Wars and persecution have forced more people than ever to flee their homes on a perilous journey to a better life. Put yourself in the shoes of Europe’s policy-makers: how should we treat those seeking refuge and safety at our borders?
This year, the news has been dominated by stories of people migrating from war-torn regions of the world towards Europe. More than 700 000 refugees are estimated to have arrived by sea alone so far this year – and behind every attempt to cross the Mediterranean is the story of a real person who hopes to build a better life in Europe.
The refugee crisis has brought European citizens together and seen some incredible instances of kindness, but it has also divided countries and seen a rise in xenophobia and discrimination. While governments are responsible for immigration policy, integration itself also requires the participation of civil society, for example in workplaces, schools and local communities.
We at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) want to see a humanitarian approach to immigration and asylum that is based on the belief that migrants are human beings with the same fundamental rights as EU citizens. Greater shared responsibility should be at the root of any common immigration policy, we believe.
As the "voice" of civil society, we are eager to ensure that the views, experiences and ideas of Europe’s younger generation on this vital issue are heard. So we have invited 16 to 17 year-olds from across the EU, and for the first time from five candidate countries, to come to Brussels and debate migration – the topic of YOUR EUROPE, YOUR SAY! (YEYS) hosted by the EESC from 17 to 19 March 2016. One school from each of the 28 Member States have been picked at random, along with a school from each of the five official EU candidate countries (Albania, Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).
YEYS is a chance to speak to policy-makers about better asylum rules, suggest practical things related to integration that could be taken up in your own community, and listen to what young people from other European countries have to say.
In a final plenary session, the participants have summarized their ideas and voted on: see the results.
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