Emmaus International

Paulo Illes, a former member of the human rights’ department in the city of Sao Paulo under Haddad’s administration (2010-2015), is now the spokesperson for the Organisation for Universal Citizenship (OUC) in Southern Europe, based in Lisbon. Here he shares the values and work led by the OUC in Europe.

The pandemic has increased social inequalities and the most excluded people, such as those in exile, are the most vulnerable to its consequences, but they often remain invisible, in the blind spot of law and state protection. It is essential to think of specific solutions to protect the fundamental rights of the thousands of people who live in inhumane conditions on the street or in precarious and overcrowded housing. Many of them have no work or lack decent working conditions and are at risk of sinking deeper into poverty with this crisis.

A Migration Alliance which is increasingly strong

The OUC took part in collaborative efforts between different territories within the Migration Alliance project. This enabled us to gather some examples of how some cities in Europe have found alternative solutions to integrate migrants, thanks to joint collaboration with civil society.
In Lisbon a solidarity network has been set up with neighbourhood councils to distribute food and medicine, as well as a network register of volunteers for communication in different languages, among other initiatives. The city also put pressure on the central government to legalise irregular migrants in the face of the pandemic. In Barcelona, Spain, the Service for Assistance to Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER) was able to identify 300 migrants, mostly in an irregular administrative situation, who have health training and could be working in hospitals and nursing homes and it asked the administration to recognise the qualifications held by them to respond to the shortage of workers in these sectors. These experiences are very important, despite being conditional and provisional, as they open the door to alternative policies and demonstrate how important the alliances between local authorities and civil society are in developing other options.

A European Forum on Migration

To build a “different tomorrow” at regional level, faced with a Europe which increasingly closes and externalises borders and criminalises solidarity, the OUC has joined other social movements in Europe to call for the creation of the first European Social Forum on Migration. Scheduled for March 2021, it will be an important space for collective analysis to strengthen the European network of solidarity with migrants.

More about the Organisation for Universal Citizenship