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icjw at the council of europe: new statement on migration


We’ve been reporting regularly about developments within the Council of Europe and our involvement as one of the 325 INGO (International NGO’s) with participative status to the European intergovernmental organization of 47 member-states. 

Seen from far, the COE is often mistaken with the 27 member-states of the European Union. While both share the same values of Human Rights, Rule of Law and Democracy, the EU was founded with political ambitions that unfortunately they haven’t been able to lived up to. It is an economical giant and a political dwarf experiencing a “crisis of identity” due to globalization, economic difficulties and the unprecedented flow of incoming migrants. These have also become urgent issues at the COE where, as INGO’s, twice a year -January and June- during 4 days, we attend plenaries of the Parliament Assembly (debates of national parliamentarians) and meetings of INGOs.

At the COE Winter Session (January 25-29, 2016) not only were we present during the entire session, taking the floor on different issues, we also participated on behalf of ICJW in many events:
- as rapporteurs of the Informal Gender Equality Group
- making a contribution on the Finnish Education System
- attending the ceremony marking the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- being one of the two speakers chosen to present their NGO’s “good practice” at the INGO Intercultural Dialogue and Education Working Group (see below)
- drafting a temporary ICJW policy statement on Migrants (see below)

With the current “migrant crisis” in Europe it is no wonder that ICJW’s “best practice” in Intercultural Education was chosen by the Working Group on the issue (sub-committee of the Education and Culture Commission). We were invited to speak about Rachel Babecoff’s 17 years experience at the Geneva Training and Integration Centers for Women (CAMARADA and CEFAM).

We developed the different aspects of Rachel’s work and involvement as Vice President of CAMARADA. The WG was interested to hear that for years, twice a week, Rachel has been teaching French to women, most often from conflict zones. Many are traumatized and have to overcome psychological difficulties. Some women come irregularly and have never learned to read or write, even in their own languages. The main objective is to help women deal with the practical aspects of their every day life: presenting themselves (origin, address, phone number), their children (school, doctors), getting around the city….We added details concerning the Centers being recognized by the Swiss authorities, about the staff (whether volunteers or paid) being entirely female and creating a welcoming and safe environment for the approximately 1000 women and their infant children that come regularly each year to the 2 centers.

Of course, we also informed the WG that as representative of ICJW to the UN in Geneva Rachel has been recently organizing, with a small network of women’s NGOs, 2 side-events on Migrant Women (during the Human Rights Councils of June 2015 and of March 2016) and shared the statement made by the expert on Migrations, Patrick Taran.

To conclude on this issue, the President of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, Anna Rurka, has “invited all NGOs to participate in an urgent debate for civil society on the treatment of migrants, refugees and NGOs defending their rights” taking place June 23 and June 24, 2016.

Two years ago Karmela wrote the following: “the NGO Conference has become a very bureaucratic instrument without the will or capacity to adopt urgent tasks”. Fortunately this is not the case anymore. 

We have witnessed many changes since Anna Rurka was elected President. With wider visions for NGOs, she has been doing everything to reduce the physical isolation of NGOs from all events inside the COE. NGOs with participative status at the COE are regularly asked by Anna to voice their opinions concerning a wide number of issues (fundamentalism, hate-speech, living together, to name a few). Her last request was a policy statement on refugees and migrants from NGOs.

On behalf of ICJW and as the co-chairs of the new Human Rights Committee set up recently by Robyn, we are including here the new ICJW statement.

Statement on Migration (ICJW Human Rights Committee)

With all recent events, ICJW is in the process of reviewing its official policy on migrants and refugees. As a Jewish women’s organization we base our views on our long history of migrations with all its implications and dimensions (adapting, integrating, being part of the mainstream culture, living as a minority, reactions of hostility, ungrounded fear, xenophobia, anti-Semitism) always keeping in mind the Bible’s “For we were strangers in Egypt.”

With the unprecedented crisis of migrants since World War II ICJW is particularly concerned with the plight of migrant and refugee women, the diverse dangers they face in refugee camps as well as outside. More vulnerable than their male counterpart, girls, women, and unaccompanied minors are often victims of trafficking and rape.

We feel that there is an urgent need to protect non-accompanied youth from human trafficking and