether or not to grant a permit in the event of a break-up in the family or death of the principal:

11. In 2004, the Assembly called on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to issue a recommendation to member states, urging them to “to grant members of a reunited family legal status enabling them to integrate fully into the host society and to encourage the issuing of an autonomous residence permit to the spouse, non-married partner and children who reach the age of majority in order to afford them protection in the event of deportation, divorce, separation or the death of the principal right-holder”9.

12. European Union Council Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification provides that “Not later than after five years of residence (…) the spouse or unmarried partner and a child who has reached majority shall be entitled, upon application, if required, to an autonomous residence permit, independent of that of the sponsor. Member States may limit the granting of the residence permit (…) to the spouse or unmarried partner in cases of breakdown of the family relationship.” (Article 15.1). “In the event of widowhood, divorce, separation, or death of first-degree relatives in the direct ascending or descending line, an autonomous residence permit may be issued, upon application, if required, to persons who have entered by virtue of family reunification”, further stipulating that “Member States shall lay down provisions ensuring the granting of an autonomous residence permit in the event of particularly difficult circumstances” (Article 15.3). It should also be noted that the conditions relating to the granting and duration of the autonomous residence permit are to be established by national law (Article 15.4)10.

13. Both the EU provisions and the Committee of Ministers Recommendation provide for autonomous legal status for the spouse within a relatively long period of time (5 and 4 years respectively). The rapporteur stresses, however, that states should ensure that autonomous status is granted to the spouse and children of the principal right-holder at the earliest opportunity in order to guarantee and protect their rights fully and facilitate their social integration. As Alvaro Gil Robles, the Commissioner for Human Rights, pointed out, the essential first step towards integrating immigrant women and not confining them to the domestic sphere was recognition that they had a status in their own right11. In addition, the Rapporteuse would like to underline that every individual has the right to hold his or her own passport and resident permit, and that fraudulently taking away or keeping another person’s documents should be considered illegal and punished by law.

2.2.       Non-application in domestic law of any provision contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights or fundamental principles, such as equality between women and men, which could be applied to immigrant women pursuant to private international law

14. The status of immigrant women in Europe is regulated either by the law of a person’s habitual place of residence or by personal law. The situation differs from one country to another, with each country using its own private international law: it is therefore for the courts to identify the relevant institution and apply the law pertaining to the situation12. The upshot of this is that unilateral repudiation issued by a foreign court – which nevertheless constitutes a violation of human rights contrary to the principle of equality between men and women – was recognised de facto by the French courts until a recent ruling of the Court of Cassation in 2004. Legal conflicts between foreign family codes, international conventions signed by the host country and the fundamental values guaranteed by the host country have also been condemned by the French Supreme Council for Integration13.

15. The rapporteur points out that the principle of equality between spouses is guaranteed by Article 5 of Protocol No. 7 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, ratified by 38 Council of Europe member states14.

Article 5 – Equality between spouses

Spouses shall enjoy equality of rights and responsibilities of a private law character between them, and in their relations with their children, as to marriage, during marriage and in the event of its dissolution. This Article shall not prevent States from taking such measures as are necessary in the interests of the children.

16. The rapporteur welcomes this change in French case-law; the Court of Cassation established in 5 simultaneous judgments dated 17 February 200415 that “even where it resulted from a fair and inter partes procedure, any decision upholding the unilateral repudiation by a husband without giving legal effect to any objection from the wife (…) is contrary to the principle of equality between spouses in the dissolution of marriage, recognised by Article 5 of Protocol No. 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which France has undertaken to guarantee to any person falling within its jurisdiction, and

international public order (…) given that, in the case in question, the wife, and indeed both spouses, were domiciled in France.” This change was welcomed by the European Court of Human Rights16, which accordingly did not have to rule on the merits of the case of D.D. v. France.

