Events & Activities > Annual Conferences and General Assembly > 1st Preparatory Meeting "Migrants' Rights - From International Conventions to a Euro-Mediterranean Charter"
1st Preparatory Meeting "Migrants' Rights - From International Conventions to a Euro-Mediterranean Charter"
30 March 2007 - 31 March 2007
Annual Conferences
Hôtel Renaissance, Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia
 On March 30 2007, EuroMeSCo, in collaboration with the AEI, in Tunis, organised a seminar on “Migrant Rights: From International Conventions to a Euro-Mediterranean Charter”, at the hotel Renaissance, in Tunis, in preparation for the EuroMeSCo Annual Conference.
Speaking at the introductory session, Álvaro Vasconcelos (IEEI, Lisbon), explained this initiative within the framework of the EuroMeSCo 2007 work programme, stressing that migrations should become a central issue in Euro-Mediterranean relations and that a new perspective on this matter should be adopted.

During the following session, entitled “Are there Violations of Migrants’ Rights in the Euro-Mediterranean Region? If so, of what kind are they?”, George Joffé (CIS, Cambridge and Kings College, London) dwelled on the relations between majority and minority communities in Europe in the light of the current situation on migration. Mr. Joffé argued that, thanks to the Barcelona Process, northern countries have begun to accept the fact that contrary to their former views, migrant communities are here to stay, rather than merely temporary. As a result, this topic became the object of a European common policy. However, following the events of September 11th 2001, this policy took a security turn, to the detriment of migrants who have since then been subject to formal and informal forms of discrimination. 

Mustapha Benchenane (René Descartes University, Paris V) spoke of the rise of islamophobia in Europe and pondered on how Europeans and North Africans can live together peacefully. In his opinion, islamophobia is a symptom of the identity crisis, or perhaps even the true civilisational crisis Europe is going through. This crisis is a consequence of Europe’s enlargement, globalisation and uncertainty about the future that these trends entail, as well as of the fact that in less than 30 years immigration has become a structural phenomenon. In addition, Mr. Benchenane argued that in the light of this situation, the EMP acts as an extremely important instrument, ideally allowing the treatment of common problems by all partners on both sides of the Mediterranean, through interdependent development mechanisms that go well beyond co-development. 

Lamine Klaï (AEI, Tunis) discussed some elements of international human rights instruments aimed at the protection of migrants. He argued that the call for a Euro-Mediterranean Charter in this field has come from countries in the north as well as in the south.

During the session dedicated to the topic “To what extent is international, regional and national legislation fully implemented? Is it enough to guarantee migrants’ rights?”, Ahmed Driss (AEI, Tunis), who surveyed existing instruments on migrants’ rights and considered whether these enough to ensure their protection, reminded that the international convention for the protection of all migrant workers and members of their families stresses, for the first time, the key link between migration and human rights. This convention represents a moral norm that could be used as a model for the protection of migrants in every country.

Christophe Bertossi (Ifri, Paris) debated the potential effectiveness of a Euro-Mediterranean Charter on migrants’ rights and how it could come into existence. In his view, migrants’ rights should empower the migrant as an actor in the Euro-Mediterranean area. For this, a collective mobilisation from all partners is necessary.

In his presentation, Ridha Tlili (AEI, Tunis) stressed that each migration takes place in a specific context (historic, geopolitical, etc.). In his view, the difference between immigration in the 1950’s and today is that the latter has true political implication. In addition, Mr. Tlili presented the scenarios that, in his view, may be suggested in terms of migration within the political environment of the countries north and south of the Mediterranean.

During the session on “What could be the role of the EMP in the protection of migrants’ rights? To what extent is it necessary to adopt a migrants’ charter?”, Alima Boumediène-Thiery (Senate, Paris) argued that migrants are bearers of a democratic process, which they experience on a daily basis in Europe, and that they contribute to the development of their country of origin. A regional migrants’ charter should consider that we are all migrants. In order that the already existing conventions be applied, political will is necessary. In addition, migrants’ rights means, before anything else, the recognition of freedom of movement that allows people to move and settle elsewhere.

Azzam Mahjoub (Tunis University) tried to demonstrate to what extent it is possible to measure the degree of protection of migrants’ rights. Indeed, thanks to benchmarking techniques examining the way international and regional instruments are implemented, it is possible to measure the way in which these rights are applied. It is a difficult exercise but one that is feasible based on an evaluation of the enjoyment of civil and political rights.  
Finally, ambassador Gonçalo Santa-Clara Gomes (IEEI, Lisbon) mentioned the dangers of a possible Euro-Mediterranean charter of migrants’ rights. In his view, more concrete action is necessary, which would begin with the adoption of an action plan in this area and eventually lead to a charter. In sum, in order for this charter to make sense, a Euro-Mediterranean community must be built beforehand.

The seminar ended on the note that migrants suffer from several types of discrimination and that their rights are violated at different levels in the Euro-Mediterranean area. The events of September 11 2001 and the ensuing effects they had on migration policies, as well as phenomena such as the rise in islamophobia, only worsen the situation of migrants. The fact that Europe is experiencing an “identitary” transition toward multiculturalism, and that countries in the south of the Mediterranean are going through a democratic transition, was also mentioned. This often explains the lack of understanding toward the realities experienced on each side.

In addition, the seminar presentations showed that the current international, regional and national legal frameworks are not enough to guarantee the protection of migrants, mainly due to the lack of political will from States - especially those in the north - which continue to consider migration as an internal issue. A Euro-Mediterranean charter on migrants’ rights could indeed fill the legal void in this region and work towards an improvement of the current situation. However, this step is limited and entails the acknowledgment of other realities, such as freedom of movement and the right to regularisation. It was furthermore stressed that migrants can truly play a key role in this region and also contribute to democratisation on both banks of the Mediterranean.

To see the programme, please click here