Migrants: from fear to compassion

cec-directorate-general-justice-and-consumers-of-the-european-commissionThe Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) joined with CEC, COMECE to discuss the fears stirred up by mass migration with the Directorate General Justice and Consumers of the European Commission on 24 October. They met in advance of the annual EU religious leaders’ summit to be held on 29 November.

Mass migration prompted by global conflict and ecological crises has stirred up unresolved fears in European societies.

Participants in the seminar identified two widely experienced types of fear. The first is the fear of rejection, violence, and exclusion many migrants and refugees face both on their way to Europe and following their arrival. The other is the fear known by many in Europe who feel their values and way of life is under threat by the arrival of these migrants and refugees. Although non-EU migrants represent only 4% of the total EU population (of which 9% are refugees), a so-called moral panic emerges, which is sometimes amplified by media and social media activity.

Understanding that openly expressed fears are sometimes based on a particular historical context, the participants sought constructive ways to address and dispel these fears, including through the establishment of listening and discussion space.

Up to 100,000 unaccompanied children reached the EU in 2015. Children often suffer disproportionally and experience disruption in their education. This hinders their social inclusion and that of their whole family. Participants urged all to see children not only as the future of our societies, but an integral part of our present reality.

Those gathered advanced a diversity of solutions, but all were rooted in the promotion of education, dialogue, and media education. Through these processes, both migrants and Europeans can come to know their shared vulnerabilities and move from fear toward compassion and solidarity.

Representatives from the European Commission presented to delegates a number of programmes designed to transform fear into solidarity within the framework of the EU competences. They expressed their wish to work more closely with churches on promoting integration of migrants.