Emmaus International

Since 2013, the city of São Paulo in Brazil has been implementing a highly innovative migration policy, as migrants are regarded as being a positive resource for the city. Paulo Illes, the city’s migration policy coordinator, who will be taking part in the seminar on the theme of “Alternative governance of migrations”, tells us all about it.

What is the city of São Paulo’s policy on migration / migrant reception policy?

Since 2013, when the Migration Policy Office of the São Paulo Municipal Department of Human Rights and Citizenship was created, the city has taken an innovative stance that is unique in Brazil. For the first time, there is a desire to coordinate specific public policies for the city's migrant population. Furthermore, for the first time, there is a change of approach, from national security to human rights. The city of São Paulo switched to viewing migrants as holders of rights who play an active role in the development of the city and in which they should be fully integrated.
The Migration Policy Office works in a cross-cutting, cross-sector and participatory fashion and always in line with the demands of the migrant population. Two instruments provide a framework for its work: Goal 65 of the Municipal Goals Programme – Create and roll out the Municipal Policy for Migrants and the 1st Municipal Conference on Immigration Policy.  The aim is not only to guarantee migrants’ rights, but also to give them the instruments to become independent.

Why do you think that the alternatives put forward by Emmaus International are interesting?
(Freedom of movement, holding an international conference on migration under the auspices of the UN, ratification of a new international treaty on migration that does not just refer to migrants as workers, but as people who should have access to their fundamental rights).

The alternatives put forward by Emmaus are interesting because they maintain criticism of the way migration is criminalized and the security-based approach, in addition to suggesting that migration needs to be debated at international level, addressing the issue as one for which everyone is responsible. Defending freedom of movement is vital so that migrants’ rights are guaranteed and so that they are recognized not just as being a useful workforce, but instead as members of local communities, to which they have much to contribute both culturally and socially.

Why do you think that the issue of migration should be addressed at international level? 

If we assume that migration needs to be understood from a human rights perspective, we need to guarantee that the issue is tackled at international level. This becomes necessary once all the stakeholders are involved: whether as destination countries, sending countries or transit countries. The debate at international level should regard migration as being a complex historical phenomenon and not just the responsibility of destination countries, once human rights are guaranteed. It is only possible to work holistically if we regard migration as being not just a historic phenomenon but also a contemporary one and that freedom of movement is a right for all.


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