17. However, the victim may be required to refer the matter to a court in the host country in order to set aside judgments delivered by a foreign court that were incompatible with the principle of equality between spouses or the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols, which might be difficult for immigrant women who may not know their rights or the language of the host country well enough. The rapporteur suggests that the burden of proof be reversed and that a procedure be established whereby it would be for the competent authorities in the host country to validate the acts and judgments of a foreign court and verify that they are not contrary to human rights and fundamental democratic principles. Such a procedure should relate in particular to acts concerning marriage, divorce and the custody of children.

18. In point of fact, the Parliamentary Assembly has urgently called on the national parliaments of Council of Europe member states to “renegotiate, discard or denounce any sections of international agreements and rules of international private law contrary to the fundamental principles of human rights, particularly as regards personal status” in its report on forced marriages and child marriages17.

19. The rapporteur, pointing out that the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men is currently preparing a report on compliance with the principle of equality in civil law, concurs with the view that the Council of Europe should reflect on the legal protection of immigrant women, with particular emphasis on civil and family rights. In any event, it is for the Council of Europe member states to reject any provision in bilateral agreements or foreign civil codes applicable to immigrant women or women of immigrant origin18 which are contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights or fundamental principles, such as equality between women and men. The application of personal status could weaken the fundamental rights of immigrant women or women of immigrant origin, and this is clearly unacceptable in host countries which have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.

2.3       Guaranteeing protection to immigrant women who have suffered violence

20. The Parliamentary Assembly pays particular attention to the fight against violence inflicted on women in Europe. The hearing of 1 March 2005 highlighted the increased vulnerability of immigrant women who are subject to physical or psychological violence. One example is the case of a young bride who arrived from Anatolia and was forced to wear the Islamic headscarf on the grounds that she was now living in Paris. Other examples are young girls being forbidden to go out, the possessive and dominant roles of “older brothers”, girls forbidden to take part in gym or biology classes, the continuing practice of forced or arranged marriages, condemned by our Committee19, the practice of genital mutilation20 and the extreme form of violence – in the very heart of Europe – of so-called honour crimes, which on occasion seek to “punish” immigrant women for intending to adopt the lifestyle of women in the host countries.

21. The Parliamentary Assembly is strongly committed to fighting violence against women and, in particular, domestic violence, which will be the subject of a parliamentary campaign in 2007. For the time being, however, the extent of the problem of domestic violence in immigrant communities is not entirely clear because of a lack of reliable data and/or the fact that victims may not report such incidents. Linguistic barriers, family pressure, isolation and cultural traditions are additional problems which may dissuade victims from making formal complaints21

22. It is therefore necessary to provide appropriate mechanisms, in the language of origin if necessary, to ensure that these victims are sufficiently well informed of their rights, have effective access to remedies and assistance in order to guarantee the protection of their fundamental rights, and are able to obtain an independent legal status and residence permit. Moreover, in 2004 the Committee of Ministers, in its reply to the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation, called on member states to adopt measures to ensure that women victims of violence or forced marriage are treated in a fair and humane manner22.

23. In order to prevent violence against immigrant women, new immigrants, both men and women, should be given more information on their rights and duties, fundamental democratic principles, including equality between men and women, the personal status of migrants, the rights and protection that derive from this and available legal channels of appeal.

24. The rapporteur refers to the practical measures taken by Sweden to allow immigrant women who are victims of violence or abuse by their Swedish partner to obtain a permanent residence permit, whereas previously it had been necessary for the couple to be living together for two years before such a permit could be obtained. According to the Swedish authorities, in 2003 99% of requests for a permit to remain in Sweden submitted by women victims of domestic violence or abuse received a positive reply23.

3.       The emergence of immigrant women as active participants in the development of the host society

25. Whether it is prompted by economic or political reasons, migration always leads to a situation where the uprooted communities have to deal with the social and political realities in the host country. Women are in the front line of this acculturation process, whether they like it or not. In their capacity as mothers, in particular, they play a very specific educational role in ensuring that their children fit into the host society. Some of these women have considerable difficulty reconciling their traditional ethnic culture with the culture of emancipation that is offered to them in the host country. In some cases, there is a tendency to perpetuate a traditional way of life that no longer exists even in the country of origin while in others, immigration can be a tremendous opportunity for assertion and the personal development of women, who are often less keen to return to the home country than men24.

