With roots stemming back to 2007 with The Vienna Declaration the Black European Women’s Council (BEWC) is set to revive itself. The first step was a face-to-face meeting with some of the board members representing Austria, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In addition to discussing the future of the BEWC we had the honor of meeting with Minister Kyenge, Italy, thanks to our Italian board member, Dr. Susanne Mbiye.
Minister Kyenge has received global recognition for becoming the first black women in the Italian Parliament and for her position on granting citizenship to the children of immigrants born in Italy. She has also received verbal abuse from her colleagues in Italy.
Despite her hectic schedule including plenary and other meetings that day Minister Kyenge greeted each one of us with a warm handshake and parted with a kiss on the cheek. She, I can attest, is grace personified.
Participants of the 6th Meeting of the European Integration Forum: The involvement of countries of origin in the integration process were representatives from 22 European organizations, members of the European Economic & Social Committee, national contacts points of integrations, members of the European Parliament, European Commissioners and representatives of national organizations from 26 countries. During the forum the Council for Ethnic Minorities in Denmark was re-elected to sit on the European integration Forum’s Bureau and the national organization, and Caritas Europe was re-elected as the EU umbrella organization.
Opening session, chaired by Staffan Nilsson (who had to leave after giving brief remarks) and was replaced by Cristian Pirvulescu – Member of EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE; with Stefano Manservisi, Claude Moraes, and Driss El Yazami
Cristian Pirvulescu, Member of EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE:
Any immigration legislation must take care of the integration of the needs associated with circular migration, for example housing for seasonal workers. The system needs regulation. The EU must recognize that what works in Denmark or Sweden does not work in Italy. Skilled migration will always be more welcome than unskilled, yet humans are not a commodity. Unskilled migrants are needed.
Stefano Manservisi, Director General of DG Home Affairs, European Commission:
It must be determined which type of integration policy is relevant in each case, hence the importance of the involvement of countries of origin. It is a two way process with internal and external factors, for example, professional life, families, communication, transportation and friendships are just a few of the concepts that shape the new reality of migration and immigration in Europe. Good integration, including family unification, is a way to improve our society. With the decline in the European birth rate and the present trend, Europe will not have a healthy balance of work force vs. need. “We welcome immigrants”.
We need to question who is writing pre-departure policies and how can the country of departure help; how to arrange pre-departure contact; and court the members states that are creating obstacles. The focus must be on all the different actors working together.
Claude Moraes, Member of European Parliament, S&D LIBE Coordinator: There are member states that do not want to take action in immigration. They resist or dilute. The concept of integration policies in a period of austerity is especially important. The process has been slow because member states move so slowly.
Immigration is treated in the European Parliament in a piece meal way and is still seen through a western European lens. “The concept of fair treatment when it comes to season workers is paramount. I don’t think trade unions are doing enough”.
Push the commission and parliament and get majorities on the side of immigration, then monitor policies on the ground. Be vigilant and focused. Gender is not an added on concept in terms of immigration anymore, but more attention is needed outside of the human trafficking issue.
SELECT PARTICIPANT EXAMPLES of current obstacles:
1. Russia is not willing to help citizen migrate and therefore not interested in helping them repatriate. – Finnish Association of Russian-speaking Organizations
2. In some cases Visas are printed after the leaving immigrant learns the language of the destination country. However not all departure countries have such language learning opportunities. – European Trade Union Confederation
3. There is frustration with the obstacles that exist to preventing external and internal coalitions from being built. – European Trade Union Confederation
SELECT PARTICIPANT FEEDBACK
1. The validity of demographic gap needs questioning as well as answering the question of what you want to do with immigrants. – BAGFW
2. Forcing policy on member states will only make them reinforce the defensive positions. – Counseil National pour Etrangers
Plenary session – Entrepreneurship for the Diaspora and Pre-departure measures, chaired by Philippe Fargues, European University Institute; with IntEnt Foundation, QUD-IK, Learning Unlimited, and UNDP
Programs include a focus on entrepreneurial development and work with NGOs in country of origin and program in receiving country. For example educating migrants on the best way to send money to family in their home country.
