InFRA, 10-18 April, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

 

1.   WHAT’S NEW

a)    FRA expresses concern over threats to civil society and freedom of education in the EU

b)    Greater efforts needed to increase Roma participation and combat anti-Gypsyism

c)    Improving child participation in justice and beyond

2.   FEEDBACK FROM RECENT ACTIVITIES

a)    ‘Getting our act together’ to help tackle the crisis of rights

b)    FRA discusses social integration with Prince of Wales at OSCE

c)    Portuguese seminar focuses on Roma communities

d)    Funding challenges and reaching out to deprived groups

e)    Roma participation and empowerment in cities

f)    EU Anti-trafficking coordinator visits FRA

g)    Local approaches to global security challenges

h)    FRA supports national Roma inclusion activities in Croatia

i)     Anti-trafficking alliance conference focuses on children

j)     FRA findings presented to European Integration Network

k)    Joint platform on social and economic rights meets in Strasbourg

l)     Migrant smuggling contact point network holds first meeting

m)  Experts discuss migration information and awareness raising campaigns

n)    Helping integration – policy support for learners and educators

Please find below the latest information.

1.   WHAT’S NEW

a.    FRA expresses concern over threats to civil society and freedom of education in the EU

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) emphasises the vital role of civil society and academic freedom in bolstering our democracies, and affirms the Agency’s commitment to protecting civil society throughout the EU. The EU is a space in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely. Article 13 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which was approved by the leaders of all EU Member States in 2000, reflects national and international standards by explicitly stating that the arts and scientific research must be free from constraints.

b.    Greater efforts needed to increase Roma participation and combat anti-Gypsyism

On the eve of International Roma Day, FRA calls for stronger efforts to counter anti-Gypsyism and work towards the full participation of Roma in European society. Research by the Fundamental Rights Agency shows that Roma continue to face intolerable levels of discrimination in their daily lives, whether looking for work, at work, in education, healthcare, when in contact with administrative bodies, or even when entering a shop.

c.    Improving child participation in justice and beyond

Improving child participation will be thrown under the spotlight during a high-level event at the Agency on 28 April. The FRA Director will open the event with key messages on children’s participation in judicial proceedings and how to ensure child-friendly treatment. The event will draw on the Agency’s research in this area highlighting areas of improvement and promising practices. Subsequent working groups will look at ways forward on child participation focusing on justice, child rights awareness raising and communication through different media channels to better reach children. Children will also take part during the event giving their views on what needs to be done to improve child participation. (Contact: Astrid Podsiadlowski)

2. FEEDBACK FROM RECENT ACTIVITIES

a.    ‘Getting our act together’ to help tackle the crisis of rights

To tackle the current human rights crisis we need to get our act together said FRA’s Director during a workshop at the Catalan Parliament on 3 April in Barcelona. The workshop, organised by the International Ombudsman Institute, sought to explore how the rise in populism in political debate is having an impact on human rights and what ombudsperson institutions can do. In opening his speech the FRA Director acknowledged the vital role ombudsperson institutions play as defenders of rights and champions of values in public life.

b.    FRA discusses social integration with Prince of Wales at OSCE

The Director participated in a discussion on social integration with the United Kingdom’s HRH Prince of Wales at the OSCE, Vienna, on 6 April. Other discussants included ODIHR Director, Michael Link, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, OSCE representatives and Bianca Schonberger. The discussion was chaired by Ambassador Christian Strohal.

c.    Portuguese seminar focuses on Roma communities

The Agency presenting selected findings about Roma discrimination from its second EU minorities and discrimination survey during a European Roma Platform in Lisbon on 6 April organised by the Portuguese High Commission for Migration. It also spoke about its Local Engagement for Roma Inclusion (LERI) research, highlighting first reflections on local engagement in the 11 EU Member States addressed by the project. It highlighted four key messages: the importance of trust, meaningful participation of Roma, empowering people to claim their rights, and the need to acknowledge and learn from past failures in order to better design and improve future efforts. The upcoming publication of case studies and videos from 21 localities in the LERI project was also announced. The meeting was attended by the Secretary of State for Equality and Citizenship Catarina Marcelina, members of Portuguese Parliament, representatives from Roma communities, local authorities, the Council of Europe, OSCE/ODIHR, civil society organisations as well as social workers. (Contact: Massimo Toschi)

d.    Funding challenges and reaching out to deprived groups

The 5th Network Meeting of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) in Berlin from 6 to 7 April focused on challenges in European funds reaching the most deprived beneficiary groups, such as the homeless, Roma, and EU mobile citizens. In a plenary session on non-discrimination, the Agency presented Roma findings from its EU Minorities and Discrimination II survey, as well as preliminary reflections on the challenges of EU funds reaching Roma at the local level, based on experiences from its Local Engagement for Roma Inclusion (LERI) research. The meeting brought together a variety of stakeholder groups, including the European Commission, the European Social Fund, the European Anti-Poverty Network and various other national and municipality representatives and civil society organisations. (Contact:Sheena Keller)

e.    Roma participation and empowerment in cities

The Agency outlined its experiences supporting Roma participation at the local level through its Local Engagement for Roma Inclusion (LERI) research during the EUROCITIES Roma Task Force meeting in Lisbon on 5 April. The meeting brought together various city representatives and European Commission representatives to discuss local approaches towards fostering Roma participation. It included workshops on city strategies for Roma engagement, actions needed to foster Roma inclusion and to address urban poverty and support EU-level actions. (Contact: Sheena Keller)

