By the EESC Diversity Europe Group

On 22 June, the EESC's Diversity Europe Group organised a conference entitled Civil Society Organisations Helping Refugees and Migrants in Europe, combining remote and in-person attendance.

The event sought to illustrate the pivotal role played by civil society organisations and the daily challenges they face in helping refugees and migrants. The conference also strove to refocus political attention on the issue and offer a forum for discussion between civil society and the EU institutions, particularly as part of the EU's post-COVID-19 recovery and reconstruction.

In the first panel, civil society organisations from four countries (Greece, Italy, Czechia and Sweden) were invited to present their practical experiences in helping refugees and migrants travel across Europe upon their arrival and integrate into EU Member States.

In the second panel, Michael Shotter, Director at DG Migration and Home Affairs, and Erik Marquardt, member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (Greens/EFA, Germany), represented the European Commission and the European Parliament respectively. Bureau member Rossella Nicoletti (EUROCITIES) represented the European Migration Forum.

Pavel Trantina, vice-president of the Diversity Europe Group, summarised the first panel's discussions, emphasising the challenges facing these organisations in their daily work, including a lack of respect towards refugees and the organisations helping them, inadequate infrastructure, insufficient educational and psychological support, a lack of clear guidelines from Member States and excessive bureaucracy. A lack of funding together with smuggling networks at borders were also among the main obstacles facing civil society organisations.

Séamus Boland, president-elect of the Diversity Europe Group, closed the conference, stressing the high human cost of migrants trying to reach Europe and the importance of social cohesion, respect for their dignity and solidarity with them.

The president-elect stated that the Diversity Europe Group would continue its work on this subject and would cooperate with the EU institutions and Member States to address the issues raised by the civil society organisations active in this field.

For more information, please see the web page of the event. (jk)