For Freedom of Movement & Fair Development!

Report on 'Des Ponts pas des Murs' in Paris 17th of octobre 2008

16.Feb.09 – With 300 organisations under the call and 1000 participants the euro-african summit Des Ponts pas des Murs (Bridges No Walls) in Paris on the 17th of october 2008 was the counter summit for the Euro-African Inter-ministerial conference on migrations and development in Paris held on the 25th of november. Des Ponts pas des Murs was the second counter summit after the summit in Rabat on the 30st of june and the 1st of july 2006 which lead to the Rabat Manifesto on Migrations, Fundamental Rights and Freedom of Movement.

There was beforehand quite some excitement as a 'caravan' of solidarity had been going through Africa to Paris. It started on the 4th of september in Kinshasa/Congo, stopping at Bamako/Mali on the 8th of september, Nouakchott/Mauritania on the 10th of september, Douala/Cameroun on the 10th of october and ending in Ceuta/Morocco on the 12th of october 2008. This was in the memory of the 15 migrants who died and the douzens who were wounded trying to cross the fence in Ceuta and Melilla in october 2005 after which a first caravan was set up: the 'Caravane de la dignité contre les barbelés de l’injustice et de l’indifférence' (caravan for dignity against the barbed wires of the injustice and the indifference) initiated by 'l'Autre Mali' and the network of African artists and intellectuals for the ethica and esthetica [more info here (pdf)].

There were 6 workshops in the 'Des Ponts pas des Murs' conference: 1) North-South relationships, development models and migration, 2) Selective migration policy: which impact on migrants’rights in host countries?, 3) Freedom of movement: a right, which is far from being universal, 4) Migrant women, 5) Chidren in migration and 6) What space for the right to asylum? Of course it was impossible to have a good debate with 1000 people in one day. It was much too short. The main aim of the French organisors was apparently the Montreuil Declaration and the global document “recommandations des sociétés civiles du sud et du nord”, both to be presented to the ministerial conference. At the 'Des Ponts pas des Murs' too much attention went to the details in this text.

The African guests got some 10 minutes to speak and there was then no good discussion or questions on these African contributions. As the document was directed to the governments there was no room for talking about the network that was set up at the first counter summit in Rabat, about the struggles and strategies. Peculiar was also the absence of the Sans Papiers from Paris at the summit. Aparrently the organisation of the summit had demanded the sans papiers who are organised in many collectives to come forward with one single representative which was impossible to be achieved. Together with conni from the Refugee Council Hamburg we put forward the struggles of migrants and the content of the Transnationalization Now manifest in the workshop “Restriction to freedom of movement”. Some 500 Crossing Borders and Trans now! were distributed during the summit. The summit was indeed a very good opportunity to meet some new people and to exchange experiences. What was felt as a miss in the Trans now! manifesto is a concrete project on which groups can jump in. The same is the case with the new campaign against Frontex which is missing a leading drive for organisations to join. We also put up a Frontex exposition at the summit which attracted quiet some attention.

The next day there was a lively demonstration with some 4000 demonstrators including many sans papiers. The demonstration walked past the Bourse du Travaille, a union building squatted since the 2nd of may by the 'Coordination 75 des sans-papiers'. The occupants want the cooperation of the CGT-union for the deposit of all sans papiers files at the council for regularisation and not only the CGT-members [English explanation: here]. The demonstration ended at the Place de la Republique where a concert attracted some 15 / 20.000 people.

The Euro-African Inter-ministerial conference on migrations and development in Paris held on november the 25th by the 27 member states of the European Union and the 27 African countries produced a “three-year cooperation program 2009-2012”. This calls for the fight against fraud of identity documents, using computers and biometrics, the strengthening of border controls with the “establishment of common border posts”, the improvement of the readmissions, the promotion of voluntary returns and the development in the African countries of “agencies specialized in employment”, like the Centre for Migration Information and Management (Cigem) opened in Bamako in October and financed by the EU. It also confirms the EU vow to promote “immigration chosen”, calling for priority to the host of “highly qualified” while “seeking to avoid brain drain”.

