Statement of Secretary General Jagland regarding the decree of pardon signed on 29 December by President Aliyev

30/12/2014 Strasbourg

"The decree signed by the President of Azerbaijan includes 10 names from the 'prisoners list' submitted by human rights defenders. This is a step in the right direction. However, there are still many names on the list that need to be urgently considered. Some well-known human rights defenders...

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Raid and closure of Radio Free Europe in Azerbaijan raises concerns over freedom of expression

28/12/2014 Strasbourg

The reported closure of Radio Free Europe again raises concerns over freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe will request the reason and legal justification for this action from the Azerbaijani authorities.

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EU accession to Human Rights Convention

Parlimentary Assembly 18 December 2014 Strasbourg

Let's overcome hurdles to ensure EU accedes to the Human Rights Convention, says President of the Parliamentary Assembly

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Eastern Partnership

Council of Europe 18 December 2014 Strasbourg

Council of Europe and European Commission boost cooperation in Eastern Europe

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Statement of Secretary Thorbjørn Jagland on the deadly terrorist attack on a school in Pakistan

16/12/2014 Strasbourg

The world looks in horror and disbelief at this outrageous act of terrorism. My thoughts go out to the victims' families and friends and to all the millions of Pakistanis aspiring to a peaceful and democratic future. Even in these dark times, I encourage the people of Pakistan not to give up on...

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Council of Europe concerned about actions against media outlets. Secretary General Jagland will make official visit to Turkey on 6-7 January

14/12/2014 Strasbourg

We are closely following the actions taken by the authorities in Turkey with regard to several media outlets over the last 24 hours. The Council of Europe is always concerned when freedom of media is at risk and journalists are hindered in their work. Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland will...

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Anti-Semitism is a threat not only in France but all over Europe

10 December 2014 Strasbourg

“France, its President, its Prime Minister and its Interior Minister have made the fight against anti-Semitism a national cause. The Council of Europe fully supports this initiative because anti-Semitism is a threat not only in France but all over Europe. For a few years now, our experts, in...

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Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland welcomes transparency of US Senate CIA report in a statement to AFP

10 December 2014 Strasbourg

(AFP) The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland on Wednesday welcomed the publication of the US Senate’s report on the CIA, which he regarded as confirming the findings of the pan-European organisation and the European Court of Human Rights. The US Senate’s report on CIA...

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Secretary General Jagland calls for immediate release of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova

09/12/2014 Strasbourg

I am concerned that a Baku court ordered the two-month pre-trial detention of prominent Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Her arrest was unnecessary. It sends a very negative message to the civil society in Azerbaijan and to the international community. It once again puts...

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Secretary General Jagland addresses OSCE in Basel

04/12/2014 Strasbourg

The need for a concerted effort of the main international organisations addressing the crisis in Ukraine and the urgency of humanitarian relief were key messages of the speech by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland at the meeting of the Ministerial Council of the...

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Secretary General meets Prime Minister of Luxembourg

01/11/2014 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland met today Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The exchange of views focused on the crisis in Ukraine, on the Secretary General’s proposal for a future Council of Europe summit and on the reform of the Organisation. Thorbjørn Jagland...

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Council of Europe Secretary General Jagland in Moscow for talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov and meetings with civil society representatives

26/11/2014 Strasbourg

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland will be in Moscow on 27-28 November for a working visit. He will meet with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov and Ella Pamfilova, Commissioner for Human Rights. The Secretary General will hold talks with...

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Statement by Belgian Foreign Minister and Committee of Ministers Chairman Didier Reynders and Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland

24/11/2014 Strasbourg

Turning vision into reality: the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention - response to women victims of violence across the world On the International Day on Ending Violence against Women, the Council of Europe remembers the hundreds and thousands of women who suffer unspeakable violence, at the...

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Secretary General Jagland: Europe must do more to investigate cases of violence against women

21/11/2014 Strasbourg

In this comment, Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, explains why more governments need to sign and ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on violence against women. “Daily headlines tell us that violence against women sadly continues around the world. The...

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Decision to postpone court hearing on liquidation of Russian Memorial Society welcome development, says Secretary General

13/11/2014 Strasbourg

Following today’s decision by the Russian Supreme Court to postpone the hearing of a lawsuit brought by the Russian Justice Ministry against the Russian Memorial Society, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General TJ gave a comment to TASS news agency. “Today’s decision by the Russian Supreme...

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EU-Council of Europe cooperation

Secretary General 12 November 2014 Strasbourg

Joint Statement by European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans and Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland

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Joint Statement by European Commission First Vice President and Secretary General

12/11/2014 Strasbourg

Secretary General Jagland and European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans met today in Brussels. They made the following statement: “On the occasion of our meeting today, we have confirmed our shared commitment to the protection of fundamental rights and the rule of law in Europe....

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Thorbjørn Jagland in Brussels

12/11/2014 Strasbourg

The Secretary General was in Brussels for meetings with high-level representatives of the European Union and the Belgian authorities. Topics for discussion with the First Vice President of the EU Commission, Frans Timmermans, include the state of human rights and democracy in Europe, the EU’s...

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Thorbjørn Jagland in Brussels

Secretary General 12 November 2014 Strasbourg

The Secretary General was in Brussels for meetings with high-level representatives of the European Union and the Belgian authorities. Topics for discussion with the First Vice President of the EU Commission, Frans Timmermans, include the state of human rights and democracy in Europe, the EU’s...

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Secretary General deeply concerned by reports of third execution in Belarus this year

04/11/2014 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said he was deeply concerned by the reports of the third execution in Belarus this year. "Capital punishment is not justice. It directly contradicts European values. I reiterate the Council of Europe appeal to the authorities of Belarus to establish without...

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Speeches Speeches

PACE Joint debate on Migration and Refugees

Strasbourg , 

Check against delivery


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.