2017

18 July 2017
Letter to the Speaker of the Sejm, Marek Kuchciński

20 June 2017
Letter to the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

20 June 2017
Letter to the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel

16 June 2017
Letter to the United Kingdom Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May

6 June 2017
Letter to the United Kingdom Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May

23 May 2017
Letter to the United Kingdom Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May

4 April 2017
Letter to the High Commissionner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation, Tatiana Moskalkova

4 April 2017
Letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin

24 March 2017
Letter to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President, Pedro Agramunt

14 February 2017
Letter to the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier

26 January 2017
Letter to the Managing Director of Transparency International, Cobus de Swardt

16 January 2017
Letter to the Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Russia Federation Valentina Matviyenko and the Chairperson of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin

12 January 2017
Letter to the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

11 January 2017
Letter to the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar
 

2016

30 August 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman

24 August 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Italia, Matteo Renzi

25 July 2016
Letter to the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Erdoğan Işcan

26 May 2016
Letter to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko

13 May 2016
Letter to the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko

29 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Romania, Dacian Cioloș
Copy of the alert

29 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Croatia, Tihomir Orešković

15 April 2016 
Letter to the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama

15 April 2016
Letter to the Chancellor of Austria, Werner Faymann

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Croatia, Tihomir Orešković

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Czech Republic, Bohuslav Sobotka

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydło

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Slovak Republic, Robert Fico

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar

15 April 2016
Letter to the Federal Chancellor of Switzerland, Didier Burkhalter

15 April 2016
Letter to the President of the Government of "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Emil Dimitriev

21 March 2016
Letter to the Acting President of the Government of Spain, Mariano Rajoy

21 March 2016
Letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin

2 March 2016
Letter to heads of government of the 47 member States on protection of migrant and asylym-seeking children
Protecting children affected by the refugee crisis: A shared responsibility - Secretary General's proposals for priority actions

24 February 2016
Letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov

25 January 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg

22 January 2016
Letter to the President of the French Republic, François Hollande

5 January 2016
Letter to the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda
 

2015

15 November 2015
Letter to the President of the French Republic, François Hollande

17 September 2015
Letter to the Organisers and Participants of the Belgrade Pride Parade 2015

9 September 2015
Letter to the Member States
Guidance on the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers

3 August 2015
Letter to the Minister of Justice of Azerbaijan, Fikrat Mammadov

15 June 2015
Letter to the Minister of the Interior of the Czeh Republic, Milan Chovanec

15 June 2015
Letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov

15 June 2015
Letter to the Minister of the Interior of Turkey, Sebahattin Öztürk

15 June 2015
Letter to the State Minister of Monaco, Michel Roger

15 June 2015
Letter to the Deputy Prime Minister of Liechtenstein, Thomas Zwiefelohofer

28 May 2015
Letter to His Eminence Professor Shawki Abdel-Karim Allam, Grand Mufti of Egypt
 

2014

19 August 2014
Letter addressed to the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of 45 member States of the Council of Europe

12 August 2014
Letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

19 May 2014
Letter to the President of the Republic of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić

19 May 2014
Letter to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vjekoslav Bevanda

14 May 2014
Letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

 

2013

8 October 2013
Letter to Mr Shimon Peres, President of Israel

21 August 2013
Letter to Mrs Theresa May, Home Secretary, United Kingdom

13 May 2013
Letter to Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey

24 January 2013
Letter to Mr Sergey Naryshkin, Chairman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation

 

2012

17 December 2012
Letter to the Prime Minister of Romania, Victor Ponta

17 December 2012
Letter to Ms H. Clinton, Secretary of State, USA

5 October 2012
Letter to Volodymr Lytvyn, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada

6 July 2012
Letter to the President of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, Gianni Buquicchio

4 May 2012
Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affaires of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov

27 March 2012
Letter to Members of the European Parliament

19 March 2012
Letter to the Prime Minister of France, François Fillon

14 March 2012
Letter to the Prime Minister of Belgium, Elio Di Rupo

11 January 2012
Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, János Martonyi

 

2011

3 October 2011
Letter to the President of the Republic of Serbia, Boris Tadić

14 September 2011
Letter to the Chairman of the State of Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, James E. Donald

26 August 2011
Letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon

24 August 2011
Letter to the President of the Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio

10 June 2011
Letter to the Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha

21 March 2011
Letter to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev

14 March 2011
Letter to the Prime Minister of Japan

Speeches Speeches
Back

PACE Joint debate on Migration and Refugees

Strasbourg , 

Check against delivery

Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to welcome you all here today.

But as you all know, tragic events beyond Europe’s shores continue to generate waves of immigration.

People that Europe has struggled to support at the speed and to the extent that would serve the best interests of everyone.

Make no mistake, the migration crisis is far from over.

Migrants and refugees continue to risk everything in search of a better life in Europe.

84,000 have crossed the Mediterranean Sea so far this year: and more than 2,100 of them have drowned or gone missing.

It is not just the volume of arrivals that is staggering but the build-up of people in specific areas and the consequences for specific countries:

Thousands of people remain stranded in the Greek islands and mainland.

