UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomed today the launch of an innovative “Refugee Coalition for Europe”.
The Coalition, which brings together refugee representatives living in different European countries, aims at giving a voice to refugees in Europe and at ensuring that their opinions and needs are better taken into account in decisions and policies impacting their lives. It will also promote concrete actions to strengthen refugee rights and enhance their integration in host countries.
The first meeting of the Coalition, which was organized thanks to the support of the Municipality of Milan, Italy, and in partnership with Independent Diplomat, a non-profit diplomatic advisory group, and UNHCR was held this week, from 13 to 15 December 2017.
Some 15 refugee representatives currently living in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Sweden discussed the scope of the Coalition and set up a platform where they will be able to discuss issues relating to protection and integration needs of refugees in Europe. The group members, originating from Afghanistan, Algeria, Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Somalia and Syria, include teachers, journalists, published authors, LGBTI activists, students, and heads of organizations supporting refugees and victims of trafficking.
“UNHCR strongly believes in the importance of the Refugee Coalition for Europe. This initiative will help increase refugees active participation in decisions reacting to their situation and needs, and ensure that such decisions are relevant, effective and well-targeted,” said Pascale Moreau, UNHCR Director of the Bureau for Europe. “We intend to consult the Coalition on a number of policies and initiatives which UNHCR is pursuing in Europe.”
The Municipality of Milan, which has been at the forefront of promoting policies for refugee reception and integration, also stressed the value of the initiative. “As an international city, we are making the active participation of refugees and the sharing of good practices on integration a priority. Refugees should not be perceived as recipients of benefits but as full-fledged protagonists and active players in the reception and integration systems,” said Pierfrancesco Majorino, Deputy Mayor for Social Politics, Health, Rights of the Municipality of Milan.
Lyas Laamari, a member of the Coalition and a refugee from Algeria living in Italy since 2008, said: “With the Refugee Coalition for Europe project, we can create the basis for a new dialogue, for a more inclusive, collaborative and united society and Europe.”
“This Coalition is a powerful example of refugees taking matters into their own hands and Independent Diplomat is happy to work together with UNHCR on this important project. Collaboration between refugees and European cities, like Milan, is key to developing progressive policies that work for both refugees and host communities. This synergy has the potential to improve the European response to refugee integration and ensure Europe upholds its own values of democracy, justice and human dignity,” said Guillaume Charron, Geneva Director of Independent Diplomat.
The Coalition resonates well with the ongoing discussions towards a global compact for refugees, which will seek to improve refugee participation and inclusion in host communities, concluded UNHCR’s Moreau.
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