COPENHAGEN, 24 October 2018 – The multi-pronged and multi-level responses to migration challenges in Denmark and Sweden have been in focus during a two-day field visit by members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, led by Chair Nahima Lanjri (MP, Belgium).
The OSCE PA delegation noted that authorities on the national and local levels, working with non-governmental organizations, have responded effectively to the refugee and migrant crisis that took hold in late 2015, but that there is room for improvement in clarifying legal rights of asylum seekers, and in particular ensuring that unaccompanied minors are fully protected. Ad Hoc Committee members welcomed positive achievements in employment rates for refugees but observed that a long-term strategy was needed in both countries to create more inclusive societies.
Lanjri and several other members of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration started their visit in Malmo, Sweden, on Monday, and wrapped up in Copenhagen on Tuesday. They met with representatives from the Swedish and Danish migration authorities, local officials, border police, school administrators, the international community, civil society, and migrants and refugees to assess current developments.
The delegation included Ad Hoc Committee Vice-Chair Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal) and members Haydar Akar (MP, Turkey), Jan Bauer (MP, Czech Republic), Margareta Cederfelt (MP, Sweden), Kyriakos Hadjiyianni (MP, Cyprus), Mehmet Sait Kirazoglu (MP, Turkey), and Georgios Varemenos (MP, Greece), as well as Head of the Danish Delegation to the OSCE PA Peter Juel Jensen and OSCE PA member Soeren Soendergaard (MP, Denmark).
The OSCE parliamentarians noted the extraordinary efforts made by governments in processing the large number of asylum claims made in 2015/6, as well as the continued challenges to provide housing, quality schooling, and, in the case of recognized refugees, access to the labour market. Committee members recognized the difficult task to implement the growing number of return decisions. All OSCE countries should ensure that international humanitarian obligations are fully upheld for asylum seekers and rejected asylum seekers alike, Ad Hoc Committee members said.
“On one hand, the challenges faced by Denmark and Sweden are unique, but in other ways they are not unlike the challenges faced by countries throughout Europe,” said Lanjri. “Other OSCE countries can learn from their experiences, including integration initiatives to provide language training to refugees and by giving them opportunities in the labour market. Sweden is also encouraging private entrepreneurship through a pilot project in Malmo, a city with an incredible potential due to its young population and great diversity, where more than 180 nationalities are represented.”
She added that consideration should be given to reevaluating the restrictions on family reunification for asylum seekers who have received temporary protection status in Denmark. Greater attention should also be paid to the unique needs of unaccompanied minors and effective strategies must be developed to address the issue of missing minors and young people and to prevent this problem, which can be seen throughout Europe.
Cederfelt, who serves as OSCE PA Vice-President and Deputy Head of the Swedish Delegation, stressed the need for developing long-term and comprehensive strategies that consider the need to provide integration opportunities for migrants and support for the municipal governments that shoulder so much of the burden in providing essential services.
“All countries in Europe, whether they are points of entry, transit countries or countries of destination for migrants, must work together to ensure that these challenges are addressed in a fair and equitable way,” Cederfelt said. “We will never have an effective response to migration unless we work together on the international, national and subnational levels, involving civil society and providing necessary resources to local governments.”
During the visit, topics of discussion included developments in improving the legislative framework and the need for responsibilities to be shared fairly between countries as well as between municipalities within countries. Delegation members observed living facilities for asylum seekers in Denmark, both those beginning their asylum application procedures and rejected asylum seekers.
Members also commended the work of humanitarian groups and NGOs working with migrants and refugees and urged greater support for voluntary return and integration schemes such as those offered by the International Organization for Migration.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Migration was established following a unanimous decision taken by the Standing Committee on 25 February 2016 in Vienna. For more information on the OSCE PA’s work on the migration issue, please click here.