Thousands more are waiting to have their asylum applications processed by countries struggling to cope.

And today 3.2 million refugees and other migrants live in Turkey – the highest number of any country.

Too few countries are being asked to cope with too great a number of new arrivals, which can fuel nationalism, populism and xenophobia among their citizens.

And here at the Council of Europe we are as frustrated as anyone at these seemingly intractable problems.

We cannot of course solve the political problems that lead so many people to risk their own lives – and those of their children – in search of a better existence.

Nor is it within our remit to manage migration systems.

But it is our responsibility to ensure that our member states understand and uphold the human rights standards to which everyone among us is entitled.

As soon as an individual is under the jurisdiction of a member state, or sets foot on our soil, they are covered by the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights and protected by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights too.

In order to do this, governments must take the lead.

Let me start with one of the most pressing aspects: one about which I feel very strongly.

The protection of refugee and migrant children.

Last year, 100,000 children arrived in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain alone.

Of these, more than a third were unaccompanied.

These young people are extremely vulnerable.

Vulnerable to smuggling and trafficking; to crime and exploitation; and to sexual and gender-based violence and abuse.

Without parental care, they are at the mercy of other people and bureaucratic systems.

And we know that for those granted only temporary residence, the motivation to abscond means that many of these young people are now missing.

10,000 and rising: more vulnerable than ever.

From their treatment on arrival through to building their secure future, these minors have rights under both the Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

And we are empowering our member states to deliver them.

Last months’ Committee of Ministers’ session in Nicosia adopted our new Action Plan, Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe.

That plan rests on three pillars.

First, ensuring access to rights and child-friendly procedures, including every child having a nationality.

Second, promoting effective protection, with guardianship systems in each member state, measures to prevent violence, exploitation and the arbitrary deprivation of liberty – and the fast and efficient provision of family reunification in line with international standards.

And third, enhancing the integration of children with the provision of quality education and the means to participate in their new community.

We should be judged by our treatment of the most vulnerable in society, and here at the Council of Europe we are determined to pass that test.

Of course, all arrivals – young through to old - should be received fairly, in line with the law.

That means ensuring that the right to apply for asylum is respected in practice and that asylum seekers are not simply pushed back to the border.

It means that those who arrive are accommodated in appropriate reception facilities.

And it means that new arrivals do not end up in detention because there is nowhere else for them to go.

Certainly, it is difficult to consider that immigration detention is in the best interests of the child.

Asylum procedures must also function efficiently and fairly so that people are not left dangling in a state of uncertainty over a prolonged period of time.

It is no surprise that countries experiencing unprecedented migration flows sometimes struggle to meet these standards.

But they must do so: that is the law.

The Council of Europe is taking a range of steps to help our member states comply.

We provide training to border guards and we are looking at ways to strengthen the mechanism for complaints about law enforcement on borders.

The Bank of the Council of Europe is investing in facilities such as the Eleonas refugee camp in Athens where our next speaker, Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, has made real efforts to ensure that new arrivals receive a decent standard of treatment.

And our steering committees on human rights and legal cooperation are working on alternatives to migrant detention and on standards of detention.

Our efforts must also of course take into account recent work done by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

For member states struggling to maintain good asylum procedures, we are also providing support through our HELP e-learning course which builds the capacity of those involved in the claims process to meet the terms of the Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights too.

But immediate measures are no substitute for a long-term strategy.

It is in everyone’s interests that new citizens are able to integrate, adapt and contribute to wider society.

For this we need national governments to provide a combination of social rights and integration policies.

The European Committee of Social Rights and ECRI set the targets for which they should aim.

For example, children deserve decent health care, and education.

But of course so too do the long-standing population.

Grievance, resentment and prejudice are more easily stoked where some citizens feel that others are better cared for.

Where equitable provision of rights and services is provided, that tension is eased.

It is also eased when communities within that society are integrated and pulling in the same direction.

Not enough attention has been paid to this area by every member state.

The Council of Europe has long organised initiatives to help countries give their new arrivals the language skills they need, and there are now moves towards standard setting in this area.

We also give guidance on recognising refugees and migrants’ professional and academic qualifications, so that they can find work more easily.

And our range of measures to break down inter-cultural barriers include teaching democratic culture and intercultural dialogue, training young people to spot and discredit hate speech on the internet and our Intercultural Cities Network through which 120 cities worldwide are pioneering policies that break-down community divisions and enhance security and economic growth.

So the challenge is unprecedented, but the law is clear, and the Council of Europe stands ready to help our member states apply it.

I hope that my appointment of Ambassador Tomáš Boček as my Special Representative on Migration and Refugees is a clear signal of my personal commitment to that.

But today is an opportunity for you to debate not just the action that we are taking – of which I have given you a sample – but of what more we could and should do to ease the pain for those arriving in Europe and ease the strain for those countries doing their level best to accommodate them.

This Assembly has played a significant role in identifying these problems and drawing attention to them to the Committee of Ministers and the Council of Europe as a whole.

I am sure that you will use today to continue that very fine work.