QUD-UK: Programs include pre-departure measures and training. For example a project in Pakistan, “Integrate UK”, encourages women to develop their English skills before immigrating to the UK. In the Mirpur city/region of Pakistan they provide language training and raise awareness of life in the UK, in conjunction with a local university, including rights and responsibilities. The women must pass a test in order to apply for a Visa. The goal is to improve life for the spouses in the UK.
Learning Unlimited: Programs provide pre-departure measures supporting women (spouses/partners) who are going to meet their husbands in the UK: Welcome to the UK and Preparing for Life in the UK. Bilingual workshops are held in conjunction with local English teachers and the UK-Bangladesh Education Trust to provide a platform for full engagement. For example a taster workshop is given and includes family members and discusses health, education, training, employment, money, shopping, public transport, libraries, family days out, time management and the journey to the UK.
EC-UN Joint Migration & Development Initiative: Looks at the transnational work of migrants in economic, social, cultural and political terms to determine how they help their country of origin. More and more women are participating in transnational activities. Immigrants are more likely to be involved when they have legal status, receiving country passport, money to implement a project, social capital, knowledge and understanding of legislation, receiving country offers opportunities to mobilize and engage with relevant parties.
Transnational activities allow migrants to open the field of professional opportunities, increase social economic mobility, increase capabilities and develop prestige in their community. There is often investment in the country of origin and subsequently in the country of residence. Countries of origin can maintain ties with migrant, prepare potential migrants, and set up mobility frameworks with the mindset that migration is a local to local phenomenon. But there is currently a disconnect and the need to mainstream migration info development planning policies.
Rountable A – Pre-departure measures in support of integration moderated by Pindie Stephen, Sr. Migrant Training Officer, IOM Geneva with Peter Scholten, PROSINT Project, Muriel Sempoux, Wallonia Training and Employment Office, and Teresa Santos, Portuguese institute for Development Assistance
This area is drastically under researched. The subject needs more evidence to make recommendations. Must determine who pays the cost and who are the beneficiaries.
Roundtable B – Relationship between Diaspora communities and countries of origin moderated by Brenda King, EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE Member with Awil Mohamound, Founder & Director of the African Diaspora Policy Centre, and Tony Sealey, UK-Caribbean businessman
Awil Mohamound, Founder & Director of the African Diaspora Policy Centre: Trade increases between the countries of origin and the receiving countries. This creates employment opportunities.
Tony Sealey, UK-Caribbean businessman: Immigrants have the responsibility to be entrepreneurs and wealth creators. Only then can we give money and resources back to our home countries. “Money talks, bullshit walks”. A disconnect with the country of origin discourages the 3rd or more generation immigrants from investing in their country of origin. There is no need for preferential treatment for immigrants but there is a need for fairness: equal access to finance to buy homes or businesses as well as access to government tenders. There is a place for aid in civil society, health and education, but also a significant amount of money in trade with the goal of self determination.
Recommendation: Governments can support dual citizenship and multinationalism.
Roundtable C – Integration in the light of circular migration and development moderated by Kristof Tamas, DG Home Affairs, European Commission, with Pascale Charhon, European Network on Migrations and Development, and Rudi Delarue, International Labour Organisation.
The issue of circular migration is not new and governments need to develop a route from circular to long term migration.
Final remark – Marta Cygan, Director of Immigration and Asylum, DG Home Affairs: We must always be mindful of the human element, human rights. We must share ideas and information on best practices and then implement them.
Aygul Özkan, Minister for Social, Women’s Affairs, Health and Integration of Lower Saxony (Germany)
Immigrants are obliged to take language and politics course. Young people have to get involved in politics.
School level education and language education are the keys to integrating 1st – 4th generations. It is the key to employment. Mastering German is crucial. If children start learning German as early as age 4 there is less repair to do later.
This benefits people from disadvantaged background too. If the government starts intervention before they go to school, less get held back.
Transition to workforce: language and communication is important. This is often a fault of the educational process.
Job seekers with Turkish names are discriminated against. They receive fewer interviews even if they have equal or superior qualifications.
The government is working with companies to offer internships to immigrant students to help break down barriers.
The government needs to recruit teachers from immigrant backgrounds.
Foreign educational qualifications need to be excepted as the current process is opaque. There are 300,000 people in the labor market whose qualifications have not been recognized.
