International Migrants’ Day: 'we need long-sightedness'

Declaration by Sahiba Gafarova, Chair of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons:

“On International Migrants’ Day, I would like us to reflect for a moment on the value of migration over the decades and centuries in shaping our Europe of today. If it were not for the constant movement of peoples and individuals over the lands and seas that form the Council of Europe’s “Greater Europe”, our lives now would be very different. We would not have gathered our unique mix of hybrid cultures and behaviours, faiths and customs, which has not emerged without tensions and struggles but which has given us our greatest citizens, scientists, politicians, thinkers and artists.

The movement of populations across the Continent has sometimes signified invasion, confrontation and war. And, unfortunately, in our contemporary context which combines economic stress, political doubt, the rise of extremist forces and the threat of an ecological meltdown, there is a global tendency towards introspection, isolationism and hostile nationalism, based on a fear of foreign influences which might upturn traditions, burden struggling economies and challenge the fragile status quo.

Statistics, research and observation on the ground, however, show clearly that countries which welcome and integrate migrants socially, economically and culturally are the most successful in the mid- and long term. Immigration is part of the solution to Western Europe’s demographic winter; the influx of skilled workers contributes to the reinforcement of Europe’s labour force; the political, social and cultural landscape benefits from new impetus. Ongoing work in the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons on the value of migrants for society, on integration of migrants in times of critical pressure and on comprehensive responses to the migration crisis all point to migration as a long-term solution entailing only short-lived problems, provided it is handled appropriately.

So on International Migrants’ Day, I urge all our member States, international organisations and civil society to make further efforts to welcome the current migration influx, to look upon the arrival of optimistic and motivated adults, children and young people in Europe as an asset, and to treat their arrival with humanity and long-sightedness. Migration today is not a crisis or a threat, it is an opportunity for all of us.”