A letter from PICUM’s Director
By Michele LeVoy
Dear colleagues and friends,
18 December, was International Migrants’ Day. It is also a time for us to look back at a year which was characterized by several events that occurred unexpectedly, affected us emotionally - some of us personally – and all of them heavily impacting the discourse on irregular migration.
The Brussels terrorist attacks in March came as a shock, also because of the proximity to PICUM’s office. What was truly concerning, however, was the immediate link made to migrants arriving in Europe before the identities and nationalities of the attackers were even confirmed. Placing migrants wrongfully under a general suspicion was particularly harmful in a climate of fear, long before a sense of security could be restored among the general public in Brussels and across Europe.
Unjustified assumptions, misconceptions and even racist slurs also led migration to become a defining issue in the ‘Brexit’ debate in the UK. After the June 2016 referendum, the damage was irreparable with an increase in reported verbal attacks, discrimination and hate crimes.
After Donald Trump was elected to become President of the United States in November, similarly in the months following the ‘Brexit’ vote, hate speech and hate crimes reportedly also increased in the United States.
Following these events and witnessing the impact an uninformed, biased or even discriminatory debate in politics and reflected in the media has on people’s perceptions, I reflected on my own family’s migration from Ireland to the United States and made the impact of labelling the topic of a TEDx speech I did on migrant women.
2016 has once again surpassed previous years when it comes to migrants dying in the Mediterranean. However, European leaders have highlighted that, following larger numbers of migrants and refugees arriving in 2015, they ‘regained control’ through closing migration routes, border security and tackling people smuggling.
It is the strength and ongoing growth of our network which helps us to achieve successes in our advocacy, despite the difficult climate we work in.
Earlier this year, PICUM held a debate at the European Parliament on undocumented migrant youth in Europe and in the United States that brought policymakers, civil society, migrant youth and academics together who agreed on recognizing the rights and enabling equal participation of undocumented children and youth. Following the event, PICUM gathered a series of testimonies of undocumented children and youth across Europe which was published as a booklet and shared widely.
In the area of health care, we focused on sexual and reproductive health rights in cooperation with key partners such as Doctors of the World (MdM), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) European Network and the Center for Reproductive Rights. This also included the publishing of the report “The Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Undocumented Migrants: Narrowing the Gap Between Their Rights and The Reality in the EU”.
There are many other achievements I could name here which we realized thanks to all of our partners’ support.
At global level, the United Nations’ High-Level Summit on 19 September 2016 in New York led to the commitment to adopt a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018. PICUM will continue its work with partners to ensure that the compact reflects the rights of all migrants, regardless of their status.
In 2017, Germany will host the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), followed by Morocco in 2018. In recent years, the civil society days around the GFMD have allowed us to bring in our members helping to shape recommendations for policymakers.
With the current political climate and elections coming up in several EU member states next year where migration already features high on electoral agendas, it will be of utmost importance that we continue our cooperation at all levels.
Our work would not be possible without supporters, members and partners. I would like to use this moment to sincerely thank you again for your support and collaboration and to appeal to you appeal to you to continue your support of undocumented migrants, and our work.
We wish you peaceful and happy holidays and are looking forward to continuing this collaboration in 2017.