Migrants and those who defend their rights in Europe pay the price every day for policies of deterrence and rejection. Policies that are all too often deadly: fatal shipwrecks in the English Channel and the Mediterranean, people used as pawns on the border with Belarus and left to die in the frozen woods at the gates of the European Union, or the countless pushbacks in Greece and along the Balkan route.
Unaccompanied minors: a journey riddled with danger
Manou Ballyn coordinates a project at Caritas International-CAP Brabantia, which provides support to unaccompanied minors from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia who transit through Belgium to the UK. She explains the terrible challenges that many unaccompanied minors overcome: “Many have been through Libya, for example, where they were subjected to sexual violence, slavery, and inhumane traumatic treatment. It’s far from over in Europe – many report police violence and the dispossession of their personal belongings.”
Solidarity and inclusion
In this context, we urge European leaders to cease to water down the Refugee Convention, legalise pushbacks  and introduce derogations to EU law, the latter of which was recently proposed by the European Commission in relation to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. We also strongly echo Pope Francis’ message, delivered during his visit to Lesbos, in Greece, on the 5th of December 2021 : “It is distressing to hear of proposals that common funds be used to build walls and barbed wire as a solution. […] Yet problems are not resolved and coexistence improved by building walls higher, but by joining forces to care for others according to the concrete possibilities of each and in respect for the law, always giving primacy to the inalienable value of the life of every human being.”
“People have always crossed borders, be it to find peace, love or better opportunities, and this will not stop, regardless of how high the fences are. We call for a drastic shift of migration policies: instead of financing expensive walls and militarising our borders to stop people’s movements, let us invest in safe and regular pathways, decent reception centres and more welcoming societies that facilitate social inclusion for the common good,” adds Maria Nyman, Caritas Europa Secretary General.
An asset for host societies
Finally, this International Migrants Day is an opportunity to re-emphasise the positive contributions of migration in our societies and to pay tribute to the countless people who support migrants in one way or another, by choosing acceptance over fear.
>> READ MORE: A common home: migration and development in Belgium
Policy & Advocacy Officer
Tel: +32 (0)2 235 26 55
Mob: +32 (0)478 58 54 09
Mob: +32 470128803