Following the terrorist attacks in Volgograd, Russia, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland published the following statement: "I was shocked to hear of the first terrorist attack yesterday in our member state Russia, and the second terrible attack today is very alarming indeed. My thoughts go out...
Deputy Secretary General
The Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, is taking part in the European meeting with the ecumenical Community of Taizé at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In her speech on "New forms of poverty – New forms of solidarity", she underlines that "the...
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland pays tribute to Nelson Mandela: "Nelson Mandela was the world's greatest human rights defender of our time. His life showed that human rights can prevail and a single person can change the destiny of a nation".
Ukrainian government and opposition agree on Secretary General Jagland's plan to oversee investigation into Kyiv clashes
The three main opposition parties in Ukraine and Prime Minister Azarov have accepted Secretary General Jagland's plan to establish an expert advisory panel to oversee the investigation into the violent incidents in Kyiv on 30 November and 1 December. "The investigation and its results must be...
Following his visit to Ukraine, Secretary General Jagland published the following statement: "The aim of our discussions with government and opposition representatives has been to find avenues for dialogue in view of a political solution to the current crisis in Ukraine. The people of Ukraine...
Ukraine: Secretary General meets leaders of parliamentary parties, speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister
Council of Europe Secretary General Jagland met today in Kiev with the leaders of the parliamentary parties, the speaker of the Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. The Secretary General's offer of assistance received a positive response from all sides concerned. The aim of...
On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland calls on member states to move with greater speed from a medical to a human rights-based approach towards disability. "Around 15% of the European population has some form of disability. In...
Secretary General Jagland calls on all parties concerned in Ukraine to return to peaceful dialogue and offers the assistance of the Council of Europe
In a statement today, Secretary General Jagland calls on all parties concerned in Ukraine to return to peaceful dialogue and offers the assistance of the Council of Europe. "The situation in our member state Ukraine is of great concern to the Council of Europe. I call upon all parties in Ukraine...
In his closing remarks to theStrasbourg World Forum for Democracy, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland highlighted the need to promote online literacy and raise awareness of the risks to privacy and data protection. Political parties and institutions had a huge potential to increase...
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Secretary General Jagland encouraged states to ratify the Council of Europe's convention on violence against women. "If you set up an email alert for domestic violence, the results are mostly sad news. But the reality is even...
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland today met Mr Sadullah Ergin, Minister of Justice of Turkey who is paying a visit to the Council of Europe. The Secretary General and the Minister discussed the on-going judicial reforms in Turkey which have led to a reduction of cases pending before the...
In his keynote speech to the conference of European Rabbis, the Secretary General underlined the Council of Europe's commitment to religious freedom. "In no way does the Council of Europe want to ban the practice of male circumcision", he said. (Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of Moscow,...
In their meeting on 11 November in Berlin, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and the President of the German Bundestag, Dr. Norbert Lammert, discussed the accession of the European Union to the European Convention of Human Rights, and the revision of the Council of Europe's Convention on Data...
Secretary General Jagland discussed Montenegro's progress in integrating minorities in particular the Roma people and the LGBT population with the Montenegrin authorities and Prime Minister Djukanovic. Montenegro and the Council of Europe
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić discussed Serbia's constructive role in regional reconciliation. Mr. Jagland welcomed Serbia's political reforms and progress towards EU membership. The Secretary General also emphasised the benefits of using the Council...
The Secretary General met with a delegation of the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA), lead by FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Topics of discussion were the Council of Europe's work in the area of sport, in particular the drafting of a convention to combat match fixing. They...
President of France, François Hollande, personally awarded Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland the title of Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honour in a ceremony at the Élysée Palace on Monday 28 October. This honour acknowledges Mr Jagland for his "tireless...
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is making an official visit to Austria from 23-24 October. In his discussions with Foreign Minister Spindelegger and President Fischer the Secretary General underlined the importance of the Austrian chairmanship's priorities, in particular...
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is making an official visit to Greece from 22-23 October. In Athens, Mr Jagland is holding bilateral meetings with Prime Minister of Greece Mr. Antonis Samaras; Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Evangelos Venizelos; Minister of Justice,...
The Italian Minister for Integration Cécile Kyenge is visiting the Council of Europe for talks with the Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, the Deputy Secretary General Gabriella Battaini Dragoni, the Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks and the Secretary General of the Parliamentary...
PACE Joint debate on Migration and Refugees
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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.
22 December 2017
Letter to the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis