EU: Integration Policies Should Respect Rights

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Nov 1 14:19:29 UTC 2008

EU: Integration Policies Should Respect Rights
31 Oct 2008 06:23:53 GMT
Source: Human Rights Watch

 (Brussels, October 31, 2008) � The European Union must ensure thatmeasures aimed at integrating migrants also respect their humanrights, Human Rights Watch said today. EU integration ministers willmeet in Vichy, France, on November 3 and 4, 2008, to discuss commonapproaches to integration in Europe. The integration of migrants hasmoved up the European political agenda in recent years, with a numberof EU states introducing language and other tests as a condition forresidence or citizenship. Some of the tests raise human rightsconcerns, notably about discriminatory application and restrictions onthe right to family life.
"The whole idea of European integration is to tie migrants moreclosely into society, but that will only happen if they feel thattheir basic rights are respected,'' said Haleh Chahrokh, researcher onWestern Europe for Human Rights Watch. "Vichy is an opportunity forthe ministers to put rights at the center of integration policy."
The importance of integration was highlighted in the recent EUimmigration and asylum pact, adopted at an EU summit meeting onOctober 16. The pact stresses the need to treat migrants fairly andpromote their integration into society, with a particular emphasis onmeasures promoting language acquisition and access to employment. Italso calls on the member states to combat any forms of discriminationto which migrants may be exposed. An October 2008 report from theEuropean Commission on the family reunification directive affirmedthat integration measures must respect human rights.
Giving newcomers the opportunity to acquire a basic command of thelanguage and some idea of the society they are joining may be in theirinterest, as well as that of society, Human Rights Watch said. Butmeasures that unnecessarily restrict family migration and discriminatebetween foreign migrants on the basis of nationality violateinternational human rights law. They are also likely to becounterproductive, sending a message that certain groups are notwelcome or enjoy fewer rights.
EU ministers should acknowledge that human rights abuses suffered bymigrants impede efforts to assist them in integrating, Human RightsWatch said. As the European Commission's report to the Vichyconference points out: "Migrants face a higher risk of poverty thanthe rest of the population and specific obstacles in accessinghousing, health care and financial services. This situation,compounded by discrimination, is hampering their full participation insociety and should soon be reversed."
Among EU states, the Netherlands has been at the forefront indeveloping integration tests as a condition of entry and residence.Since March 2006, the country has required family migrants fromTurkey, Morocco and other "non-Western" countries to pass anintegration test before they are allowed to enter. Family migrantsfrom "western" countries are exempt from the test. The United Kingdom,Germany, Denmark and France have all adopted or are contemplating theadoption of similar restrictive measures.
A recent Human Rights Watch briefing paper, "Discrimination in theName of Integration: Migrants' Rights Under the Integration AbroadAct," concluded that the test and related financial measures violatethe Netherlands' international human rights obligations,discriminating by nationality and national origin, restricting familyreunification, and undermining the right to family life and the dutyto enable residents to marry and start a family. The policy iscurrently the subject of a government review.
"The experience of the Netherlands underscores the importance of an EUintegration approach based on rights," said Chahrokh. "Integrationpolicies based on discrimination run the risk of alienating migrantsinstead of promoting their integration."
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