26. It is important to note that the nature of female migration has changed: whereas in the past they often arrived in Europe under family reunification arrangements to join their spouse, women, often skilled, today wish to migrate to Europe alone, in line with their own wishes, and take an active part in shaping their destiny. This state of affairs should be better identified in official statistics and given full consideration so that suitable proposals can be put forward which take account of the particular difficulties encountered by these “women on their own”25, or by immigrant women in an irregular situation, who are particularly vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation.

27. The participation of immigrant women in public life is an important stage in the integration process. Immigrant women are now organising themselves and taking control of their destinies in order to find solutions that fit their specific problems. By coming together in associations, immigrant women are able to compare experiences and develop a new self-image and sense of autonomy that are far removed from the kind of activities (cooking, sewing, etc) they might traditionally have been expected to perform26. Other essential elements in integration are the recognition and development of ethnic languages and culture, which are often handed down by women to the new generation. Examples to note are the action taken by non-governmental associations such as the “1990 Trust” in the United Kingdom and “Elele – Turkish Migration and Culture” in France.

4.       Promoting the participation of immigrant women in public, political and economic life

4.1.       Achieving integration: a comprehensive approach

28. Integrating immigrant women is a dynamic process. Practical measures in this area should cover social, economic and cultural aspects. In its opinion issued on 21 March 2002, the European Economic Council recommended giving special emphasis to the training of immigrant women, pointing out that language learning, knowledge of existing human, civic and social rights in the host society and vocational training were key tools for the social integration of immigrant women, because of the multiplier effect of educating women27. It is worth noting here that several states have chosen to offer new arrivals an “integration contract”28 or introduced more specific measures to facilitate the integration of immigrant women29. The Rapporteuse considers that learning the basics of the receiving country’s language is a necessary condition for integration. Language teaching is thus of utmost importance and should be offered free of charge, especially at local level.

29. If immigrant women are to integrate successfully, it needs to be acknowledged that the discrimination they suffer, based on racism and sexism, develops both in the host country and sometimes in the immigrant communities themselves, where practices of inequality and submission – by both men and women – are tolerated in the host countries in an approach based on cultural and religious relativism which is incompatible with human rights. Violence suffered by women within families can also be exercised by mothers-in-law on their recently-arrived daughters-in-law who know neither the host language nor society30. Immigrant women themselves who refuse to integrate or allow their daughters to integrate should also be targeted by campaigns to promote the principle of equality between women and men, through education and measures to encourage closer contact with the host society.

30. Special attention needs to be given to the task of integrating girls from immigrant families. Continuing adherence to a traditional way of life that is largely incompatible with the culture of the host country, the practice of sending children to single-sex schools, the wearing of headscarves, and lack of sports activities (particularly in sensitive neighbourhoods)31 can all make it harder for girls to become integrated into the host country. With the onset of adolescence come other issues such as women’s freedom to control their own bodies, access to birth control and the right to choose one’s partner. In this context, school can be an ideal setting for forging social ties with the host society and learning about democracy with due regard for the principle of gender mixing. The identity-related conflict between cultures of origin and the host culture, the perpetual immigrant/guest status, and social exclusion and discrimination may explain the low participation of young immigrant women in politics32.

31. The urban violence that erupted in the United Kingdom, France and in neighbouring countries in 2005 in the neighbourhoods where the majority of the population are immigrants or of immigrant origin is symptomatic of the social malaise of sections of the population deprived of equal opportunities and any prospects for socio-economic integration into the host society. This malaise is also reflected in the deterioration of relations between boys and girls and the difficulties encountered by immigrant girls in asserting and exercising their individual rights. Only positive measures in economic, social, cultural and political integration policies – targeting also immigrant women and girls – can help strengthen social cohesion in multicultural European societies.

