Migrants rights talk at the US Migration Policy Institute

FRA Director Morten Kjaerum (l) addresses the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, 21 October 2013
FRA Director Morten Kjaerum (l) addresses the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, 21 October 2013
FRA’s director, Morten Kjaerum, was invited to speak to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute about the state of rights protection in Europe as well as his agency’s role in this evolving arena. His address on 21 October formed part of a wide discussion about the ongoing challenge of ensuring human rights for migrants on both sides of the Atlantic.

In his opening, the FRA Director spoke of his pride in the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the EU in 2012 for its sustained efforts in building a region that promotes peace, democracy and fundamental rights over the last six decades. He reminded participants that many view the EU as an economic project while in fact the EU’s Founding Fathers saw the economy as a tool to promote peace and stability throughout the region. He spoke of the strong anti-discrimination laws from 2000 and the resulting equality bodies throughout Europe that underpin the EU’s commitment to equality. He also gave a brief introduction to the role of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and FRA in safeguarding rights across Europe. Having framed the legal architecture he then went on to speak about the reality today.

The FRA Director talked about the plight of migrants and asylum seekers at the EU’s sea borders. He spoke of the need for inclusion, itself one of the pillars of the EU’s 2020 strategy for growth. He made special reference to barriers to Roma inclusion, drawing on the results from FRA’s survey of Roma and non-Roma households in 11 EU countries. He gave education as an example in which only 15% of young Roma adults have completed upper-secondary general or vocational education, compared with over 70% of those living nearby. He then spoke about hate crime, making reference to FRA surveys of LGBT and Jewish people and of ethnic minorities. He underscored the low levels of reporting of hate crime incidents to the police and the reasons behind this, which is a common finding across all of the agency's surveys. He concluded by mentioning the many initiatives by FRA and others to address such challenges.

Other speakers then went on to talk about the evolution of the immigrant-rights movement in the US. These speakers included Lucas Guttentag, Founder and Senior Advisor of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and Becky Monroe, Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General in the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. A podcast of the full discussion is also available.