23 October 2015

The ECRE Annual General Conference (AGC) took place last week in The Hague, together with the UNHCR NGO Consultations. The AGC was an occasion for all ECRE member organisations to come together and discuss the most pressing issues, as well as to plan ahead for the next years of work.

At the end of the three-day conference, ECRE Members issued a statement urging European leaders to act with responsibility and to show solidarity, “not only within the EU but towards those neighbouring countries that have hosted the vast majority of refugees,” reminding them of the great solidarity efforts showed by citizens and civil society across Europe in welcoming refugees to their countries.

“Europe should not focus on fences and razor wire, but rather work together with its neighbours to offer humane solutions for people in need of protection. Finding these durable solutions requires the active involvement of civil society, the private sector, cities and governments. During our General Conference in The Hague, I was inspired by the numerous initiatives of ECRE members to protect refugees’ rights and ensure protection, including integration,” stated Morten Kjærum, ECRE Board Chair.

Celebrating, on the same occasion, the 40th anniversary of the consultation that led to the creation of ECRE, its members showed a tremendous commitment to, and support for, the work undertaken by the network, and highlighted the need to strengthen its actions and visibility, building upon the highly valued credibility and reputation that the network was able to achieve since its foundation.

A keynote speech was delivered by Halleh Ghorashi, Professor of Diversity and Integration at the VU University of Amsterdam. Building upon her personal experience of being an asylum seeker in The Netherlands, Professor Ghorashi underlined how important the first years of the integration process of refugees are, and how poignant it is to make sure that people are not isolated, and are instead given the chance to be active in society from the early stages, capitalising on the positive energy brought.

A second keynote speech was delivered by Volker Türk, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. Mr. Türk highlighted the positive contribution of ECRE and its members over the last 40 years in the field of asylum and refugee law in Europe, and stressed its utmost importance in the present times, when we are faced by an unprecedented challenge in terms of numbers and complexity of displacement worldwide.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 23 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.