32. Today more than ever, the integration of immigrant women is therefore a key factor for social cohesion in order to build an inclusive society. Integration will be successful only if men, be they fathers or husbands, can accept these shifts in gender roles in the host society. The participation of immigrant men in programmes designed to promote the integration of immigrant women and girls would thus appear to be essential in order to support the changes taking place within immigrant families (see Section V). In this spirit, the Rapporteur considers that the Council of Europe should gender mainstream all its work concerning migration in Europe.

4.2.       Encouraging access to employment

33. Immigrant women are often confined to “traditional” sectors of the economy (services to households and domestic labour, health care) and are under more pressure to accept part-time work or jobs with flexible hours, which make it difficult to balance professional and family life. They are also more likely to be unemployed than immigrant men, and other, non-immigrant women. In the European Union, the employment rate of immigrant women is 16.9% lower than that of women of EU nationality; for men the difference is just 11%. The difference is even greater for highly skilled immigrant women (with an employment rate 23.2% lower than women of EU nationality with equivalent skills. Among men in the same category the differential is just 13%)33.

34. The employment rate of immigrant women in general is lower than that of immigrant men. In Denmark, for example, the employment rate among first-generation immigrant women was 45% in 2001 (compared with 60% for immigrant men). In Austria, the employment rate for Turkish immigrant men was 74.3% (74% for Austrian men) compared with just 40.5% for Turkish immigrant women (58.4% for Austrian women)34.

35. Employment among immigrant women varies, however, from country to country and disparities between members of the same ethnic group can be observed depending on the host country, and between nationals of different states in the same host country. Some statistics would thus seem to show that variations in employment among immigrant women are determined less by their cultural baggage than by the characteristic features of the majority society, such as attitudes towards the participation of women in the labour market and national employment patterns35.

36. Access to gainful employment is nevertheless an important step in securing independence and economic freedom for women of immigrant origin. Knowledge of the language of the host country is an essential precondition for acquiring skills and gaining access to a range of employment opportunities.

37. Any strategies to make it easier for immigrant women to find jobs must be based on government action, in terms of recognition of diplomas, the provision of basic and further training and affirmative measures which need to be introduced in order to initiate the practice of hiring immigrant women. Such strategies also rely on non-governmental organisations, which play an important role in improving the skills of immigrant women, and on trade unions which, in the workplace, have a special duty to combat discrimination and the social exclusion and marginalisation of immigrants36 and to ensure that the rules on equal treatment are observed.

38. Business creation is an important element in this strategy for providing access to employment, and can offer immigrant women an outlet for their skills. There are still numerous barriers, however. Victims of negative stereotypes and clichés that portray them as passive and needy, immigrant women often have difficulty persuading government agencies and banks to give them loans and grants37.

4.3.       The local dimension of integration

39. It is important to take on board the local dimension of the integration of immigrant women. Municipal authorities, in particular, have a crucial role to play in creating the necessary conditions for successful integration and encouraging socio-economic participation. Competent in matters relating to social affairs, education, local democracy and intercultural and inter-faith dialogue, municipal authorities, like public servants, are a driving force in promoting integration and migrants’ access to social rights38. At their 7th ministerial conference in Helsinki on 16 and 17 September 2002, the European Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs undertook to train public servants in order to foster a greater understanding of gender equality policies39.

40. Municipal authorities also play a key role in providing support for local associations through grants or the provision of municipal premises. These associations develop community activities, help improve the abilities of immigrant women, promote literacy and facilitate their socio-economic integration.

41. Any action taken at municipal level should therefore target immigrant women and encourage them to participate in public bodies such as foreigners’ advisory councils or participatory democracy bodies, and help them become active citizens. The European Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (CETS No. 144) is a Council of Europe instrument which specifically aims to improve the participation of foreign residents. It is operative only in seven Council of Europe states, however (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden).

42. The Assembly encourages the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to pursue its activities to encourage cultural diversity and the integration of migrants at local level, and focus particular attention on access by immigrant women to social rights.