The continuation of this Paris meeting will be held in Dakar in 2011.

Montreuil Declaration

We, civil society actors from the South and from the North, meeting in Montreuil (France), in the continuance of the work of the First Euro-African NGO Conference in Rabat in 2006, adopt the following Declaration:

For the respect of the universal right to freedom of movement (Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

We refuse to let humanity be divided between those who can freely move and those who are prevented from doing so. Migrations have always been a human phenomenon and constitute an invaluable economic and cultural contribution for Northern as well as Southern countries. This contribution, although historically acknowledged, is being disregarded in favour of security and economical requirements which translate into an overall distrust towards “foreigners”, as is shown by the European Parliament’s recently adopted “return directive”. Northern governments, with the complicity of their Southern counterparts, bear a heavy responsibility in world disorders. The worldwide ecological, economical and financial crisis and its corollary, the nutrition crisis, demonstrate the failure of the current world system which generates poverty and increases North-South imbalances. It is aberrant that the only answer to migrants comes in the form of militarised borders and imprisonment camps. This radicalisation and tension towards security matters is in opposition to the emblematic values of the European Union: democracy, respect for human rights and freedom of movement. Migrants are before anything women, men and children with rights. These rights cannot be denied under the sole pretext of missing papers. The individual and collective liberties of each one of us are threatened when civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of foreigners are restricted.

For an approach to migration and development based on the mutual interests of migrants and the societies of the North and South

The right to mobility is one of the factors in the development and the reduction of inequalities and poverty in the South as in the North. Development policies should not therefore be used as an instrument for restricting the freedom of movement of persons. Migration allows for the building of bridges between societies. It is high time that the question of migration and development be genuinely considered through the perspective of mutual interests, first and foremost those of migrants, those of the countries of origin, and then those of transit and host countries, in accordance with international instruments relating to human rights protection. We must no longer leave the question of migration in the sole hands of states, moreover Northern states, in a climate where the economic and financial crisis threatens to further increase poverty and risks fuelling xenophobia and violence towards migrants in host and transit countries. We do not want a Europe whose response is to transform itself into a fortress and impose its “European Pact on Immigration and Asylum” without concertation with Southern countries and civil societies. It is for us, civil societies of the North and South, to invent together other migration and development policies and to demand that they are based on justice and the respect of rights and dignity of human beings.

We want bridges, not walls!

We demand:

  • the application of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ('Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.'), including the decriminalisation of “illegal” crossing of borders, the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the effective enforcement of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child in the countries of departure, countries of transit and host countries;
  • the facility for all migrants to have access to full citizenship and for all laws concerning migrants to be founded on equal rights between citizens. In the short term, we require the extension of conditions applicable to Community residents, notably the right to vote, to all residents;
  • the end of the mutual dependence of the right of residence and the right to work, the respect of private and family life and an autonomous status for each spouse;
  • the implementation of the right to development as defined by the Declaration on the Right to Development adopted by the United Nations in 1986 and the immediate cancellation of debts of Southern countries, all the more since it makes the Millennium Development Goals unattainable;
  • the Southern countries to refuse to sign bilateral or multilateral agreements which undermine their integrity and dignity and comprise conditional elements and notably readmission clauses;
  • the end of the militarization of African borders imposed by the European Union;
  • the freedom of choice of and access to a host country for asylum seekers and refugees (the end of the so-called “Dublin system” and of the so-called “safe” countries) and the elimination of all forms of externalising asylum procedures;
  • a wide interpretation of the notion of a refugee, to comprise notably the victims of violations of economic, social and environmental rights and of collective persecutions;
  • pending the closure of all detention centres, a prohibition on the detention of asylum seekers and the setting-up of independent mechanisms of control of these centres;
  • the protection of female migrants victims of violence of any nature;
  • a genuine visibility in national and international discussion forums of the material actions of migrant women in countries of origin, transit countries and host countries;
  • the unconditional protection of migrant children and notably the prohibition of their detention and their expulsion, the effective enforcement of their right to training and education, as well as the regularisation of young adults.