Melilla, seminar on immigration: “Better a fence, or a wall with gates, than a chaotic situation”

mel01With these words, the President of the European Centre for Workers' Affairs (EZA), the former Dutch MEP, Bartho Pronk, recognised the importance of the good migration management by the Spanish authorities in Melilla, as opposed to a chaotic situation reigning in other European countries. These declarations were made after his visit to the Temporary Accommodation Centre for Immigrants in Melilla (CETI in its Spanish acronym) and the perimeter of the Spanish-Moroccan border.

The seminar Migration phenomena and EU migration policy: an analytical reflection and perspectives within the European Social Dialogue (see programme) brought together representatives of nine European countries in Melilla.

This was organised by the International Platform for Cooperation and Migration - IPCM - in collaboration with H+D and the  Melilla Culture dept., on 24 and 25 February. The seminar was funded by the European Union and the European Centre for Workers' Affairs (EZA).

mel02The opening of the seminar was attended by Juan José Imbroda, President of the self-governing city of Melilla; Abdelmalik El Barkani, Government Delegate in Melilla; Piergiorgio Sciacqua, Vice-President of the IPCM and Co-Chair of EZA; and Rafael Rodríguez-Ponga, President of H+D and the IPCM. During their speeches it became clear that:

  • We must work towards a common European policy on migration and commit to cooperation in the countries of origin - both key to the control of migratory flows.
  • The problem of immigration is not only country-based but affects all members of the European Union. This is a situation that will not end overnight. It is therefore necessary to work in harmony and with a united front.
  • The border fence is not a problem for Melilla alone but rather for the whole of Europe. Illegal immigration is not a problem for Melilla or Nador, or for Spain or Morocco, but for all EU Member States, as well as immigrants’ countries of origin and transit.
  • We must work on a communication policy to inform people who intend to emigrate of the risks of falling into the hands of the mafias - the only beneficiaries of illegal immigration, and that also operate in countries of destination in the EU, where hundreds of thousands of immigrants remain slaves in the black economy.
  • We must snatch back control of immigration from the hands of the mafias to return it to the member states. Europe must speak the same language with a single common message, instead of sterile debates that benefit the mafias.

mel03Next, Fadela Mohatar, Culture Councillor for the self-governing City of Melilla, told us about the city's coexistence model based, for many years, on respect for cultural diversity and religious freedom.

Discussing this topic were Jaime Azancot, President of the Jewish community; Abdeselam Hassan, representative of the Islamic Community, Al-Ihsan; Lachmi Ghanshandas, representative of the Hindu Community; José Heredia, representative of the Roma Community; and Mª Eugenia Legido, from the María Inmaculada Socio-cultural Centre. All highlighted the fact that Melilla is a border city, an example of coexistence, cultural diversity and integration.


 Karoline Fernández de la Hoz, Director of the Spanish Observatory on Racism and Xenophobia within the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, spoke about the strategies employed for the prevention of racism and xenophobia in Spain and the Spanish public’s perceptions of immigration (see presentation).

mel08María Reina Martín, IPCM Vice-President and Executive Secretary of the Portuguese Association for the Training, Research and Social Development of Workers - FIDESTRA - introduced Mahmoud Meskoub, Professor of Social Studies at the University of Rotterdam, who gave a presentation on European policies on migration and asylum (see presentation)

The seminar also featured two roundtables discussing immigration, reception and integration policies on immigrants and refugees in the EU; the situation in central and southern Europe and in the Mediterranean countries.

mel04The first roundtable was moderated by Josep Calvó, Treasurer of the IPCM and President of the Union of Mediterranean Study Centres (UCEM in its Spanish acronym). This was attended by Fernando Moura e Silva (Portugal), President of FIDESTRA; Guglielmo Borri (Italy), National President of the Servizio Italiano Assistenza Sociale  (SIAS) Trust within the Christian  Lavoratori Movement (MCL); and Susana Clerici (Spain), Immigration Secretary for the PP (Popular Party) in Catalonia.

mel006The second round table was moderated by Piergiorgio Sciacqua, Vice-President of the IPCM and EZA Co-Chair, and featured presentations by Denis Strieder (Austria) see presentation, by Secretary General Fraktion Christlicher Gewerkschafterinnen FCJ – of the Österreichische Gewerkschaftsbund (ÖGB); Gyorgy Lajtai (Hungary) see presentation, Immigration project coordinator at EZA; and Michal Wójcik (Poland), President of the Polish Europeejki Dom Spotkan Fundacja Nowy Staw (EDS-FNS).

Since its development, the different participants have expressed their views through the experience of their respective countries, pointing out key aspects such as the need to have regulated migration; to distinguish between economic and refugee migrants; and the chaos of migration management in certain EU countries.

Special attention was also paid to the emergence of populism: the messages of rejection directed at those who come to the EU, fleeing from poverty and wars, and which are also offered as a response to immigration by parties such as the French National Front or The Italian Northern League.

mel05To conclude this European reflection on migration, the role of the social partners in reception, integration and vocational training of immigrants and refugees was also discussed. Jesús Casado, IPCM Secretary and President of the Spanish Centre for Workers' Affairs (CEAT), was in charge of then moving on to the experiences of Joseph Thouvenel (France), Vice-President of the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC); Álvaro Domingos (Portugal), Vice-President of the International Centre for the Training of Workers in the Energy Industry (CIFOTIE); and Maribel Alañón (Spain), Director of H+D.


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