5.        Involving men in the integration process of immigrant women

43. It is essential to ensure that immigrant men play their part in the moves to promote the integration and emancipation of immigrant women and young girls. Migration can be an enriching process, but it can also be destabilising for all members of the family. The patriarchal model in force in the countries of origin, and the male role as father and head of the family are called into question in the host country40. Paternal authority may be usurped by the elder sons of the family who, in problem neighbourhoods, provide for the family’s needs through the parallel economy. Male immigrants are often offered inferior or menial jobs, normally reserved exclusively for women (cleaners, for example).

44. This process of change – which subjectively may be seen as a process of undermining the role of father and husband – may go some way to explain the deterioration in recent years of relationships between boys and girls, especially in immigrant circles, in the urban housing estates in France. This has given rise to more radical behaviour (more radical stances vis-ŕ-vis morality, dominance of Islamist groups, girls being confined to the domestic environment, imposition of new dress codes, attacks, group rape) denounced by the “Ni putes, ni soumises” movement41. There is an urgent need to act and rebuild a sense of community and intergenerational dialogue in order to bring back a model of cohabitation built on diversity, with due respect for others and their physical integrity and with a view to promoting equality between women and men in the host society.

45. The rapporteur believes that participation of immigrant men – fathers, spouses and brothers – in the integration process will promote and implement within immigrant communities the principle of equality between women and men which is part and parcel of the process of migration to Council of Europe member states. This presupposes that migrants are clearly informed about the host country’s

way of life, the relationship between partners, the right of women to work and education, and the place of the family in society. State action must take action to raise the awareness of immigrant men in the host society.

46. If migration is to be a real opportunity for individual social progress, integration policies must, for example, incorporate the dimension of a sharing of family responsibilities, with both the father and mother playing their part in bringing up their children, and access to social rights for men and women. This dimension should not, however, disregard specific problems encountered by women for which specific responses need to be found.

47. For example, access by immigrant women to public health programmes is made much easier when their husbands and fathers are involved in information and prevention campaigns. As a result of the involvement of men, the problems of immigrant women in host countries are taken into account more effectively. According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, immigrant populations suffer particularly from pregnancy-related morbidity, unwanted pregnancies, abortion (the abortion rate in some immigrant communities is 30% higher than in the rest of the population), and an increase in HIV/AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases42.

48. The success of integration programmes for immigrant women requires the involvement of male immigrants. This is the lesson to be learned from the statements given at the hearing on the integration of immigrant women held by our Committee on 1 March 2005. The action taken by the non-governmental organisation “Elele – Turkish Migration and Culture” focuses in particular on mosques and socio-cultural associations in order to inform men about their duties as citizens. Ms Long, President of the Norwegian Centre for Gender Equality, spoke out against the “demonisation of immigrant men” and the “victimisation of immigrant women”, focusing her approach on the integration of the family as a social unit. These measures could help combat the fossilisation of traditions in immigrant communities, which very often are used as justification for violations of the fundamental rights of women and young girls43.

49. Furthermore, it is important to initiate dialogue with the countries of origin on these questions and to include gender equality in the discussions on migration, for example, in the Council of Europe Political Platform on Migration – a North-South, East-West Dialogue, to exert pressure on the countries of origin to encourage them to promote equality between women and men as a principle of human rights, and to call upon them to prohibit practices which are contrary to human rights, such as repudiation, polygamy44, divorce without mutual consent45 and the automatic granting of custody of children to the father.

6.       Conclusions and recommendations

50. In its Recommendation 1261 (1995) on the situation of immigrant women in Europe, the Assembly considered that “the member states of the Council of Europe must do everything possible to eliminate the injustice and discrimination suffered by immigrant women and adopt measures aimed at their harmonious integration into society. Ten years later, immigrant women continue to be faced with specific difficulties in a Europe which continues to be beset by economic crisis and in which, since the events of 11 September 2001, intolerance and Islamophobia have become more prevalent.

51. Despite the Recommendations made so far, immigrant women are still confronted with many problems, and they continue to have inadequate access to the life of the host country. I consider it necessary for member states to commit themselves to implementing these Recommendations and to ensure more efficient follow-up.