f.     EU Anti-trafficking coordinator visits FRA

The EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator visited the Agency on 4 April and met with the Director to discuss FRA’s work on human trafficking. The Anti-Trafficking Coordinator highlighted the increasing concerns about child trafficking, where the Agency is working on practical guidance for Member States concerning EU children at risk. The discussion also touched upon FRA’s work in the migration hotspots and on severe labour exploitation. (Contact: Adriano Silvestri)

g.    Anti-trafficking alliance conference focuses on children

The Agency took part in the Alliance against Trafficking in Human Beings conference in Vienna on 4 April. The event, convened by the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, discussed human trafficking threats for children in crises, the path towards effective child protection systems to prevent and combat human trafficking, and guidelines for policy development and implementation. The Agency joined discussions on effective child protection systems to prevent and combat human trafficking, paying particular attention to the role of guardians. (Contact: Maria Amor Martín Estébanez)

h.    FRA supports national Roma inclusion activities in Croatia

The Agency presented selected Roma results from its second EU minority discrimination survey showing the position of Croatia during the closing conference on 4 April of the National Roma Platform in Croatia. The EU-funded National Roma Platform was a project organised by the Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities, the National Roma Contact Point for Croatia. It was developed to follow the model of the EU Roma Platform and to respond the calls for deeper involvement of civil society in Roma integration processes. FRA’s presentation is part of the long-term assistance provided to the Croatian National Roma Contact Point Office in the area of monitoring and evaluating the National Roma Integration Strategy. (Contact: Jaroslav Kling)

i.     Local approaches to global security challenges

On 30-31 March, the Agency joined the debate during the OSCE’s Security Days which brought together mayors from Europe and around the world to engage on an open dialogue towards creating inclusive, safe and sustainable cities. Mayors and local authorities are on the frontline when it comes to delivering essential local services from education to health. They also need to quickly respond to unexpected and complex situations such as terrorism, hate crime and hate speech which attack the heart of our ‘living-together’ in cities. Discussions at the event highlighted that engaging the population and establishing effective local inclusion policies are key success factors. FRA’s recent report stressed the key role of integration of vulnerable people, in particular migrants and refugees as a driver for a cohesive society. Promoting the political and social participation of migrants as a two-way process, promoting citizenship education, civic competences and communicating fundamental rights, particularly at the local level, can create more sustainable solutions towards making cities safer and more secure. Finally, involving mayors in developing national security and budgeting policies would greatly facilitate the effective and coordinated implementation of these policies locally. (Contacts: Geraldine Guille /Maria Amor Martín Estébanez)

j.     FRA findings presented to European Integration Network

The Agency focused on the risk of living apart in divided societies and underlined the need to approach integration policies as tools for realising fundamental rights in more inclusive and cohesive societies at a European Integration Network meeting on 28 March in Brussels. It was drawing on findings from its report ‘Together in the EU, Promoting participation of migrants and their descendants’. According to the report, to create more inclusive and cohesive societies requires integration policies that encourage the active participation of migrants and their descendants in social, economic, cultural and democratic life. The event was organised by the Maltese presidency. (Contact: Miltos Pavlou).

k.    Joint platform on social and economic rights meets in Strasbourg

The Agency presented its position on the European Pillar of Social Rights and its work on human rights indicators during a meeting on 28 March in Strasbourg, hosted by the Council of Europe. It was the 4th meeting of the Council of Europe, FRA, Equinet and ENNHRI platform on social and economic rights. Participants suggested that the platform could be further used for sharing promising practices and information on relevant events at the national level. (Contact: Rosana Garciandia).

l.     Migrant smuggling contact point network holds first meeting

The European Commission invited the Agency to take part in the first meeting of the network of the National Contact Points on migrant smuggling. The meeting on 27 March in Brussels sought to discuss the latest policy and legal developments in preventing and fighting against migrant smuggling. The network collects and shares strategic information, while the contact points help identify who to speak to on specific migrant smuggling-related topics. During the meeting the Commission presented the evaluation of EU laws on irregular migration. The evaluation reflected the fundamental rights concerns that the Agency had previously expressed, especially the need not to criminalise humanitarian assistance given to irregular migrants. (Contact: Tamas Molnar)

m.  Experts discuss migration information and awareness raising campaigns

Experts met on 28 March in Brussels to focus on migration information and awareness raising campaigns. The meeting sought to gain insights into how media, including social and online media, are used in the context of migration and into how counter- and alternative narratives can prevent or reduce irregular migration. The workshop allowed for an exchange of views between experts representing governments, international, organisations and NGOs as well as social media and professional communicators. The workshop also aimed at understanding the assumptions underlying information and awareness raising campaigns, and their expected and actual outcomes. It also allowed for reflections on the gaps and effectiveness of such communication and information activities. The main shortcomings appear to the lack of outreach and the lack of trust in information from official channels which is often not believed or has to compete with the lure of a better life. This meeting set the ground for the elaboration of future information campaigns in counties of origin and transit by the EU and its Member States. (Contact: Tamas Molnar)

n.    Helping integration – policy support for learners and educators

The European Commission held a seminar on 28 March in Brussels to explore ways of implementing the Paris Declaration 2015. The meeting brought together representatives from Member States under the Working Group on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination. The meeting highlighted the key role of education in the process of integrating migrants and called for further support of EU institutions in exchanging practices and facilitating peer-to-peer learning across EU Member States. The outcomes of the Working group will feed into the upcoming proposal for a Council Recommendation on promoting social inclusion and common EU values through formal and non-formal learning that is expected towards the end of 2017. The Agency drew on findings on integration of migrants in education from its migration monthly overviews as well as its recent report ‘Together in the EU. Promoting the participation of migrants and their descendants’. It also moderated a session on supporting successful access and completion in school higher education, adult learning and vocational education and training. (Contact: Eva Sobotka). 

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