Meet the CSOs

 Reshad Jalali, Policy Officer at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)

The issue of migrant refugees has become a global issue. Particularly in Europe, it is one of the most complex and difficult issues, leading recently to the adoption of a New Pact on Asylum and Migration. In this context, we had a chance to hear from Reshad Jalali of the Europe's largest refugee civil society group, about what ECRE is and what civic groups are doing.

Please briefly introduce your organization

European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is an alliance of 106-member organisations in 40 European Countries. 

It was established in 1974 and has grown rapidly in recent years, reflecting European civil society’s continued commitment to the right to asylum.

 

ECRE’s mission is to protect and advance the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and other forcibly displaced persons in Europe and in Europe’s external policies. 

 

Its diverse membership ranges from large INGOs with a global presence to small organisations of dedicated activists. 

 

Members’ work covers the full circle of displacement from zones of conflict, to the dangerous routes and arrival in Europe, to long-term inclusion in European societies, with their activities including humanitarian relief, social service provision, legal assistance, litigation, monitoring policy and law, advocacy and campaigning.

Recently, the revision of the Pact on Asylum and Migration has become a big issue in Europe. What activities does ECRE have with regard to this Pact?

The upcoming Pact on Asylum and Migration

Working on the new pact on Asylum and Migration which is foreseen to be published by the European Commission in September is another priority area for ECRE.

The Pact may be accompanied by both legislative and non-legislative proposals and it is likely that the proposals will reduce the space for and quality of asylum in Europe. 


Once the Pact is published, ECRE will analyse its contents and will start its advocacy activities to ensure that refugee and rights are protected throughout the Pact’s proposals. 


ECRE will soon also launch a new communication campaign on the Pact to support a right based approach toward refugees and asylum seekers.

What are main activities that your organization is focusing on these days?

​There are three main activities. The influence of COVID-19 on asylum policy, response to the new Pact on Asylum and Migration, and preparation for a long-term fiscal framework by 2027 are included.

1. Impact of Covid-19 on asylum policiesECRE is monitoring the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on asylum policies across Europe.

ECRE continues its advocacy efforts to ensure that people in need of international protection have access to the territory and have access to asylum procedure. 

It also advocates for suspension of forced returns to third countries as the Pandemic severely impacted many third countries.
 

 

 

2. Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF- 2021-2027)

ECRE is extensively working on increasing funding for the inclusion of refugees and migrants in the host society through the MFF proposals, which is the EU’s long-term budget. 

ECRE works closely with the European Parliament and the Member States to make sure that there is adequate funding for the inclusion of refugees and migrants in the host societies.
 

3. Response to the new Pact on Asylum and Migration

And there is response to the new Pact on Asylum and Migration which mentioned above.

Could you tell us about one representative best practice each on how you change the agenda (advocacy) and how you deliver the message to the public (communication)?

In May 2019, there were the European Parliament elections across all European Union’s Member States. 

 

The elections were considered crucial, as migration and asylum played an important role in the European political discourse and there was fear of large electoral gains for far-right and the so-called populist political parties across Europe.


To that end, ECRE initiated a joint advocacy and communication campaign intended to influence political groups manifestos, and mobilize progressive voters including people with refugee and migrant background to vote for an open and inclusive Europe respecting the rights of refugees and migrants.

 

Different advocacy activities took place before and after the elections.


Before the elections, ECRE prepared a briefing to its members and refugee and migrant-led organisations about the role and power of the European Parliament on asylum and migration and why it does matter to vote in the European Parliament, ECRE also provided input on political groups manifestos and met with political groups leaders ahead of the elections.

 

After the elections, ECRE analysed the new setting of the EP and mapped out potential MEP allies, ECRE reached out to them by a letter of introduction and a briefing including ECRE’s priority areas. which resulted positively in meeting several MEPs both in groups and in individual.

 

Communication: the research materials that were prepared by the advocacy team were used by the communication team with tailored and key messages to mobilise a wider public to turn out and vote. 

 

A wide public campaign was launched ahead of the EP’s elections under the hashtag of ‘’your vote our future’’ which gave refugees a direct platform to raise their voices and concerns ahead of the elections.
 

How did you get interested in becoming an activist in this field?

During the so-called refugee crisis, refugees were making headlines. 


They were constantly on the news agenda and a daily topic for discussion both in the public and political discourse. 


Often there were and still are policy roundtables and discussions about refugee issues and their future without a single person with refugee status or with a refugee background in the room. 


This attracted my attention, I wanted to be part of the discussion and to be updated on how policies will affect our lives. 


Therefore, I became so interested in refugee rights sector, that I applied for a job that matched my profile at ECRE in 2018 and has been in this position since.
 

What would you tell Korean and European students who wish to become a CSO activist?

CSOs have an essential role in holding governments accountable for their work and push for more openness and transparency. 


They monitor government policies by identifying gaps and proposing improvements and solutions. 


In democratic countries, CSOs are considered an important pillar of society. 


CSOs also play a vital role in connecting concerned citizens with policymakers and conveying their messages and suggestions.

 

My message for those who want to be a CSO activist would be that in order to strengthen democracy and human rights, the presence of CSOs is crucial. 

 


We need to support CSOs existence and work with CSOs to have a better society. 
 

Could you tell us 3 important principles in working as a CSO activist?

There are three things I would like to mention.

 

  1. Working with CSOs requires our commitment, responsibility, clarity and openness

  2. We should have a heart for CSO to work in the sector

  3. We need to stand against social injustices, inequality and to fight for democratic values

We appreciate Reshad Jalali of ECRE for introducing ECRE's experience and activities on migrant and refugee issues and sharing advice on students interested in civil society organizations.

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