logo free churches' groupLast week, Eurodiaconia had the privilege of presenting our 2014 Migration report “Access to social and health services for migrants in Europe: overcoming the barriers”,at the Churches’ Refugee Network (CRN) Annual Conference in London. The Churches’ Refugee network is a network of Christian actors in the UK that aim to provide a collective, ecumenical voice on issues of asylum and immigration. Eurodiaconia’s member, the Free Churches Group, is a part of the CRN and seeing the relevance of our 2014 migration report to this conference, they extended an invitation to Eurodiaconia to participate in this conference.

At the event, participants were able to hear from Dr. Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University. Dr. Betts explained that today is an extremely challenging time in terms of migration for our entire world because of the large humanitarian crises occurring simultaneously in four different places globally: Syria, Ukraine, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Dr. Betts also emphasized that the 1951 Refugee Convention may not be a broad enough legal framework to correctly protect all of the refugees and asylum seekers our world is now dealing with. He emphasized this point by explaining how some nations around the world, despite their individual ratification of the 1951 convention, have essentially “shut their borders” and rejected the claims of asylum-seekers, no matter how much evidence they have of persecution in their origin country.

Furthermore, Dr. Betts highlighted that the acceptance of refugees can be viewed as a way to help develop a host society, and not just categorized as an economic burden. For example, from research Dr. Betts has done in Uganda, he found that the refugees there who have been given the right to work and the freedom of movement, help strengthen and develop the economy of Uganda by creating jobs, investing in local communities and becoming truly integral parts of society. He explained, “Refugees when given the opportunity, will contribute positively to a society and integrate into the community”.

Overall, Eurodiaconia was able to listen to Dr. Betts, and many other important speakers who highlighted their individual experiences working to protect the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers. During the workshop Eurodiaconia hosted, where the 2014 Eurodiaconia migration report was presented, Eurodiaconia was able to present a comprehensive viewpoint of the challenges migrants face in accessing social and healthcare services all throughout Europe. This “big picture” concept served as a great starting point for discussion and debate on some of the challenges and needed solutions for assisting refugees and asylum seekers in the UK in accessing social and healthcare services.

Following this conference, CRN issued a position statement that you can read here.