Church groups welcome EU immigration proposals

 Seven Christian organisations today issued a statement welcoming the European Commission's plans to create legal channels for labour migration. They also emphasise the importance of making Europe a 'welcoming society' with a 'humane, transparent and coherent immigration policy.' The Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe; the Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Community; the International Catholic Migration Commission; the Justice and Peace Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions; the Jesuit Refugee Service Europe and the Quaker Council for European Affairs call for the EU to: groups ask the EU to: 1. Respect the dignity of undocumented migrants They say the EU must also deal with the question of undocumented migrants currently living on its territory. A person who exercises the right to search for better living conditions should not be considered a criminal, say the churches - calling on EU States to help irregular migrants, who are often deprived of the most basic human rights, and hugely vulnerable to exploitation. Human dignity is fundamental and has to be respected regardless of whether someone has documents or not. The churches stand for this in society and call on the EU to do so as well. 2. Include accession countries in the migration debate In relation to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe hoping to join the EU, the organisations point out that the possible East-West migration within the enlarged Union is often exaggerated in the debate. Accession countries face their own problems of demographic decline, and must be included as widely as possible in the process of planning for immigration. 3. Provide legal access for people seeking protection Most fundamental of all, say the churches, it is vital that those forced to flee their countries under threat of persecution have access to a country where they can apply for asylum. The organisations warn that measures taken to prevent irregular migration, such as fines for airlines carrying undocumented passengers, create a real risk that people will be sent back to situations of danger. No-one should risk being punished for helping someone to escape to a place of safety. 4. Improve quality of decision-making The seven organisations echo the Commissions call for rapid high-quality decision-making in asylum cases, and note their concern that current flaws in procedures are a significant factor why asylum systems often fail to recognise the very people they were designed to help. The principle of refugee protection is non-negotiable, underline the churches. Quite simply, no-one may ever be sent back into a situation where he or she will be persecuted.

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