52. The Assembly’s stand should be that it is the responsibility of the Council of Europe member states to take all appropriate measures to protect the fundamental rights of immigrant women, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols. This should be reflected in the empowerment of immigrant women and the granting of a legal status independent of that of the principal right-holder, rejecting any provision in the field of personal status that is contrary to the European

Convention on Human Rights, its Protocols and related fundamental principles, guaranteeing fundamental rights in cases of violence, and effective access to these mechanisms of protection and assistance.

53. The Assembly should highlight the need to combat any discrimination suffered by immigrant women in both the host society and in their community of origin founded on racism, sexism or practices of inequality and submission in immigrant communities which are tolerated in an approach based on cultural and religious relativism incompatible with human rights. It should promote dialogue with the countries of origin on the legal status of women and compliance with the principle of equality in family codes.

54. Convinced that the integration of immigrant women is an excellent opportunity to strengthen social cohesion in host countries, the Assembly should call on Council of Europe member states to adopt positive measures to promote access by immigrant women to employment, education, training, social and cultural rights, and health in partnership with local authorities and non-governmental organisations. It should invite the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to pursue in greater depth its activities on the integration of immigrant women at local and regional level.

55. The Assembly should call on the Council of Europe and its competent steering committees to pursue their activities in the field of equality between men and women and migration and to gender mainstream them, placing an emphasis on strengthening the fundamental rights of immigrant women. It should invite the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) to ensure the implementation in member states of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers to promote the integration of immigrant women and to continue its examination of the situation of immigrant women in the Council of Europe member states.

Reporting committee: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

Reference to Committee: Doc 10236, reference N° 2988 of 7 September 2004

Draft resolution and recommendation unanimously adopted by the Committee on 2 December 2005.

Members of the Committee: Mrs Minodora Cliveti (Chairperson), Mrs Rosmarie Zapfl-Helbling (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Anna Čurdová (2nd Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Svetlana Smirnova (3rd Vice-Chairperson), Ms Birgitta Ahlqvist, Mrs Edita Angyalova, Mrs Željka Antunović, Mrs Aneliya Atanassova, Mr John Austin, Mr Oleksiy Baburin, Mr Denis Badré (alternate: Mr Jean-Guy Branger), Mrs Gülsün Bilgehan, Mrs Marida Bolognesi, Mrs Mimount Bousakla, Mrs Grazyna Ciemniak, Mrs Ingrīda Circene, Mr Brendan Daly, Mrs Krystyna Doktorowicz, Mrs Lydie Err, Mrs Catherine Fautrier, Mrs Maria Emelina Fernández Soriano, Ms Sonia Fertuzinhos, Mrs Margrét Frímannsdóttir, Mr Guiseppe Gaburro, Mrs Alena Gajdůšková, Mr Pierre Goldberg, Mrs Claude Greff, Mrs Arlette Grosskost, Ms Gultakin Hadjiyeva, Mrs Carina Hägg, Mr Poul-Henrik Hedeboe, Mr Ilie Ilaşcu, Mrs Halide Incekara, Mrs Eleonora Katseli, Baroness Knight of Collingtree (alternate: Ms Chris McCafferty), Mrs Monika Kryemadhi, Mrs Minna Lintonen, Mrs Danguté Mikutiené, Mrs Fausta Morganti, Mrs Christine Muttonen, Mrs Hermine Naghdalyan, Mr Hilmo Neimarlija, Mrs Vera Oskina, Mr Ibrahim Özal, Mr Padilla, Mrs Patrizia Paoletti Tangheroni (alternate: Mr Gianpietro Scherini), Ms Elsa Papadimitriou, Ms Riorita Patereu, Mrs Fatma Pehlivan, Mrs Antigoni Pericleous-Papadopoulos, Mr Leo Platvoet, Mrs Majda Potrata, Mr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Ms Valentina Radulović-Šćepanović, Mr Andrea Rigoni, Ms Maria de Belém Roseira, Mrs Claudia Roth, Mrs Marlene Rupprecht (alternate: Ms Christine Lucyga), Mrs Rodica-Mihaela Stănoiu, Mrs Darinka Stantcheva, Mrs Rita Streb-Hesse, Mr Michal Stuligrosz, Ms Agnes Vadai, Mr Vagif Vakilov, Mrs Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, Mrs Betty Williams, Mrs Jenny Willott (alternate: Mr Bob Laxton), Ms Karin S. Woldseth, Mrs Gisela Wurm, Mr Andrej Zernovski.

