Emmaus International

While the French national assembly is holding debates on immigration and on a renewed tightening of reception policies, local authorities and civil society organisations are joining forces to prove that another migration policy is possible! Read this open letter from Damien Carême (Chair of ANVITA) and Nathalie Péré-Marzano (Chair of the OUC).

Another migration policy is possible! As local authorities, elected officials and actors from civil society, we are proving this every day!

It's a fact: everywhere around the world, on a daily basis, the reception and integration of migrants is primarily the responsibility of local and regional authorities, with the support of civil society (committed citizens and associations). It is at the local level that applications for accommodation, access to healthcare, employment and education for new arrivals are managed. It is also at the local level that the first acts of welcome and generosity by the local residents play out, along with any tensions that this may cause. This city or town is where local and foreign populations will coexist.

However, it is our national Governments that define and implement migration policies. They, and they alone. The majority have chosen to react to the arrival of people seeking a decent life by closing their borders. They are implementing hostile national migration policies, which are increasingly inhumane, and we are outraged by the impact that these have on the lives of those in exile who are passing through our towns and cities, or who seek to settle there.

Governments are implementing increasingly inhumane, hostile migration policies

The possible reduction of state medical assistance (AME, in France) and stricter rules on family reunification sought by the French Government, or the recent creation of a European Commissioner for "Protecting our European way of life" in charge of migration, constitute a further escalation of this inhumane approach which appears to be followed by the majority of decision-makers in France and Europe. Such an approach, which reinforces tensions by making migration a "problem" and a "crisis" at the root of all our economic and social difficulties, can no longer be sustained. In addition to being contemptible, it is simply not up to the task! The daily deaths, in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, are a frightening demonstration of its ineffectiveness. Migration is part of the 21st century! Changing our approach poses a challenge to think about our common future in a peaceful world. As local authorities, elected officials, and civil society actors, we prove every day, at grassroots-level, that alternatives are possible, realistic, and that they can be rolled out on a larger scale.

An unprecedented alliance 

Many local experiences in partnership with civil society have already emerged around the world: Sao Paulo (Brazil) allows migrants to participate in municipal councils; Barcelona (Spain) helps asylum seekers with administrative procedures; New York and San Francisco (United States) have declared themselves "sanctuary cities" to formalise their resistance to discriminatory policies; Bayonne and Rouen continue to welcome despite the hostility of the Government; Palermo (Italy) has adopted a charter "Moving from migration as suffering to mobility as an inalienable human right". All these experiences prove that, together, we’re delivering realistic and intelligent proposals, far removed from the policies of disengagement and rejection. Based on these experiences, we want to defend a different governance of migration, an alternative vision of migration policies to those imposed on us by decisions taken at national, regional or European Union level. Together, we want to ensure the unconditional welcome of people seeking refuge and promote migration policies that respect the rights of all.

That is why today we are launching a united front in a sustainable alliance between local authorities and civil society. An unprecedented alliance to promote local initiatives delivered by local authorities and social movements. An alliance to defend, from the local to the international level, a governance of migration based on a dignified welcome and respect for fundamental rights, which is part of a global vision of citizenship.

An alliance whose main focus points will be to enable migrants to be actors in our cities, citizens in our cities; to co-construct our welcoming policies to give us the opportunity to reinvent our democracies locally; to change the narrative on migration, rooted in historical reality and based on real statistics, and purged of its xenophobic tendencies.

Another migration policy is possible: we are proving it every day! 

Damien Carême (President of the National Association of Welcoming Towns and Cities/ANVITA)
Nathalie Pere-Marzano (President of the Organisation for Universal Citizenship/OUC)