The fourth annual Call to Europe Conference took place from 4 to 5 November 2014 in Brussels, Belgium and provided insights towards developing a common progressive European approach to asylum and neighborhood policies.
The first Call to Europe 2014 came from British director Bruce Goodison's feature “Leave to Remain” (2013), which opened the event. A provocative story of children seeking a new life in the UK, instead of focusing on the problems refugees face at home, “Leave to Remain” depicts the struggles they face in Europe such as criminalization and a Kafkaesque asylum bureaucracy. “It is set up to make you fail”, said the director in a discussion after the screening, where he was joined by one of the main actors, Ebrahim Esmail, himself a former asylum seeker.
The movie provided a remarkable introduction to the challenges raised on the following day. In his opening speech Massimo D'Alema, the President of FEPS, stated clearly: “We seek asylum policies which do not criminalize asylum seekers” (...) “We have to favor the integration of migrants in the country hosting them and heighten the standards of reception management.” Indeed, asylum is a fundamental human right but in the context of the vastly growing asylum flows to Europe, it has been subject to restrictive legislation.
Like the previous Call to Europe conferences, the aim of this edition was to bring audiences and speakers together. Once again we succeeded in doing so! Ernst Stetter, Secretary General of FEPS said: “There is a need to construct a new progressive narrative rooted in solidarity, humanity and social justice regarding transversal policies of asylum, neighbourhood and the MENA region”. But as many speakers observed during the conference debates, “solidarity” is difficult to implement. It cannot be created by law but has to come from experience and understanding, or, as Estonian MEP Marju Lauristin noted: “From people's hearts.”
While the need for more solidarity was loud and clear, it remains to be seen how much of this conference “will directly proceed to policy proposals”, a hope expressed in a keynote speech by Sergei Stanishev, the President of the Party of European Socialists.
FEPS will work on asylum, migration and integration during the next year 2015. You can also follow the debate with us through the latest edition of Queries magazine with a 70 pages focus on migration.