N.B. The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in bold.

Secretaries of the Committee: Ms Kleinsorge, Ms Affholder, Ms Devaux


1 Gender mainstreaming, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), www.iom.int. Since 1995, the IOM has been incorporating the gender aspect into its programmes in order to address the specific needs of immigrant women.

2 Recommendation 1625 (2003) on policies for the integration of immigrants in Council of Europe member states.

3 See in particular Recommendation 712 (1973) on the integration of migrant workers with the societies of their host countries, Resolution 631 (1976) on the integration of migrants into society as regards education and cultural development, Recommendation 1206 (1993) on the integration of migrants and community relations, Recommendation 1500 (2001) on the participation of immigrants and foreign residents in political life in the Council of Europe member states and Recommendation 1596 (2003) on the situation of young migrants in Europe.

4 See Parliamentary Recommendation 1374 (1998) on the situation of refugee women in Europe.

5 See Recommendation 1663 (2004) on domestic slavery: servitude, au pairs and “mail-order brides”.

6 Hearing of Ms Pentikäinen, deputy member of ECRI for Finland, AS/EGA (2005) PV3 addendum I, Minutes of the hearing on the integration of immigrant women held on 1 March 2005 by the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, p. 8/9. http://assembly.coe.int/Committee/EGA/Hearings/fegapv3addI_2005.pdf.

7 Opinion of the Supreme Council for Integration on “the rights of women of immigrant origin”, page 28. “Italy: good practices to prevent women immigrant workers from going into exploitative forms of labour”, Giuseppina d’Alconzon, Simona la Rocca and Elena Maroni, GENPROM Working Paper No. 4, ILO, p. 59

8 Opinion of the Supreme Council for Integration to the Prime Minister of France, 2003, page 10.

9 Recommendation 1686 (2004) on human mobility and the right to family reunification, paragraph 12.iii.j

10 Let us note that the European Women’s Lobby launched a campaign in November 2005 to lobby for an "autonomous legal status of migrant women entering the EU under family reunification” - as the Council Directive of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification is currently being transposed in Member States.

11 Hearing of Mr Gil Robles, AS/EGA (2005) PV3 addendum 1, page 3.

12 Edwige Rude-Antoine, Dans le dédale des lois nationales, Le Monde Diplomatique, November 2005

13 Opinion of the Supreme Council for Integration on “the rights of women of immigrant origin”.

14 As of 15 November 2005, Protocol No. 7 had not been ratified by Belgium, Germany, Monaco, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey. Andorra and the United Kingdom have neither signed nor ratified this Protocol.

15 See judgments Nos. 256, 257, 258, 259 and 260 of the First Civil Section of the Court of Cassation, www.courdecassation.fr

16 See judgment (striking off the list) of 8 November 2005 in the case of DD v. France, Application No. 3/02.

17  Resolution 1468 (2005) on Forced Marriages and Child Marriages, paragraph 14.1

18  Marina Da Silva, Ces Françaises, victimes d’un droit personnel étranger, Le Monde Diplomatique, November 2005

19  See Doc. 10590, recommendation 1723 (2005) and Resolution 1468 (2005) on Forced Marriages and Child Marriages

20  See Resolution 1247 (2001) on female genital mutilation.

21  See “No exit: the plight of battered Maghrebi immigrant women in France”, Senior thesis by Lori K. Mihalich, 5 April 2001, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

22  Document 10581, Committee of Ministers reply to Recommendation 1686 (2004) on human mobility and the right to family reunification

23  ECRI (2005) 26, third report on Sweden adopted on 17 December 2004 and published on 14 June 2005, paragraph 88.

24  Report by Françoise Gaspard, commissioned by the Joint Specialist Group on Migration, Cultural Diversity and Equality of Women and Men, EG/MG (96) 2 rev, p. 53.

