Europe has always been a continent of diversity. Migration has always been an integral part of its history.
After the large-scale migration towards Europe in the last couple of years, our continent is facing several challenges. Many countries struggle to guarantee the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants and refugees. The voices of those who portray migrants as a threat to public order, national identity and security are louder than others. Anti-immigration political agendas swing election results while adding to the expansion of populism in Europe.
We will be able to address these challenges only if the integration of migrants and refugees who will remain in Europe is successful. Integration will be successful only if we embrace its opportunities.
Effective integration policies can create opportunities for economic, social and cultural development in European societies. Integration of migrants and refugees is a means of addressing the very concern expressed by many, that is to protect national security. Through building inclusive societies we can counter political polarisation, social fragmentation, populism and growing reticence to international co-operation.
This is all the more important in respect of migrant and refugee children. We must take special care of them, particularly those who are alone. We also need to make sure that they do not miss out on education and other opportunities to form bonds with their new communities. This is why the Council of Europe has adopted an Action Plan on protecting refugee and migrant children. The activities it proposes will contribute significantly to their current well-being and help them to find their place in our societies.
Today, on International Migrants Day, we should remember the values of human rights, democracy and rule of law which underpin the Council of Europe’s work. They have contributed to making Europe a place of refuge for people in need of protection and better-life opportunities for migrants. We must make sure that these values remain at the heart of what we do for migrants and refugees. The choices we make today will have an impact on our future.