| Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy

Human rights and cross-border movements

Athens, 21 – 24 November 2005

ELIAMEP organised a training seminar on “Human Rights and Cross-Border Movements” offered to European Commission officials. The training course focused on issues relating to legal and illegal migration in Europe and at the global level and on the core principles of international and European refugee law. During the seminar, new proposals on ways to address intra-EU cooperation against transnational crime were also discussed while special emphasis was also placed on specific cases of refugees and trafficked persons.

The four-day seminar aimed at:

  • Familiarising the participants with the legal entitlements that persons crossing international borders have depending on their status;
  • Exploring the current security challenges to efficient cross-border management and the tensions relating to the respect and promotion of human rights;
  • Examining EU legislation and practices regarding cross-border movement and challenges to creating a European area of freedom, justice and security;
  • Special focus will be placed issues of racism, discrimination, trafficking and corruption that may affect border-crossing through specialized presentations and case-studies.

The academic coordinators of this seminar, Dr. Ruby Gropas and Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou, focused on new forms of migration and trends in cross-border mobility while stressing the multiple dimensions of security that are intricately and unavoidably linked with migration. Ms. Theofania Antoniou, PhD candidate at Panteion University, presented an overview of the different categories of migrants and the ensuing international obligations of states.

The course concentrated on the role of the UN and the Council of Europe in protecting and promoting fundamental rights and freedoms of third country nationals. More specifically, Associate Professor Linos-Alexander Sicilianos (University of Athens and Vice-President of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) referred to the principle of non-discrimination (in all its forms – racial, gender, age, ethnic, religious, political, etc), as interpreted by the relevant UN Conventions, while Dr. Maria Stavropoulou from the Athens office of UNHCR presented the basic principles of international refugee law, while focusing on the rights of asylum seekers and refugees as well as current practice within the EU. Dr. Despina Hatzivassiliou from the Council of Europe in Strasbourg referred to case law based on the European Convention on Human Rights and stressed the tensions between different sets of rights and the challenges raised through harmonization of EU policy.

Vassilis Hatzopoulos from College of Europe in Bruges and Associate Professor at the Democrition University of Thrace focused on Community law related to visa requirements particularly within the Schengen area, asylum matters and migration. The advantages and disadvantages of establishing a European Arrest Warrant or a European Criminal Record were at the centre of the presentations by Dr. Eleni Xanthaki and Dr. Constantin Stefanou from the School for Advanced Legal Studies of the University of London. At the core of these presentations were the challenges facing Member State cooperation and the lack of harmonized procedures in addressing transnational crime within the EU.

Finally, NGO representatives active in the field of human rights protection presented real cases and narratives of asylum seekers and trafficked persons in order to stress the human insecurity and personal dimensions associated with migration. Anthropologist Dr. Nadina Christopoulou from the Greek Council of Refugees addressed the issue of arrival and stay in Greece, while social anthropologist Ms. Marina Thomopoulou (Medecins du Monde) referred to issues related to trafficking of human beings and to Greek-Turkish cooperation in this field. Medical doctor and member of “Act Up”, Konstantis Kampourakis brought out violations with regard to the right to health and human dignity that are associated with victims of trafficking,  illegal migrants, and detention centres. Ms. Kalliopi Stefanaki Senior Investigator with the Human Rights Department of the Greek Ombudsman, presented the mandate and action of the Greek ombudsman regarding third country nationals (EU and non EU), refugees and migrants.

Overall, during the course of the seminar the existing tensions between human rights principles and the reality on the ground became increasingly apparent. The advantages but also potential shortcomings that may arise from the current European legal framework were also discussed regarding both legal and illegal movements of persons. The need for enhanced and improved inter-state and inter-agency cooperation was underlined, particularly given the important export value of EU standards in third countries.

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