25  See, for example, Nasima Moujoud, “Migrations au féminin: des Marocaines entrées seules en France”, proceedings of the Casablanca colloquy (13-16 June 2003), “Entre mondialisation et protection des droits: dynamiques migratoires marocaines”.

26  See Marina Da Silva, “Quand les femmes des quartiers sortent de l’ombre”, Le Monde Diplomatique, October 2004.

27  Cited by Pierrette Crosemarie in “Femmes immigrées: répondre au double défi de l’émancipation et de l’intégration, vaincre la double discrimination”, paper presented on behalf of the delegation for the Rights of women and equal opportunities for men and women.

28  “Migrants, Minorities and Employment”, European Observatory for Racist and Xenophobic Phenomena, October 2003, p. 20.

29  See for example, in France, the Agreement signed by the Service des droits de la femme et de l’égalité, the Direction de la population et des migrations and the Fonds d’action et de soutien pour l’intégration et la lutte contre les discriminations on 4 December 2003, which seeks in particular to improve the way immigrant women and women of immigrant origin are portrayed, to promote an active policy of access to individual and social rights and to facilitate social and economic integration (http://www.social.gouv.fr/femmes).

30  See the statement by Ms Gaye Petek, President of the “Elele – Turkish Migration and Culture” association, AS/EGA (2005) PV3 addendum 1, quoted above, page 17.

31  See Document 10483 and Recommendation 1701 (2005) on Discrimination against women and girls in sport.

32  Hearing of Ms Hagi Yussuf, President of “Young Women from Minorities”, AS/EGA (2005) PV3 addendum 1, quoted above, pages 10-11.

33  2003 figures, quoted by Luisella Pavan-Woolfe, Director, “Horizontal and International Issues”, Directorate General for “Employment, Social Affairs, Equal Opportunities”, European Commission. OECD and European Commission seminar on “Migrant Women and the Labour Market: Diversity and Challenges”, Brussels, 26 September 2005

34  “Migrants, Minorities and Employment”, European Observatory for Racist and Xenophobic Phenomena, October 2003, p. 28.

35 Final report of the Joint Specialist Group on Migration, Cultural Diversity and Equality of Women and Men, EG/MG (96) 2 rev, p.27.

36 “Migrants, Minorities and Employment”, European Observatory for Racist and Xenophobic Phenomena, October 2003, p. 75.

37 Mirjana Morokvasic, cited in the report by Helma Lutz, commissioned by the Joint Specialist Group on Migration, Cultural Diversity and Equality of Women and Men, EG/MG (96) 2 rev, p. 82.

38  See the work of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, in particular the records of the Stuttgart conference (15-16 September 2003) on the integration and participation of foreigners in Europe’s cities.

39  Final Declaration of the 7th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs (Helsinki, 16-17 September 2002), MMG-7 (2002) – 1, paragraph 25.e.

40  Hearing of Nacira Guenif-Souilamas, see document AS/EGA (2005) PV3 addendum 1, quoted above, pages 12-13. See also, Riyadh Al-Baldawi, Culture, migration and the reconstruction of individual identity and family structure in: Minority women in the Nordic countries, Nordic Council of Ministers, 2004.

41  Hearing of Fadela Amara, President of the “Ni putes, ni soumises” movement, AS/EGA (2005) PV3 addendum 1, page 8.

42  Hearing of Ms Thoss, representative of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, AS/EGA (2005) PV3 addendum 1, quoted above, page 14.

43  See Document 10590, Forced marriages and child marriages.

44  Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1293 (2002) on the situation of Maghrebi women.

45  Doc. 10179, Opinion of the Committee on Equal Opportunities between Women and Men on “Human Mobility and the right to family reunification”, rapporteur: Mr Giuseppe Gaburro (Italy, EPP), 6 May 2004.