IWB for Refugees: AEGEE European Planning Meeting and to the next phase

Some of the best experiences come from bringing people together, sharing ideas, being challenged by difficult questions. Therefore, when Issues without Borders (IWB) was invited to presents its expertise on the issue of migration at AEGEE’s annual European Planning Meeting that was held in the Netherlands, I was excited to attend and discuss our project. IWB is conducting a detailed analysis on asylum procedure and refugee law in the EU member states for almost a year now and I participated as a guest speaker. I also had the pleasure of being part of the audience and listen to other presentations and hear different points of view and feel the pulse of the debate.

The topic of the 2016 session “Refugees in Europe – Europe ‘vs.’ the rest: change of perspective?” – a subject that is actually the main focus of the IWB organization

I attended the event for the two discussion panels, the first one as part of the audience and the second as a guest speaker and IWB representative.

# Panel 1: Europe vs “the rest”: do we need the others to define ourselves?

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The building of fences amid the refugee crisis has not only brought in physical borders, but also mental ones. The panel discussion aimed to reflect on the meaning of considering ourselves as European citizens and how it affects the relations of Europe to the rest of the world, especially the refugees who want to come to Europe. How can the reactions of different European countries be understood, in regards to the ‘other’? Are we building a ‘fortress Europe’ also in terms of European identity and values?

# Panel 2: Finding solutions to the current migration challenges – is there still space for solidarity in Europe?

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The aim of the panel was to provide a space for reflection on the consequences that the current migration crisis in several levels; from the perspective of European identity and values, of freedom of movement, of human rights, and economy and growth. From a different perspective, each one of the speakers had to reflect on three questions: 1) is there still space for solidarity in Europe?, 2) how can the situation look like in the future?, and 3) will the current migration influx bring a change of perspective in the current European values?

I discussed about Issues without Borders, the core values we stand for, and about the IWB for Refugees and the research we conduct in the EU member states through our volunteer members.  I gave an overview on how the project is an analysis on each EU member state legislation on refugee law and whether it is in line with international law, on how the media present the situation, and on how the refugees themselves experience the process. I underlined the fact that we, as members of our societies can and have to be pro-active and be the ones that create the change we want to see.

The debate was lively, we discussed the effect of the media and how hate speech can be counteracted, on how can there be more dialogue between citizens and their governments. We talked about the work that can be done at the micro level by each individual and its impact, and at a macro level, be it as a community, a state or as European Union. I have really enjoyed learning more about the work of the Peace and Justice Foundation, and the Kiron University that offers free studies to the refugees. It is always exciting to see the many ways in which people get involved and take initiative in different projects they believe in.

Next phase: IWB citizens’ initiative

The research we have been conducting for the past few months is ready to be published, and I am excited for the next phase in the “IWB for Refugees”. We will analyse the results from our 28 states’ reports and draft a European citizens’ initiative that will address concrete, long term solution for the “refugee crisis.”

The following period, 31 March-30 June will be dedicated to a close study of the EU state reports and for drafting the “IWB for Refugees” petition. This legislative initiative will be sent in three distinct directions:

  • At the national level in every EU state
  • At the European Parliament
  • It will be registered at the European Commission.

Together with our partners “The Development Researchers”, “Citizens Right Watch”, “Global Magazine”, “AEEGEE Europe, and supporters from the Copenhagen University, Vilnius University, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and other partners, we will gather the 1,000,000 signatures necessary for the initiative to be successful.

With its members and collaborators, IWB aims at being part of the implementation of the European Directive at the national level in each member state.


IWB present at the World Refugee Day

     Last month, members of IWB were able to attend several events the World Refugee Day, held every year on June 20. In Barcelona, the Catalan Commission for Refugee Aid (Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat/CCAR) and the Asil Cat network organized diverse activities to raise awareness of the need to protect and respect human rights, especially of the increasing number of refugees around the world. A cultural event, held on June 19, counted on the participation of several refugee testimonies and the reading of a manifest, signed by numerous non-governmental organizations, as ACATHI, ACCEM, CAPI-BPI, CCOO Barcelonès, Centre EXIL, CCAR, the Catalan Commission of the UNHCR, Fundació ACSAR, Fundació Casa del Tibet, the Bar Association of Barcelona, the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia and PEN Català.