There a pilot programs, integration pilot programs, involving Germans who want to engage with immigrants and help them navigate on the local level (sport clubs, etc.).
The government wants local imams and to create a center for religious studies B.A. program.
Immigrants from the 1960’s need elder care.
Peter Bossman, Mayor of Piran, Slovenia
He came to Europe as an educational immigrant intending to return to Ghana. He was advised to study in Yugoslavia (now Slovenia).
He earned his medical degree and ended up staying and starting a family. One day he noticed he wasn’t the black man or the foreigner, he was the local doctor. He had integrated.
Luis Miguel Pariza Castanos, European Economic and Social Committee
Racism and xenophobia and populism is on the raise and some politicians are using that to achieve political gains.
A mistake by some entrepreneurs is using immigrants to divide the labor market and lower wages. This gives rise to xenophobia and racism.
EU legislation must make it easier for member states to have harmonization for integration.
A. Which policies that have been put forth were the most useful on local and/or national level?
Good experiences of practices:
–Germany – new German National action program replaced the old integration plan.
–New plan has a time frame and bench marking.
–Many multi-national companies are pursuing diversity plans.
–SME’s are adopting labor diversity in the workforce.
–Diversity charters are being used in Germany.
–In Sweden immigrants are encouraged to become entrepreneurs, training and help available.
From immigrant perspective:
–when immigrants are organized a lot has been achieved with for example in Finland there are immigrants Ambassadors.
–Budapest has a program with Roma
–Sports personalities have been used as role models in Germany
–Job coach program in Sweden to help build personal and professional networks
–Suffrage rights have been important, for example in Ireland immigrants where educated abut voting and registered to vote. Candidates then recognized that group.
–Immigrants representation is missing in certain professions.
–There are quotas in some countries which contain positive and negative aspects.
–Norway and Finland have anonymous recruiting procedures.
–Importance of support of migrant networks at national and European level. They foster social cohesion.
–Consultative bodies should not only be consulted on migrant issues but also a more general consultation on issues that are also interesting to migrant communities. Synergies need to be established.
–National integration courses can be problematic.
–Importance of legislation concerning anti discrimination laws.
–It helps migrants to have a history of the receiving country.
–Education to receiving country citizens about the importance of migrants to the economy.
–suffrage rights are crucial
–permanent residency as soon as possible is crucial
–funding often goes to the local authorities who do not have the expertise to manage the money or implement the programs.
–short term program are often successful
–immigrants should be encouraged to be entrepreneurs
–need to provide “one stop service” for migrants for help with the paperwork
–training for civil servants
–mentor programs have been successful
B. List 2-3 key elements that are missing.
1. Teachers need training to interact with immigrants
2. Standardization to attracted skilled immigrants to Europe
3. Public education on why Europe needs integration.
3. Clarification on the EU 20-20-strategy.
1. Huge gaps between written policies and actual practices
2. Scope of EU 2020 strategy is too limited – a lot applies only to legal residents and 3rd country nationals.
1. Importance of closing the gap between theory and practice
2. Equal treatment from the police
3. Skills for youth
1. Participation in trade unions
2. Facilitating highly skilled and educated migrants contributing to receiving society as soon as possible upon arrival
Who is missing from the policies
1. Undocumented migrants
2. Criminalization of undocumented migrants
3. Programs for women
4. Programs for boys
1. Facilitate the mobility level for immigrants, those without citizenship.
2. Harmonization of labor laws
3. Liberalization of ability for companies to hire immigrants
4. EU legislation on diversity
5. Funding for immigrant organizations
6, Monitoring of national policies
8. Monitoring right wing governments
9. Eradicate Islamophobia
10. Managing demographic challenges
11. Separate the immigration issue from the security issues
1. Procurement process for utilizing immigrant owned SME’s
2. Integration issue should be linked to European presidency
3. Use voting rights to ensure we have residency rights to votes
4.Cut red tape so that not only the large welfare organizations get access to funding, but the smaller ones can too.
5. Address the basic needs like friends and community
6. National integration forums
7. Benchmarking practices
Quotes from the 4th meeting of the European Integration Forum
“We are all minorities in Europe. We have to remember that”.—Stefano Manservici, Director General of DG Home Affairs, European Committee
“People take on different identities during a lifetime. When governments say immigrants have to choose an identity (the host country’s identity) this is the grounds for discrimination”.—Luis Miguel Pariza Castanos, European Economic and Social Committee
“We propose community citizenship (European) for longstanding residents. National laws should recognize their rights to national citizenship”.—Luis Miguel Pariza Castanos, European Economic and Social Committee
“There is only one majority in Europe and that is women who make up more than 50%”. – Peter Verhaeghe, Migration Officer, Caritas Europa
“We have to talk about the values that make us one”.—Peter Bossman, Mayor of Piran, Slovenia
“Everyone talks about quotas and targets but the key for every integration policy should be human rights”.—Peter Bossman, Mayor of Piran, Slovenia
“Across the EU few immigrants are consulted to improve national policy”.—Thomas Huddleston, Migration Policy Group
“Germany has been an employment destination since the 1950’s and people stayed and no work was done to integrate them“.–Michael Van Der Cammen, Germany Employment Agency
“In Germany BP looks at who buys gas at their stations and hires staff that looks like their customers“.–Michael Van Der Cammen, German Employment Agency
“Immigrants must give up a little independence in the receiving country. Hey can keep their own customs and they can speak their own language. But they must learn the language, customs and values of the receiving country“.–Peter Bossman, Mayor of Piran, Slovenia
“It takes an average of 7 years for a migrant in Sweden to find a job”.—Henrik Nilsson, Swedish Red Cross
“Many immigrants choose Canada over Europe because of the level of xenophobia and racism in Europe”.—Luis Miguel Pariza Castanos
“It is important that immigrants participate in political parties. A lack of citizenship does not have to exclude you from political participation. It is a way of taking responsibility for where you live“.–Dr. Karamba Diaby, Bundeszuwanderungs-Und Integrationsrat
“Companies today that open up to diversity are the most successful in Europe and internationally”. – Luis Miguel Pariza Castanos, European Economic and Social Committee
“In Germany BP looks at who buys gas in various locations and hires staff that looks like the customers”.–Michael Van Der Cammen, Germany Employment Agency
“We don’t speak of “guest workers” anymore but we still talk about “host societies”. We should instead talk about and create receiving societies, more welcoming societies”.—Peter Verhaeghe, Migration Officer, Caritas Europa
“We the commission think that citizenship is a part of integration. But that is a national issue. We can recommend that but not do anything about it”.–EU Commissioner
During the past two years the Black European Women’s Council (BEWC) has held two strategic meetings; one in Holland and the second in Austria, toward its goal of establishing itself in the heart of the EU quarter in Brussels.
The BEWC also organized a conference in Brussels which was attended by EU politicians, leaders of organizations for women in the US and across Europe as well as diversity executives from corporate America and Europe.
Abisara Machold led the second round of the “Identity and Empowerment” workshop at the 1st Black Women European’s Congress in Vienna. She did so with great enthusiasm, often injecting poetry that reflected a point that was raised, and ended by asking all of the participants to hold hands and, one-by-one, to state what the congress meant to them. It was a powerful moment, and I was moved to tears as I was overwhelmed with emotion as I listened to my sisters express what was in my heart: the 1st Black European Women’s Congress created a safe space for us to meet, strategize, share, confirm and validate.
Abisara lives in Berlin and is active in the music world. She participated in popkomm, and in the Pressekonferenz gegen Gewalt im HipHop.
Abisara is involved in the GEGEN RASSISMUS IM DEUTSCHEN HIPHOP campaign.
1. Each Black European Woman attending felt a bond with each other. We were all sisters together regardless of our African origin or European location.
2. Every woman at the Congress made a personal and/or financial committment to be in Vienna and each one made a committment to reach out to other Black European women in their respective countries to spread the word about our network.
3. Emotions ran high as discussions and debates revealed our deep desire to participate in a dialogue about what it means to be a Black Women in Europe. I wept because I was so overwhelmed at the amount of abounding love, and the intense feeling of belonging. This is something Black Women in Europe seldom feel.
4. We left the congress feeling optimistic, stonger and empowered having set our agenda at the EU level. The presence of MEP’s, national and local politicians, and our very own Brenda King validated the need for such a forum.
5. The fact that our congress was covered by the Austrian and international media is joyful as it is one step in the direction of countering negative images of Black European Women.