The manifest reinforced the idea that no one should be suffering from discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or social origin and that urgent actions should be taken to resolve the tragic situation of the more than 50 million of displaced people worldwide (UNHCR). The manifest made reference to the refugee quotas proposed by the European Union for its member States and the worrying lack of commitment of the latter to take responsibilities, criticizing the Europe’s indifference and “fortification” through new walls that only increase the risk of losing their lives when refugees try to reach European ground. The Mediterranean Sea already counts with a shamefully high number of lost lives that shouldn’t be allowed to grow. The international community also cannot stay silent in front of the inhumane treatment received by those trying to cross the borders, especially regarding the situation at the fence in Ceuta or Melilla.


But in spite of the increasing numbers, during 2014, only 5.947 people applied for asylum in Spain, 786 in Catalonia. Out of these, 2.029, almost a 40%, were denied it. Catalonia, supported by the International Protection Plan in Catalonia (PPIC), approved by beginning of 2014, is working hard to improve the situation and grant aid to those in need, although, as often mentioned by Catalan authorities, the refugees and asylum matters are unfortunately not a competency of the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya), but of the Spanish government.

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IWB at the ENS conference ‘None of Europe’s Children should be Stateless’

On the 2nd and 3rd June, IWB was in Budapest to attend a conference organized by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS). The conference represented an important step of the campaign ‘None of Europe’s Children should be Stateless’. 100 participants from over 30 countries got together with the goal of ending childhood statelessness in Europe. (more about the campaign here: http://www.statelessness.eu/communications/campaigns/none-europes-children-should-be-stateless).

Lawyers, academics, government officials, journalists, NGOs, UN representatives as well as representatives from other agencies engaged in a passionate and fruitful debate on the subject. Each panel and each individual speaker gave us a different angle from which to analyse the complex and challenging issue of childhood statelessness, with one common assumption: having a nationality is a fundamental right of every child.

No child chooses to be stateless. Children always have a connection with at least one country, the one where they were born and grew up, and the one where their parents are from. Each country has its own rules to confer nationality, but as long as European states will not ensure the right to acquire citizenship to every child born in Europe or to European parents there will continue to be stateless children in Europe. Lacking a nationality has many consequences on the lives of children, like limited or no access to basic rights like education, housing or health care, as well as vulnerability to poverty, detention or exploitation.

It was pointed out during the conference that preventing children from becoming stateless is not an impossible goal to achieve. This could be done by introducing safeguards in nationality laws, granting the nationality of a certain country to all children born there and that would otherwise be stateless. Unfortunately, little attention has been given to the subject until now, and it is necessary to raise the political will to properly address the issue in Europe. MEP Jean Lambert claimed that the moment has come to push the agenda forward – and I felt this purpose has strongly and positively lead the whole event.

There were two things I particularly appreciated about this conference, other than learning more about stateless children and the many sides to this issue. Firstly, the attention dedicated to concrete actions, and the possible next steps to take in order to tackle the many issues raised during various discussions. Each panel did not just present a problem, but encouraged an active debate on how to find answers and durable solutions. Secondly, being surrounded by experts whose intention was not to keep the discussion behind closed doors, but also to bring it outside of the room and into practice. Many speakers have indeed plead the importance of engaging the public, mobilising young people and minors themselves, as well as creating the political space to raise awareness and address childhood statelessness in more effective ways.

The analysis of countries’ case studies proved that together with good practices – that need more solid and wide implementation, many challenges to end childhood statelessness in Europe lie ahead. The participation and the commitment so many people have shown for this 2-days conference is the proof that there is a strong will to face these challenges together.

You can read the conference Action Statement here:


Check out some photos from the conference here: