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State of democracy in Europe.Measures to improve the democratic participation of migrants

Report | Doc. 11625 | 06 June 2008

(Former) Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population
Rapporteur :
Mr John GREENWAY, United Kingdom


Levels of democratic participation in Europe are low. For migrants they are even lower.

The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population considers it important that migrants be given a “fair share” in the democratic process and that steps are taken to allow them to participate more effectively in society.

Integration is a key to democratic participation of migrants and this needs to be a two-way process involving both migrant communities and the general population. The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population puts forward recommendations to encourage the integration of both migrant men and migrant women in key areas such as education, language learning, creation of bridges between communities, within communities and with the authorities. It also makes recommendations to tackle racism, intolerance and discrimination and to promote integration at work and in housing.

A range of legal and policy measures can be taken to improve the democratic participation of migrants. The committee puts forward proposals for facilitating access to nationality, granting long-term residence status, regularising the situation of certain irregular migrants, granting voting rights to migrants at least at local level, and also ensuring that consultative bodies are established to ensure that migrants have a say and are consulted in matters affecting them.

The committee calls for the ratification, where this had not been done by member states, of the Conventions on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers, on Nationality and on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, and invites the relevant intergovernmental committees of the Council of Europe to analyse the implementation and barriers to the ratification of these conventions.

The committee also calls for an examination of restrictions on political rights of migrants (such as freedom of association) and invites the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly to consider how persons of migrant origin can be better represented within the Assembly itself.

A Draft resolution

1 According to the International Organization for Migration there are over 64.1 million migrants in Europe and the number is constantly increasing. As this number increases so does the need to make sure that migrants are given a “fair share” in the democratic process in Europe.
2 The level of democratic participation across Europe remains low, and particularly low for migrants.
3 Integration is a key for migrants’ democratic participation. It not only facilitates participation but it also leads to a better understanding of shared values and respect for cultural differences which are essential for democratic development. It should always be regarded as a two-way process involving migrants and the majority population.
4 Democratic participation is important for all individuals in society including migrants of first or later generations. For migrants, the earlier their opportunity for democratic participation the more likely they are to par ticipate and integrate.
5 Migrants are not a homogenous group. They have different nationalities and ethnicities and they come to Europe for different reasons. Some come for work, studies, family reunion or to flee persecution or as victims of trafficking. A large number are irregular migrants. There are first and later generation migrants. Almost half the migrants in Europe are women.
6 Democratic participation can take many forms. It can include political participation through voting and standing for election, it can include exercising rights such as freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion. It can cover freedom of association, including participation in political parties, joining trade unions and participation in demonstrations. Furthermore it can include participation in civil society, whether in migrant dedicated associations or other associations with wider remits including sports, arts, charity, philosophy or religion.
7 Democratic participation can take place at European, national, regional or local level. In practice it is at the local level that migrants’ participation is the most important and effective. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe thus has a particular role to play at this level and has undertaken important work in the past including on the establishment of local consultative bodies for foreign residents. The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) also has a role to play, having drafted a code of good practice in electoral matters.
8 The Parliamentary Assembly recalls its most recent Recommendation 1500 (2001) on Participation of immigrants and foreign residents in political life in the Council of Europe member states. It also notes the important standard setting of the Council of Europe through Conventions on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers (ETS No. 93), on Nationality (ETS No. 166) and on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No. 144).
9 The Assembly recognises that much good practice has developed concerning the democratic participation of migrants. Drawing on this and with the intention of improving the integration and democratic participation of migrants across Europe, the Assembly calls on member states of the Council of Europe to:
9.1 encourage integration as a facilitator for democratic participation of both women and men through;
9.1.1 promoting integration as a non-discriminatory two way process, with measures to combat racism and discrimination and encourage inclusiveness (such as diversity training for those working with migrants and benchmarking to ensure inclusiveness), steps to make members of the majority population aware of the different cultures of migrants and the need to avoid stigmatisation of migrants in the integration debate;
9.1.2 education and learning the language of the host society. This is particularly important for women and new arrivals who should be provided with literacy courses, language training, civic awareness programmes and labour market training;
9.1.3 protecting rights and guaranteeing safety and stability. Particular attention should be paid to tackling racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and intolerance, paying attention at the same time to gender based discrimination and violence against women. Adequate follow-up should be given to the recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI);
9.1.4 creating social bridges between communities including in areas such as sports and education and cultural, philosophical and religious activities;
9.1.5 creating social bonds within communities as a means of building confidence and acting as a stepping stone for other forms of participation;
9.1.6 creating social links to services and the communities to avoid exclusion and discrimination and to ensure that both women and men migrants are involved in the design and implementation of policies that affect them. Migrants should be represented and employed at all levels of administration and member states should consider establishing, where they do not exist, specialised ministries or departments of integration and mainstreaming integration issues within all relevant departments;
9.1.7 providing assistance in integrating into the work place, security in employment, flexibility in changing employment and work permits and recognising the skills and qualifications of migrants. Special attention should be paid to migrant women who often work in areas where they may face exploitation, including in the informal economy;
9.1.8 providing fair access to quality housing achieving balanced neighbourhoods and preventing and reducing segregation;
9.2 remove the impediments to democratic participation by:
9.2.1 facilitating access to nationality through: reducing residency requirements for acquisition of nationality to five years or less; ensuring that other requirements such as naturalisation tests, language tests, income and housing requirements, fees, oaths do not become unduly onerous in their number and requirements; removing or reducing restrictions on dual nationality; taking into account the special situation of women and men refugees and their urgent need of nationality; signing and ratifying the European Convention on Nationality; ensuring that no unreasonable impediments to obtaining nationality are placed on second or later generation migrants;
9.2.2 granting longterm residence status to those who have been in the country for five years or less without imposing extensive bureaucratic hurdles, high fees, onerous linguistic, housing, income or employment requirements;
9.2.3 regularising the situation of irregular migrants, who are not going to be returned to their countries of origin, in line with the Assembly Resolution 1568 (2007) on regularisation programmes for irregular migrants;
9.2.4 granting to migrants voting rights, including the right to vote and the right to stand in local and regional elections after a residence period of five years or less;
9.2.5 signing and ratifying the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level;
9.2.6 lifting restrictions on the political rights of migrants to join political parties or form political associations and encourage political parties to include women and men of migrant background amongst their members;
9.3 facilitate participation by:
9.3.1 ensuring that migrants enjoy the right to consultation through the establishment of consultative bodies in accordance with the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level. These bodies should ensure they are representative of migrants and members of the local or other authorities and that women and men are represented equally. They should allow migrants and migrant associations the right to put forward candidates, have clearly defined objectives and should give priority to political activities including consultation and promotion of citizen participation. Furthermore these bodies should have the right to be informed and consulted and have the right to initiate consultation and receive a response;
9.3.2 supporting civil society initiatives for and by migrants which provide choices and options for migrants and lead to bridge building between communities and help create bonds within communities and facilitate links with the authorities. Particular attention should be paid to sup porting initiatives coming from grassroot migrant women’s organisations;
9.3.3 encouraging the media to portray a fair image of migrants and not stereotype them, taking also into account the double stereotyping that migrant women face in the media. Furthermore ensure that migrants are represented in the media as media professionals and that they are seen and that their views are heard;
9.3.4 supporting projects that encourage migrants and other members of the community to volunteer and participate in civil society;
9.3.5 supporting research on democratic participation of migrants, including, inter alia, research on good practices in participation and integration, barriers to participation, impact of integration and voting patterns of migrants;
9.4 ensure that irregular migrants are not excluded from all forms of democratic participation and that they enjoy their basic rights in accordance with Assembly Resolution 1509 (2006) on human rights of irregular migrants;
9.5 ensure the specific needs of women migrants are taken into account and distinguished from men in line with Assembly Recommendation 1732 (2006) and Resolution 1478 (2006) on integration of immigrant women in Europe;
9.6 facilitate the increased democratic participation of migrants in their countries of origin.
10 The Assembly calls on the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe to continue its work on the participation of foreigners in public life at local level and in particular promote further the use of consultative bodies and the right to vote at a local level. Furthermore it calls on the Congress to further strengthen its activities encouraging the integration of migrants at the local level including through the European network of cities for local integration policies for migrants (CLIP).
11 The Assembly calls on the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights to encourage member states to remove the impediments to democratic participation of migrants.
12 The Assembly invites the European Union to support, through the European Integration Fund, projects aimed both at integration and democratic participation of migrants. Support is also needed for projects providing indicators of democratic participation of migrants across greater Europe, gender-disaggregated where possible, and not just limited to the 27 member states of the European Union.
13 The Assembly invites its Bureau to consult the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs on whether any steps could be taken to ensure a better representation of persons of migrant origin in the membership of the Assembly.

B Draft recommendation

1 The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution … (2008) on measures to improve the democratic participation of migrants.
2 The Council of Europe has an important role in promoting the democratic participation of migrants and has already contributed to this process, inter alia, through the adoption of Conventions on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers (ETS No. 93), on Nationality (ETS No. 166) and on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No. 144).
3 The level of democratic participation of migrant women and men in Europe, however, remains low and further steps are needed to improve the situation, including through measures of integration which facilitate the participation of migrants in democratic life and society.
4 Therefore, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
4.1 instruct the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) and its Committee of Experts on Democratic Participation and Public Ethics at Local and Regional Level (LRDP) to analyse the implementation, in all member states of the Council of Europe, of the standards laid out in the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No. 144) and examine the obstacles for ratification of this instrument;
4.2 instruct the European Committee on Migration (CDMG) to examine how integration programmes and equal treatment and opportunity programmes in member states should be adapted in order to promote the democratic participation of migrants;
4.3 instruct the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to examine the restrictions on the political rights of migrants (in particular the rights of migrants to join political parties or form political associations) with a view to furthering the democratic participation of migrant women and men;
4.4 instruct the European Committee on Legal Cooperation (CDCJ) to examine the implementation in all member states of the standards under the European Convention on Nationality and its state of ratifications;
4.5 instruct the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG) to evaluate the democratic participation of migrant women and men when monitoring the implementation of Recommendation Rec(2003)3 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision making;
4.6 invite the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) to examine the constitutional impediments to granting the right to vote to migrants, primarily at the local and regional levels and provide assistance for constitutional reform to these states as necessary;
4.7 invite the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) to monitor continuing discrimination, racism and intolerance as a hindrance to the democratic participation of migrants, and respect its advice.

C C. Explanatory memorandum, by Mr Greenway

1 Introduction

1 The number of migrants in Europe is constantly rising. It is a phenomenon which is likely to continue as birth rates fall, the population ages and Europe remains hungry for workers who come both legally and illegally into Europe.
2 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimatesNote the number of migrants living in Europe in 2005 at 64.1 million, representing 8.8 % of the population. Three years on, the figure now will be much higher, especially if the substantial number of irregular migrants within Europe’s borders are taken fully into account. Any analysis of the state of democracy in Europe therefore needs to take into account the extent to which this vast number of migrants and their communities engage with and are involved in the democratic process.
3 It is at the heart of democracy that all members of a community should have a share in the decision-making process relating to that community. Migrants can make an important contribution to the communities in which they live and there is an increasing awareness across Europe that they should be given a “fair share” in the political process and allowed to participate fully in the political, social and cultural life of member states of the Council of Europe. This means much more than just engagement in the political process. Many features of contemporary society are organised on democratic principles, whether in sport, the arts, schools, churches or charities and the governance of a wide range of organisations increasingly depend on management committees and boards of trustees or governors. More often than not committee or board membership is determined by the electoral process and the willingness of individuals to take on the responsibility of management and supervision on a voluntary basis.
4 With growing awareness of the vital importance of integrationNote of migrants into local communities, much greater effort should be made by member states of the Council of Europe to encourage migrants to get involved in local grass roots associations and clubs and to encourage these organisations to be receptive to migrants. This can be an important first step towards increased involvement in the political process by migrants who may increasingly come to recognise the relevance of participation in affecting change in their local community and society in general.
5 Democratic participation should also be seen in the context of access to services such as health, education and housing. Such access must be based on the principle of fair procedures and access to legal redress. This is particularly important when considering the rights of migrant children, elderly migrants and migrants facing social exclusion. In all these areas a sense of fairness, equity and justice is the prerequisite of ensuring that migrants feel able to integrate into the communities where they live.
6 Integration should always be seen as a two-way process, implicating both migrants and the population at large and requiring mutual recognition by all those involved.
7 Such integration brings with it an understanding of shared values and respect for cultural differences which are essential for democratic development. So the challenges of democratic participation and integration of migrants are very much interlinked and can be viewed as mutually reinforcing elements.
8 Democratic participation across Europe remains low and this is the case not only for migrants but also for the population at large. For migrants, however, this democratic deficit is greater and even greater for migrant women.
9 This report therefore intends to look at how democratic participation for migrants can be improved and the legal, political and structural steps that can be taken to facilitate this. It also plans to look at the issue of integration and how this can have a bearing on democratic participation and how democratic participation can in turn have an influence on integration.
10 Improving the democratic participation of migrants is not something that can be done overnight. It is a complicated multifaceted issue that requires sustained effort over time. In Belgium, for example, the right to vote for third country nationals at local elections was only won after a long battle, and after tackling strong anti immigrant sentiments.
11 Democratic participation can take place at different levels. It can take place at local, national or European levels. It is perhaps, however, at the local level that democratic participation is the most effective and relevant for migrants, in particular if naturalisation is not an option.
12 Democratic participation is important for all migrants whether they come from the first or later generations. This report will concentrate, although not exclusively, on the challenges faced by first generation migrants. The earlier their opportunities for democratic participation the greater their chances for successful integration and democratic participation. Democratic participation can also take place in the country of origin of migrants, and migrants should be encouraged to continue such participation where relevant. This issue is not, however, dealt with in the context of this report.
13 In preparing this report the rapporteur would like to recognise the support and advice of all those involved in the consultation process. He would particularly like to thank the Migration Policy Group (MPG) and the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) for their guidance.Note

2 Understanding the democratic participation of migrants in the context of the population at large

14 Democratic participation can take many forms. It can include political participation in terms of voting and standing for election, it can include exercising other political rights such as freedom of expression, thought, con science and religion. It can cover freedom of association, including participating in political parties, joining trade unions, demonstrating, etc. Furthermore it can include participating in civil society whether this be taking part in associations, including specialised associations for migrants, church organisations, school associations, etc.
15 What is important to note is that participation in any of these activities is likely to have a spillover effect into other activities. The more confident a migrant is in taking part in any single form of participation, the more likely he or she is to widen that experience.
16 It is extremely difficult to quantify the level of democratic participation of migrants across Europe and much more research is needed in the future. There is, nonetheless, a range of academic studies which point to low levels of democratic participation of migrants, including for Europeans living outside their countries of origin.
17 One of the important sources for this type of information is the European Social Survey.Note Taking the statistics from this survey a study has been done of civic participation rates of migrants in 22 European countries.Note In Germany the participation rate of nationals was found to be 57.9% while the figure for migrants was much lower at 34%. For France the rates were 53.2% for nationals and 48.1% for migrants. For Hungary the rates were 19.7% and 17.2% and for Estonia the figures were 17.7% and 14.8% respectively for nationals and migrants. It is interesting to note, however, that not all countries had lower participation rates for migrants. In Portugal, for example, the rate for nationals was 18.1% and it was 22.4% for migrants.
18 This survey also examined overall the civic participation of natives and migrants in terms of membership of trade unions and parties, work for political parties or action for other groups or associations and symbolic action (signing petitions, demonstrating, etc.). Here the overall participation rate for nationals was 49.83% of natives while only 38.96% of immigrants were found to be active.Note
19 Higher disparities of participation will, of course, arise when one looks specifically at some of the political forms of participation, in particular where there are legal restrictions on the right to vote or the right to form and join political parties.
20 When looking at migrants’ participation it is important to take into account that migrants are not a homoge nous group. They come from different countries and often have very different life experiences. The extent of their participation in their host country will depend on a range of factors. These can include:
  • the level of democratic participation generally in their home country;
  • the level of their own experience or that of their family before migrating;
  • the level of engagement generally in the host society;
  • the cultural links and proximity between the home country and the host country;
  • the level of individual motivation of the persons concerned;
  • the level of their integration and factors that promote integration in their host country.
21 Research has shown that each of the above has a positive influence on the level of democratic participation of the migrant. Another important influence is the life experience of the persons concerned (whether they are highly skilled workers, refugees, students, seasonal workers, per sons joining a spouse under family reunion, irregular migrants, first or second generation migrants, etc.). A further important differential is whether the migrant is a European Union national or not.
22 It is clear that some ethnic or national groups are more active than others in Europe. In one research project it was found that eastern Europeans tended to be less active than Asians, Latin American and Africans. Russian and Albanian migrants were found to be amongst the least active, while Iranians and Indonesians were shown to be the most active.Note
23 In devising measures to improve the democratic participation of migrants it is therefore important to take into account the myriad of different experiences of migrants and the different factors affecting their levels of participation and integration. In devising measures states should not consider measures as mutually exclusive “either, or” options, but rather as interlocking mechanisms for promoting the democratic participation of migrants. For example, granting the right to vote at a local level does not excuse a state from examining the need for establishing consultative bodies or providing support for migrant associations or other civil society initiatives affecting migrants.

3 The role of the Council of Europe in improving the democratic participation of migrants

24 The Council of Europe attaches the utmost importance to improving the democratic participation of migrants. The Assembly has played, and will continue to play, a major role in seeking to achieve further progress in this area. The Assembly believes such progress to be critical in reducing xenophobia and racial tension.
25 The Assembly has adopted Recommendation 1500 (2001) on the participation of immigrants and foreign res idents in political life in the Council of Europe member states. The Council of Europe has its own Conventions on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers (ETS No. 93), on Nationality (ETS No. 166) and on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No. 144). The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe has carried out important work on the issue and has adopted Resolution 141 (2002) and Recommendation 115 (2002) on the participation of foreign residents in local public life: consultative bodies, Resolution 181 (2004) and Recommendation 153 (2004) on a pact for the integration and participation of people of immigrant origin in Europe’s towns, cities and regions. The Congress has also published a “handbook” on local consultative bodies for foreign residents.
26 In the intergovernmental sector, the European Committee on Migration (CDMG) works on many issues involving integration of migrants and as far back as 1992, the Committee of MinistersNote in a recommendation on community relations called for encouraging “the fullest participation of migrants and persons of immigrant origin in the life of the society of the country in which they live”. The CDMG has published a series of reports as part of the Community Relations projectNote together with a Framework of integration policies.Note The Committee of Experts on Democratic Participation and Public Ethics at Local and Regional Level examines regularly, inter alia, obstacles for acceding to the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level and at the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government (Valencia, 2007)Note the ministers emphasised “the importance of securing the effective and appropriate participation of all, both citizens and foreign ers, in public life at local level”.
27 The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) has in the past looked at con stitutional impediments to participation of migrants in elections. Moreover, the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters drafted by the Venice Commission, supported by the Parliamentary AssemblyNote and by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe,Note and which the Committee of Ministers encouraged member states to take account of,Note provides that “it would be advis able for foreigners to be allowed to vote in local elections after a certain period of residence.”Note
28 The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) regularly monitors all member states of the Council of Europe and adopts general policy rec ommendations on all forms of discrimination, racism and intolerance. Within the context of its country by country reports, integration is one of the themes regularly covered.
29 The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities reg ularly monitors the effective participation of persons belonging to national minorities under Article 15 of the framework conventionNote and has published in 2008 a com mentaryNote on the issue. While this applies to national minorities it also has a relevance to migrants.
30 In the course of this report, further reference is made to some of the above work and also other activities of the Council of Europe relevant to the democratic participa tion of migrants.

4 Integration as the key to participation

31 The preface to the Handbook on integration for policymakers and practitionersNote sums up eloquently the reasons why integration is essential for our European societies:
“Integration of immigrants is vital for social cohesion and economic development. To enable immigrants to feel part of our society we must treat them fairly, and ensure that they have the right tools to participate fully in our societies. Integration is a continuous, twoway process which is based on mutual rights, and corresponding obli gations both of immigrants and of the host society.”
32 The Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs of the Council of Europe at their 7th Conference in Helsinki underlined the importance of this integration and the need for this to be a twoway process. In the Final DeclarationNote they undertook:
“to promote an open and welcoming society and to encourage the participation of lawfully residing migrants in economic, social, cultural and political life by, inter alia:a. recognising the positive contribution that migrants make to society;b. associating the host community and migrants in activ ities aimed at promoting mutual understanding;c. encouraging migrants and receiving society to under take common activities in favour of the local community and development of civil society;d. implementing introduction programmes for new comers, actively encouraging immigrants to learn the lan guage of the receiving country as well as to understand and respect the institutions and the fundamental values of the host society”.
33 The rapporteur starts from the premise that integra tion is a great facilitator of democratic participation and that democratic participation can help migrants along the path to integration. In the view of the rapporteur, integra tion should not be seen as a prerequisite for democratic participation, as the two need to go hand in hand.
34 The rapporteur is aware that discussions on integra tion of migrants often focus on longterm integration. Migrants, however, often do not plan to stay long term. Furthermore, migrants are becoming increasingly mobile. Part of the challenge, therefore, is to take into account that migrants live with an uncertain future and that integration measures and opportunities for democratic participation also need to be available for those with an uncertain future.
35 While integration takes place at all levels, it is at the local level that it is the most effective and relevant. Local authorities, therefore, have a responsibility to adopt effec tive and flexible policies. The rapporteur notes the work undertaken by the Congress in this respect.Note
36 In this part of the report the rapporteur proposes look ing at some of the key indicators of integrationNote and their interaction with democratic participation. For migrants to be able to participate they need time, they need money and they need security. They also need a command of the local language and they need certain skills including lan guage proficiency. Integration is thus the enabler for migrants which helps them to benefit from the opportuni ties for democratic participation on offer.
37 The rapporteur is aware of a shifting perception of integration at European level. Traditionally integration measures have been seen as for the benefit of migrants in order to tackle disadvantages and allow for equal partici pation. There is, however, a creeping tendency in some states to consider integration as a responsibility of migrants and even to consider applying penalties to migrants who fail to integrate sufficiently. The applica tion of tests, learning obligations and in some instances penalties is not without problems from a human rights perspective, in particular where these measures may be applied on a discriminatory basis to certain groups. This issue will need to be looked at further by the Assembly in the future.

4.1 Education

38 Education is highly relevant both for integration and also for democratic participation. This is backed up in lit erature on the subject.Note Education services are delivered locally and provide an ideal opportunity for migrant par ticipation in schools, colleges and extra curricular activity. Education is extremely important as one of the confidence building measures which gives migrants greater opportu nities to find work, develop skills and build confidence to integrate and participate in democratic life.
39 Education may be in the form of introductory pro grammes. Immigrantfriendly education institutions can give migrants a head start providing them with the skills and confidence to move forward in their new societies. Often these programmes have three elements including language training, civic awareness and labour market training.Note Adult education is also important for adult migrants who may not have had the same level of oppor tunities in their countries of origin.
40 An example of good practice in terms of introductory programmes can be taken from the city of Gent in Belgium which provides up to 1 200 hours of Dutch classes and 75 hours of “society orientation” including practical and administrative information. The city also provides a “custom made” individual reception pro gramme with guidance on employment, education and training.Note
41 Education is however important at all levels of the education system, from primary, through secondary on to tertiary level and adult education.
42 The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted an important recommendation (Rec(2008)4) on strengthening the integration of migrant children. This gives detailed guidance on integration into school life, including in disadvantaged and segregated areas. It focuses on the importance of language learning, staff recruitment (including having teachers of immigrant background) and training (to deal with nonnative mother tongue children and to tackle intercultural education). It calls on schools and authorities to promote an atmosphere of hospitality, tolerance and respect for diversity at school and to take particular measures for the integration of new immigrant children into school life. The recommendation also highlights the importance of supporting civil society, migrants and their associations, the need to support the parents of migrant children and the need to facilitate the transition from school into the labour market.
43 In the view of the rapporteur the parental role of migrant parents needs to be supported and strengthened, and this is backed up in the abovementioned recommen dation of the Committee of Ministers. Migrants who are parents, irrespective of their backgrounds, need to be encouraged to be active in schools and parent organisations. This participation of parents is important not only for their children’s progress and integration, but also for their own society links and democratic experiences.
44 One problem which migrants often face is that their levels of education are not formally recognised, leaving them in jobs which are well below their levels of skills and experience. Member states should encourage qualifi cation setting bodies to provide a framework which allows employers to recognise the qualifications obtained abroad by migrants in order to ensure their participation at appro priate levels in the work place. This will undoubtedly help migrants in terms of their confidence, earning power, inte gration and willingness and ability to participate in a dem ocratic society.

4.2 Social bridges (between communities)

45 The creation of social bridges between communities is an essential element in the twoway process of integra tion. This mixing encourages social cohesion and a widen ing of cultural understanding and leads to greater economic opportunities.Note
46 These bridges can be established at many levels and can be linked to sports, education, cultural, religious or other activities. Good practices abound.Note In Germany, for example, the Abrahamic ForumNote brings together Christians, Muslims and Jews. In the United Kingdom the Interfaith NetworkNote works on a broad basis and seeks to foster good relations between the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Zorastrian faiths. There are thought to be 130 local inter faith groups, councils and forums in the United Kingdom according to research carried out by this network. Schools play a particularly important role and can provide bridges not only between children, but also between parents.
47 The lack of social bridges, in particular when combined with the lack of social bonds and social links, can ruin prospects for integration and democratic participation. The lack of these bridges affects not only the confidence of migrants and their trust but can also lead to exclusion, alien ation and extremism, particularly amongst young migrants.Note Adequate support needs to be given by the authorities to cre ating such social bridges, including through the provisions of funding for civil society initiatives.

4.3 Social bonds (within communities)

48 Social bonds within communities would appear to have significant importance for democratic participation and researchers have noted that “the denser a particular ethnic group’s network of associations and the higher the level of membership in associations, the more political trust they will have and the more they will participate politically”.Note This was, for example, found to be the case in Amsterdam when comparing the experience of the Turkish community with that of the Moroccan commu nity. The Turkish community with its denser networks and greater political trust had higher levels of participation than the Moroccan community.Note
49 Social bonds are also important to avoid the risk of assimilation and to avoid the risk of isolation and loss of identity.
50 Support for social bonds within communities should not be seen as encouraging separatism, but rather as a form of confidence building and a stepping stone for fur ther participation in society. The authorities should, there fore, be encouraged to provide support, including funding, for initiatives leading to the creation of social bonds within communities.
51 Of the many projects worthy of mention, the INVOLVE project on the “Integration of migrants through volunteering”NoteNote can be highlighted. This project examined the best practices in seven countries in Europe and demonstrated how volunteering can foster social bonds in society and at the same time create a feeling of belonging for migrants, both within migrant communities and within society as a whole.

4.4 . Social links (to services and the community)

52 Local services need to be able to respond to the needs of migrants in all sectors including in terms of housing, education, employment and social or other services. Migrants often have difficulties in accessing these serv ices because of linguistic barriers, cultural differences and lack of knowledge and experience of how the system works.
53 Inclusion strategies have to be developed by local authorities at an organisational level. These strategies need to include migrants, not only in their design, but also in their implementation. Civil society organisations deliv ering support to migrants need to be provided with resources. The more migrants that are involved in the process the more likely they are to integrate and develop further their skills and willingness to participate in other aspects of democratic life. Staff working for local author ities need to be trained or specialised to deal with the demands of a multicultural society. Interpreters or inter pretation services need to be available. In Italy an exam ple of good practice can be cited. Sixty cultural mediators of either Italian or migrant background are attached to the public social structure of six regions of southern Italy and there are a further 30 mediators working in local employ ment offices.Note
54 Migrants are particularly sensitive to slow and ineffi cient bureaucratic procedures whether in immigration matters or in their daily dealings in the community. Differentials and discrimination weigh heavily on them and hamper integration and do not foster a desire for par ticipation at a democratic level.Note It is therefore essential that these social links to services are encouraged and facil itated.
55 One area of good practice developing in a number of member states is the creation of specialised departments or ministries dealing with integration issues or issues affecting migrants both at national and local levels. There are also examples where these ministries are themselves headed by persons of ethnic migrant background. In Sweden, for example, there is a Ministry of Integration and Gender Equality. The Minister, Nyamko Sabuni, is a woman born in Burundi. These specialised departments help to focus attention on integration issues, but should not be seen as a replacement for the need to mainstream integration issues in all services.

4.5 Language

56 Linguistic confidence certainly plays an important role and this combined with educational levels can have an important impact on self confidence and the willing ness and ability of migrants to participate. This participa tion can be in some of the most basic forms such as in meetings, writing letters, or simply communicating with others. Linguistic skills allow for social connections with other communities and for access to basic services.
57 The need to learn the language of the host society may even start before day one of arrival in the country. In the Netherlands, for example, knowledge of Dutch is required and tested before many migrants are entitled to enter the country. Such stringent requirements may better equip migrants for when they arrive in the country, but they should not be used to set up barriers to migration, particularly when they relate to family reunification. These requirements should take into account that women’s literacy in many societies is still very low. A gendersensitive approach has therefore to be in place so that migrant women would not be discriminated from such measures.

4.6 Safety and stability. Countering racism, xenophobia and intolerance

58 Experiences in suffering racism, xenophobia and intolerance may put migrants off participating in demo cratic and political life due to feelings of rejection and fear. They may also lead to isolation and extremism. For the most part they do not foster an environment which promotes democratic participation. Sometimes, however, they may have the opposite effect and may act as a moti vation for seeking change, righting wrong or helping oth ers who may face similar problems.
59 59. The Council of Europe and member states are already well aware of their responsibilities for countering racism, xenophobia and intolerance. The regular country reports and general policy recommendations of the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) are a constant reminder of the steps they should be taking to combat these problems.
60 Civil society is particularly vibrant in mobilising the general public, the media and the authorities against racism, xenophobia and intolerance. States have devel oped increasingly effective legislation and specialised bodies for taking action to combat these problems. States should not however be complacent when dealing with these problems and should follow up on the recommen dations of the ECRI, in particular in terms of legislative and policy measures and measures to strengthen spe cialised bodies dealing with discrimination issues.
61 The Council of Europe “All Different – All Equal” campaignNote is an example of good practice in seeking to tackle racism, xenophobia and intolerance, implicating young persons across Europe in a range of activities tack ling discrimination and promoting diversity, human rights and participation.

4.7 Rights and responsibilities

62 Guaranteeing the rights of migrants is one of the ways to make migrants feel secure and to encourage their inte gration and democratic participation.
63 Attempts at an international level to strengthen the rights of migrants have not, however, been a complete success and the road to acceptance of a general frame work for rights of both regular and irregular migrants at a European level remains long.
64 At an international level the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families has been ratified by a rel atively small number of states. Only three Council of Europe member states have ratified this treaty (Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey). The Council of Europe’s own Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers (ETS No. 93) has only been ratified by 11 countries. Other conventions of the Council of Europe having a bearing on migrants have similarly not found great favour from member states of the Council of Europe. The European Convention on Nationality (ETS No. 166) has received 16 ratifications and the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No.144) has received only eight ratifications.Note The European Social Charter (and the revised European Social Charter) have a range of provisions protecting the rights of migrant workers and their families. There are, however, still too many states that have not ratified the charter or the revised charter, and the provisions relating specifically to migrants and their families apply only to “nationals of other parties lawfully resident or working regularly within the territory of the party concerned.” One of the strengths of the charter and the revised charter is, however, that it allows the possibility of “collective com plaints”. This is a mechanism which is being increasingly used by international nongovernmental organisations, and further steps are needed to encourage international NGOs working on migrants’ issues to take up collective complaints where appropriate.
65 The rapporteur is concerned by the mixed message being sent by too many member states of the Council of Europe concerning their commitment to the rights con tained in these different conventions. For the most part these rights reflect standards already accepted in other treaties or already being applied by these states and it should not be difficult for states to ratify these instru ments. Failure to ratify these instruments sends the wrong message to migrants that states are unwilling to take a stand on the rights of migrants.
66 The rapporteur therefore encourages member states to ratify these instruments as a matter of priority.
67 Alongside rights, migrants have responsibilities and under certain circumstances countries of origin of migrants also have responsibilities. The Global Commission on International Migration has recom mended that “migrants should ideally be provided with a clearly written statement of their rights and obligations when they are admitted to a country, thereby encouraging them to become active citizens from the earliest possible moment.”Note The global commission also highlighted the dangers arising when migrants or migrants’ organisations reject integration because they are against the values and the culture of the society in which they live. Migrants have a responsibility to accept the laws, customs and val ues of their host societies. They also have responsibilities to the wider community in which they live in terms of par ticipation and giving something to the community. They may campaign for peaceful change using democratic means, but if they cannot respect the law and the consti tution they should leave the country.Note

4.8 Security in the areas of employment and housing

68 Employment is important for a range of reasons. It creates a link between communities, it helps migrants join social networks, it allows migrants the possibility of involvement in trade unions or other associations, and it allows migrants to have a guaranteed income. Persons who have a secure livelihood and income are much more likely to be involved in democratic participation. Too many migrants remain unemployed and are remunerated at lower levels than nationals.
69 Those without a secure livelihood are going to strug gle to make ends meet and are unlikely to have the time, energy or opportunity to involve themselves in democratic participation. They are more likely to struggle to become integrated. Those in an irregular situation do not have the right to work. They are likely to struggle to obtain work and will remain in a vulnerable situation and open to exploitation. Major hurdles exist for their integration and their democratic participation.
70 It is important that migrants be given assistance in integrating into the workplace with language training and training in the skills necessary to compete in the market place. Women migrants face particular problems access ing the labour market. Migrants also need to be secure in their employment and have flexibility in changing their employment and work permits. Their work permits should not be tied to an employer as this encourages exploitation and other difficulties for the migrant if he or she loses his or her job. The skills and qualifications of migrants need to be recognised and they should enjoy the right to join and participate fully in trade unions.Note
71 In Europe, Sweden probably has the best practices in terms of labour access for migrants. According to the MIPEX Labour Market Access study,Note “any migrant in Sweden with a permit of at least one year is eligible to work in most sectors or to become selfemployed with a viable business plan, just like an EU national. The state helps unemployed migrants through Swedish language and vocational training. In addition… all migrants who have lived and worked (which includes caring for chil dren under 10) in Sweden for two years have equal access to study grants as Swedes. Migrants who find a job have the right to change their permit, job and industry, after less than one year. Migrants who lose their jobs do not neces sarily lose their right to stay in Sweden”.
72 In the Final Declaration of Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs, Helsinki (1617 September 2002), min isters made a clear statement and undertaking on the need to promote equal access to employment for lawfully resid ing migrants. Ministers also undertook to promote equal ity by recognising the equivalence of diplomas, qualifications and skills, ensuring equal treatment for migrants in the workplace, adopting diversity manage ment in human resources and encouraging the participa tion of migrants in trade unions and company committees.
73 Access to quality housing is also extremely important for integration. Much of the accommodation in Europe for migrants is of low quality and sometimes barely hab itable and often cramped in ghettolike environments. This does not lead to integration and does not create con fidence or a sense of belonging which are essential for the process of democratic involvement and participation. Further steps are needed to tackle discrimination in the housing sector and achieve balanced neighbourhoods and prevent or reduce segregation.Note

4.9 Integration as a twoway process

74 Integration should be seen as a challenge and not a burden. It is a challenge both for migrants and their host societies. In the Final Declaration of the 7th Conference of Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs (Helsinki, 1617 September 2002), the ministers undertook “to con sider integration as an interactive process based upon mutual willingness to adapt by both migrants and the receiving society”.
75 The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has also on many occasions high lighted the importance of integration as a twoway process. In a recent report it said that “measures taken … should extend to society as a whole and not exclusively focus on immigrants, in order to avoid their stigmatisa tion and the impression that the success of integration depends solely on their efforts.”Note The need to avoid stig matisation of migrants in the debate on integration is thus extremely important.
76 The majority population also has an important role to play in combating racism, intolerance and discrimination and they need to be aware of the culture and traditions of migrants and to be open to contacts with migrants.
77 Mainstream associations, government offices and other levels of society must not only be open to migrants, but they should encourage the participation of migrants and take the initiative of inviting migrants to take part. Migrants must be able to progress and not face unequal treatment otherwise they will not participate and will withdraw.
78 Many steps can be taken to encourage integration as a twoway process. Diversity training, for example, is used by some organisations to encourage diversity. Benchmarking tools are being increasingly used by some organisations to measure how inclusive they are. These steps are to be encouraged.
79 Much more can be done at the level of schools to encourage integration as a twoway process. Adapting the school curriculum to reflect a multicultural society should be a priority and the curriculum needs to ensure an accu rate as well as a positive reflection of the role of migrants in society.

5 Specific legal and policy measures to assure the democratic participation of migrants

80 Democratic participation cannot take place in a legal or policy vacuum and there are certain legal and policy measures which play a defining role in influencing and facilitating the democratic participation of migrants.
81 In this part of the report, the rapporteur proposes looking at nationality,Note electoral rights, longterm status, other political rights, consultative bodies, support for civil society and the role of the media in order to define further the measures necessary to improve the democratic participation of migrants.

5.1 Nationality

82 The acquisition of nationality is one of the most effec tive mechanisms for encouraging integration and enabling participation in the political and democratic process.Note
83 Granting nationality removes any legal impediment to political participation by migrants. It also plays an important role in encouraging the de facto democratic par ticipation of migrants. This has been backed up in a num ber of research studies,Note including in the European Social Survey. In this study it was found that 46% of migrants who acquired citizenship in the host country were civi cally active. Of those without citizenship only 28% were found to be civically active.Note
84 The Council of Europe has through the European Convention on Nationality sought to promote the pro gressive development of legal principles concerning nationality, avoid discrimination and find appropriate solutions to consequences of multiple nationality.Note Unfortunately only 16 countries have ratified the con vention and the last ratification was by Ukraine in 2006. Ratifications are, for the most part, from central and east ern European countries, reflecting a tendency on the part of western European countries to move towards tighten ing rather than loosening the criteria on obtaining nation ality.

5.1.1 Naturalisation requirements

85 Naturalisation requirements differ widely across Europe.Note A general requirement is residency for a set period of time. Some countries such as Belgium have a short residency period of three years, while others, such as Austria, Spain, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovenia have a period of ten years. Five years is, how ever, the standard and this is the case, inter alia, for Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. The European Convention on Nationality is disappointing in that it fixes the maximum residency requirement high at ten years. The rapporteur considers that member states of the Council of Europe should be encouraged to fix at five years the maximum residency period.
86 This residency requirement, however, tends to be shorter for a spouse of a national. Residency is generally not the only requirement. Some of the other requirements include knowledge of the state’s official language, ade quate income and housing and lack of a criminal record. More recently additional requirements are sometimes called for. These include the obligation to take and pass naturalisation tests (these have been adopted or are under discussion in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom), or specialised courses (such as fore seen in Estonia, France, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania) or oaths of allegiance or declarations of loyalty (as applied in Germany, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania).Note In some states there are high fees to pay, such as in Greece where a fee of around €1 500 has to be paid, and Austria.Note In a few countries there are no fees such as in France and Luxembourg, while in others the fees are no greater than renewing an identity card (such as in Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom).
87 Restrictive policies on nationality affect a large num ber of persons across Europe. In Germany, for example, there are about 7 million persons living under the special status of “foreigner”, although some of them have lived in the country for decades or were even born there.Note In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, difficulties in obtaining nationality for persons belonging to the Russian minority have created severe tensions in society.
88 One of the barriers to nationality in Germany, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but also in other countries is restrictions on double nationality. Double nationality is restricted in, inter alia, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.Note
89 For many reasons migrants may not wish to lose their original nationality. This may be because of personal iden tity issues or because of emotional ties. Furthermore in their country of origin if they renounce their nationality they may be classified as foreigners with only limited rights of entry and residence and may require a visa to return. It may also affect their rights of inheritance and property rights. For these persons being compelled to renounce their original nationality presents an important obstacle to the acquisition of a new nationality and acts as a bar to their integration and democratic participation in their host country.Note
90 The situation of refugees should be specifically men tioned as they no longer enjoy protection of their country of origin and have a more urgent need of nationality than ordinary migrants. This is recognised by Article 34 of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees as well as under the European Convention on Nationality (Article 6.4.g). States are, therefore, under a particular obligation to facilitate their access to nationality.
91 Second and third generation migrants acquire nation ality by a combination of the principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli.Note It is outside the scope of this report to exam ine the very different rules applying to member states of the Council of Europe and the comparative advantages and weaknesses of these. The rapporteur, however, wishes to point out that the application of these rules can some times lead to second and third generation children not qualifying automatically for nationality. This is the case in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Sweden where the only way of acquiring nationality at birth is by blood link (jus sangui nis), which excludes second generation children and third generation children if their parents have not been natu ralised.Note

5.1.2 Facilitating nationality

92 The rapporteur considers that integration and all steps leading in that direction can lead to the acquisition of nationality. Nationality, when granted, is also a means to improve integration and democratic participation. The European Commission has also underlined that “natural isation is a strategy, which can help to promote integration and which member states should consider when granting residence to immigrants and refugees”.Note Member states of the Council of Europe should be encouraged to ratify the European Convention on Nationality and bring down bar riers to nationality. Lengthy residence requirements in excess of five years and barriers which prevent second and later generation migrants from obtaining nationality need attention. Double nationality, in the view of the rap porteur, should be an option in all states. In Europe, after all, we are increasingly taking on multiple identities. We have identities linked to our country of birth, many of us have identities linked to countries in which we live or have lived in. Furthermore we have identities as “citizens” of the European Union and as “Europeans” within the greater scope of the Council of Europe.
93 Granting or facilitating nationality should, however, never be seen as an alternative for other steps for encour aging democratic participation of migrants (granting elec toral rights to migrants at local or other levels, establishing consultative bodies, supporting civil society initiatives relating to migrants, etc.).

5.2 Longterm status

94 It is clear that persons who do not have a longterm residence status or who are struggling to obtain national ity may be reluctant to put down ties and participate in democratic society. This insecurity may not be limited to those wanting to strengthen their status. There may be many migrants who are highly mobile who do not know what the future may bring. This does not, however, mean that their democratic participation should be put on hold. All persons should thus have the possibility of democratic participation and be encouraged to participate as much as possible.
95 The rapporteur is also concerned about the toughen ing stance of many countries on family reunion and notes in this respect the increasingly restrictive provisions, for example, in Austria, Belgium, Denmark and France.Note
96 Some recommendations in relation to longterm sta tus can be made.Note Longterm residents should not be required to wait longer than five years for such a status and short periods of leaving the country should not nullify the procedure. All time should count, including times spent as a student or an asylum seeker. The procedure should not be overly bureaucratic and it should be trans parent, preferably free and without restrictive and unrea sonable linguistic or other requirements such as relating to income, housing or employment. The status should not be withdrawn except in exceptional circumstances. The per son granted the status should enjoy the same rights as nationals at least in terms of education and vocational training. Family reunion should be facilitated.

5.3 Electoral rights

97 The more people that are excluded from voting or having the right to be elected, the greater the gap in dem ocratic legitimacy and democratic representation. It is not, however, only a question of formal rights to vote and be elected that count, it is also whether these rights are enabled and put into practice.
98 Granting electoral rights to migrants allows them to have a voice. It is one of the elements which helps avoid exclusion and the consequences thereof, whether this be violence or criminal behaviourNote or different forms of extremism.
99 Electoral rights comprise two elements, the right to vote and the right to stand for election. The two are not always granted together. Some states have only granted the right to vote and not the right to be elected thus falling short of the standards set by the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level. These countries include Belgium, Estonia and Luxembourg.Note

5.3.1 National level

100 At a national level, with very few exceptions, migrants across Europe do not have the right to vote unless they have become a national of the country concerned.
101 Two exceptions are Portugal and the United Kingdom. In the case of Portugal the right applies only to the right to vote and applies to Brazilians in parliamen tary elections (the right is granted on the basis of reci procity and in view of cultural similarities between the nationalities concerned). In the case of the United Kingdom the right to vote and the right to stand for elec tion are granted to all citizens of Commonwealth coun tries. This is the result of past colonial links.Note
102 There are no examples of guaranteed seats in parlia ment for ethnic groups other than those provided for the protection of persons belonging to national minorities. The idea of rights for “new minorities” is still underdeveloped, but it cannot be excluded that one day the idea of guaran teed seats for migrants as “new minorities” will take form.
103 As migrants generally do not have electoral rights at national level, it is all the more important that they have other democratic means of representation both at national and other levels.

5.3.2 Local level

104 It is at the local level that participation of migrants is perhaps the most important. It is at this level that pol icy and decisions are made affecting the daily lives of migrants, in particular in fields such as education, public housing, health care and welfare.
105 It is thus particularly important that migrants enjoy electoral rights at the local level. The rapporteur is pleased to note an increasing trend to give migrants electoral rights at a local level. Such rights were recently granted in the Czech Republic in 2001, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia in 2002, Luxembourg and Slovakia in 2003 and Belgium in 2004.Note
106 There are, however, localities in which migrants make up extremely high proportions of the population, yet they are not allowed to vote. This was an issue highlighted in the POLITIS project where one interviewer made the point, “If in certain localities, 40% are immigrants, if you don’t have them participate, what’s the point?”Note
107 The Council of Europe Convention on Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level requires grant ing the right to vote to migrants after five years of resi dency, although it leaves it open to states to reduce this amount of time. Finland provides for the shortest period of residence, requiring a twoyear residence period, and countries such as Denmark and Sweden apply a threeyear period. Most other countries, however, require a fiveyear residence period.
108 Some states apply a number of other requirements such as registration, oaths of allegiance (Belgium), per manent residence permits (Estonia and Lithuania), reci procity (Czech Republic, Portugal, Spain), or close historical links (for example, Colonial links for the United Kingdom and Portugal). In the view of the rapporteur, requirements should be kept to a minimum as the primary goal is to facilitate political participation.
109 In a number of countries there are constitutional impedimentsNote to granting voting rights. Granting the right to vote at local level was declared unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court in the northern Länder, Hamburg and SchleswigHolstein.NoteNote Similarly, in Austria, attempts to grant voting rights in the City of Vienna were ruled unconstitutional by the Austrian Constitutional Court in 2004.Note The rapporteur considers that the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) could play a role in identifying and solving constitutional impediments to the granting of vot ing rights in member states of the Council of Europe and encourages the Venice Commission to further its work in this area.NoteNote
110 The rapporteur considers that member states should grant migrants the right to vote and be elected at least at the local level. Furthermore, they should facilitate this by keeping administrative requirements to a minimum and supporting information campaigns and civil society ini tiatives informing migrants of their rights and encourag ing them to participate.
111 Under the Maastricht Treaty, nationals of member states of the European Union enjoy the right to vote and to stand for local elections and European Parliament elec tions in European Union member states. On the one hand, opening up the right to vote of a large number of migrants in Europe is to be welcomed. On the other hand, it does, as has been recognised by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, create “a form of discrimination between residents of foreign ori gin, contrary to the principles upheld by the Council of Europe and set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights.”Note The rapporteur is also aware of calls to grant similar reciprocal voting rights at local level for all nationals of member states of the Council of Europe.Note There may be a cause for considering whether such vot ing rights should not be limited to European Union nation als or even Council of Europe nationals, but that they should apply to all migrants without distinction as to their nationality. The Assembly may wish to take a lead in con sidering how such a longterm goal could be facilitated.
112 It is not only the granting of the right to vote and stand in elections that is important. It is also the applica tion of this right. More research is needed on the levels of voting of migrants and the patterns of voting of migrants. Some interesting research has nonetheless been carried out. It has been shown, for example, that migrants will tend to vote for other migrants, but only after the political lines have been drawn.Note Understanding these voting pat terns is important for meeting the needs and expectations of migrants and as a means of encouraging political par ties to field more candidates from different ethnic back grounds. This is a matter which is increasingly understood by political parties who want to attract the migrant vote. In Brussels, for example, political parties are recruiting large numbers of candidates of nonBelgian ethnic origin in order to attract “ethnic voters.”Note

5.4 Political rights

113 In accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, freedom of thought, conscience and reli gion (Article 9), freedom of expression (Article 10) and freedom of assembly and association (Article 11) are granted to migrants across Europe.Note Certain restrictions can nonetheless be placed on the “political activities of aliens” in accordance with Article 16 of the Convention.Note
114 There is a tendency in some of the countries of cen tral and eastern Europe to place greater restrictions on the political rights and activities of migrants than is the norm in western Europe. Restrictions are sometimes placed on joining political parties or forming political associations. In EstoniaNote nonnationals are banned from joining politi cal parties or forming any political associations. The same applies in LatviaNote and LithuaniaNote. SlovakiaNote does not grant migrants the right to join political parties or movements and SloveniaNote only allows migrants to participate in polit ical parties as honorary members and they may not form their own political associations.
115 In many of the countries in central and eastern Europe, there remains greater scope for widening the political liberties granted to migrants. The widespread granting of these political rights to migrants across most of the European Union and a large proportion of member states of the Council of Europe, should act as an incen tive for countries that maintain restrictions. The Venice Commission could play a role in encouraging states to withdraw such political restrictions where they currently apply.

5.5 Right to consultation

116 National and local authorities are increasingly recognising that one of the most effective means of inte grating migrants and facilitating their democratic partici pation is to ensure that they are consulted both generally and, more particularly, on issues of direct relevance to them.
117 In order to facilitate consultation, consultative bod ies have been set up in many countries, mostly at local levels but also at national levels. Over the last thirty years such bodies have been set up in more than 10 countries, including Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland.Note Few exist in central and eastern Europe, although ad hoc consultations do take place with migrants’ associations in certain countries.
118 These consultative bodies can be defined as demo cratic bodies set up at national or local level to provide a forum for consultation between elected representatives and migrants (primarily foreign residents).
119 One of the three pillars of the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level is the establishment of consultative bodies to represent foreign residents at local level (Article 5). Under this con vention there must be no legal or other obstacles prevent ing the establishment of such bodies, states must encourage and facilitate their establishment in areas where there are significant numbers of foreign residents and states must ensure that participants on the bodies can be elected by the foreign residents or individual associations of foreign residents. As has been noted earlier only eight countries have ratified this convention.Note
120 The objectives of the consultative bodies can be dif ferent, but there are normally two main objectives. The first is to integrate and encourage the participation of for eign residents in local public life and the second is to improve or harmonise relations between foreign residents and other sectors of the community (authorities, adminis trative bodies, nationals).Note They may also have very spe cific objectives relevant to the locality in which they are established, such as to fight discrimination, promote dif ferent cultures, and so on. Most consultative bodies have between 15 and 20 people, but this does vary.
121 A certain amount of good practice can be identified from the different councils across Europe. The Migrant Integration Policy IndexNote maps the countries with the best practice in relation to consultative bodies. These include:

Denmark: migrant representatives are usually freely elected to local, regional and national consultative bod ies, although they are only consulted on an ad hoc basis. At a local level around 60 Integrationsraad (integration councils) exist;

Finland: on the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO) immigrant members have equal voting and deci sion rights as Finnish officials;Note

Germany: there are 400 Ausländerbeiräte (foreign ers’ councils) at the local level. In NorthRhine Westphalia foreigners’ councils are obligatory for com munities with more than 5 000 foreign inhabitants.

122 Notwithstanding this good practice, there are many countries that have no consultative bodies at all, including Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.Note While some other coun tries do have such bodies, they are not effective for a num ber of reasons. Where there is criticism of these bodies it is usually aimed at the lack of representivity, the diver gent views within the councils, concerns that they are a form of windowdressing, too often focused on immigra tion rather than general societal issues, and that they can be expensive and time consuming.Note
123 From experience and good practice so far, a num ber of recommendations can be made in relation to the operation and functioning of consultative bodies.Note
124 In terms of composition, consultative bodies should:
  • be as open ended as possible even if it means dif ferentiating membership and granting members different rights. This means that groups that might otherwise be excluded, can still participate in one form or another. This is particularly important for groups such as newly arrived migrants, naturalised migrants or irregular migrants;
  • allow for equal representation between the repre sentatives of the local authorities and the migrants to ensure an effective bridge between the communities;
  • ensure representivity amongst migrant members (taking into account geographical location, nationality of migrants and sex of migrants).
125 In terms of selection, preference should be given to direct elections from the communities concerned (as hap pens in Germany), or allowances made for migrant asso ciations to put forward candidates themselves (which, for instance, happens in Grenoble and several towns in Denmark and Luxembourg) or at least for the same asso ciations to propose membership (such as in Osnabrück). Representatives should not simply be picked by the authorities without consultation with the migrants.
126 In terms of objectives, these should be clearly defined, prioritised and realisable with the resources avail able and they should be regularly assessed.
127 In terms of activities, priority should be given to political activities including consultation and promotion of citizen participation. Cultural and social activities may also be promoted, but they should be pursued by other rel evant bodies and associations.
128 In terms of functioning, consultative bodies should have the right to be informed and consulted. They should have the right to initiate consultation and the right to have a response. They should have the necessary financial and human resources to function properly.
129 The Council of Europe, through the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level and the work leading up to the handbook by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on local consultative bodies, has made a valid contribution to this form of political participation. The Congress and the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR), the relevant intergovern mental committee in the Council of Europe, should be encouraged to continue their work in this area, in partic ular by bringing together local consultative bodies and encouraging them to network both at national and inter national level.

5.6 Support for civil society and in particular organisations dealing with and representing migrants

130 Social bridges (between communities) and social bonds (within communities), as has been discussed ear lier in this report, are essential for integration and also for democratic participation of migrants. It is thus important to provide support for civil society and associations deal ing with and representing migrants.
131 There is some debate as to whether it is better to encourage on the one hand organisations specialised in migrants’ issues or representing migrants, or on the other hand providing support for mainstream organisations that can include the concerns of migrants in their agendas. There is no right or wrong answer to this and both types of organisations have a role to play and migrants need to have choices. Research indicates that when migrants par ticipate in one type of organisation, they are then more likely to cross over and be interested in the other type of organisation as well. This crossover should allay con cerns sometimes raised that supporting migrants’ associ ations leads to “parallel societies” and a failure to integrate and in extreme circumstances leads to funda mentalism and terrorism.Note
132 Migrant organisations clearly play an important role in welcoming new migrants and allowing them to build links and enjoy cultural, sporting and other social activities. Many migrants need these organisations as a step ping stone into society.
133 Migrants get involved in civic society for a range of different reasons. Some because of particular interests, some have a calling or wish to fight an injustice, provide support for their children, support their fellow nationals, or any one of a number of other causes. One important element is that people often get involved because they are asked to get involved.Note This is therefore an important fac tor to take into account when looking at ways to foster further democratic participation at this level.
134 It can be welcomed that the European Union has established the European Integration Fund (covering the period 200713). This fund of €1.771 billion has the objective of increasing the civic, cultural and political par ticipation of thirdcountry nationals in their host society. The rapporteur hopes that this fund will look favourably at projects from a wider European perspective and con centrate not just on established networks but newer organ isations and those not so skilled at tapping into European Union resources.

5.7 Media

135 The rapporteur notes the conclusions of the Assembly in Recommendation 1768 (2006) on the image of asylum seekers, migrants and refugees in the media and wishes to highlight three areas of particular concern.
136 Firstly, there is a particular need for the media to portray a fair image of migrants, and not stereotype them in one way or another. This is particularly so for women migrants who may face double stereotyping. The second is that it is necessary to ensure that migrants are them selves represented in the media as media professionals, and that they are included in programmes where they can be seen and heard. The third is that adequate opportunities need to exist for migrants to form their own media (news papers, radio, television, etc.).Note
137 The greater the visibility of migrants, the more their views are aired and positive role models emerge, the higher is the likelihood that they will have the interest, confidence and motivation to participate in democratic life.

6 Irregular migrants

138 The Assembly has taken a robust stand on the issue of rights of irregular migrants, notably in its Resolution 1509 (2006) on human rights of irregular migrantsNote and in its Resolution 1568 (2007) on regularisation programmes for irregular migrants.Note
139 There are thought to be approximately 5.5 million irregular migrants living in the European Union with a further 8 million living in the Russian Federation. It is not possible for Europe to close the door on the democratic participation of such a large number of persons many of whom make an important contribution to our economies (working in the building trade, agriculture, hotels and catering) and our homes (working as home helps, look ing after children, the aged, etc.).
140 These persons should also have a voice and an enti tlement to participate in our democratic societies if they are not to be sent back to their countries of origin.
141 As the Assembly has made clear in its Resolution 1568 (2007) on regularisation programmes for irregular migrants, if states are not going to return irregular migrants to their countries of origin, they should consider steps to regularise their situation. This is the surest and fairest means of guaranteeing their rights and also allow ing them to participate in democratic society.
142 Where regularisation is not an option, irregular migrants should still be included in democratic processes. They should not be excluded from civil society initiatives and they should be able to participate in these initiatives and receive support. They should be entitled to participate and be represented in trade unions and in consultative bodies to ensure that their voices are heard.
143 There are also certain integration measures which are appropriate for those in an irregular situation and in particular those who cannot be returned to their countries of origin. Education should, for example, be open to chil dren of irregular migrants, social bridges, bonds and links need to be kept open, safety and stability needs to be guar anteed and security in areas such as employment, health and even housing have to be assured to a certain mini mum level.

7 Migrant women

144 Migrant women may face a different set of chal lenges in terms of democratic participation. There are quantitative studies that show that women are less active than men,Note but this is not always the case. In circum stances when they do participate less there may be a range of different reasons for this. Their experience in migration differs from men. Their level of participation in their home country may well have been lower, their time, money and skills in the host country may not be the same as men and their consequent levels of integration may well be lower.Note By contrast their lack of possibility for democratic participation in their home country may be a motivating factor for participating in their host country.
145 Differentiated approaches are therefore needed for the participation of migrant women by comparison to men and more research is needed on the particular needs of women in this respect. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has made recommendations on the balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision makingNote which are of particular relevance also for migrant women.
146 Women with migrant backgrounds need to be fairly represented in decision making bodies and steps should be taken to make it easier for women to combine participation in democratic activities and family and working life.
147 A problem, which also affects the security of migrant women and thus their democratic participation, is the issue of access to an individual residence permit. Often a wife has a residence permit linked to her husband. In order to give security and protection to all spouses in the event of death, divorce or domestic violence, states should consider granting to both spouses individual residence permits.

8 Conclusions

148 As the guardian of human rights and values the Council of Europe has a vital role to play in promoting and protecting the rights of migrants.
149 The Assembly has over a long period paid particular attention to the interests of migrant communities with a strong emphasis on providing migrants the opportunity to participate in society in all its forms as a vital first step towards integration. The democratic participation of migrants is an essential element in this process.
150 In order to participate and integrate migrants must be accepted by host communities. They must be offered equality of opportunity and have their status and rights clarified and recognised. So previous Assembly recommendations on the rights of migrants, including irregular migrants, the value of regularisation programmes and the fight against xenophobia, intolerance, human trafficking and incitement to racial hatred and the image of migrants in the media are all relevant to achieving greater democratic participation and integration.
151 The Council of Europe is uniquely placed to help bring about improved democratic participation of migrants across the entire continent of Europe. For this to happen the Committee of Ministers must mobilise the Council of Europe’s specialist committees and expertise to give greater priority to improved democratic participation. Member states should sign and ratify a number of existing Council of Europe Conventions on, for example, Nationality, the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, the Legal Status of Migrant Workers and uphold the recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
152 In summary, the mechanisms exists within the Council of Europe to make the democratic participation of migrants a reality. What is needed is the political will to make this happen.

Reporting committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population.

Reference to committee: Reference No. 3414 of 21 January 2008.

Draft resolution and draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 19 May 2008.

Members of the committee: Mrs Corien W.A. Jonker (Chairperson), Mr Doug Henderson (1st ViceChairperson), Mr Pedro Agramunt (2nd ViceChairperson), Mr Alessandro Rossi (3rd ViceChairperson), Mrs Tina Acketoft, Mr Ioannis Banias, Ms Donka Banović, Mr Italo Bocchino, Mr JeanGuy Branger, Mr Márton Braun, Mr André Bugnon, Lord Burlison (alternate: Mrs Claire CurtisThomas), Mr Mevlüt Çavuoğlu, Mr Sergej Chelemendik, Mr Christopher Chope (alternate: Mr Bill Etherington), Mr Boriss Cilevičs, Mrs Minodora Cliveti, Mr Telmo Correia, Mr Ivica Dačić, Mr Joseph Debono Grech, Mr Taulant Dedja, Mr Nikolaos Dendias, Mr Mitko Dimitrov, Mr Karl Donabauer, Mr Tuur Elzinga, Mr Valeriy Fedorov, Mr Oleksandr Feldman, Mrs Doris Fiala, Mr Paul Giacobbi (alternate: Mr Denis Jacquat), Mrs Gunn Karin Gjul, Mrs Angelika Graf, Mr John Greenway, Mr Tony Gregory, Mr Andrzej Grzyb (alternate: Mr Tomasz Dudziński), Mr Michael Hagberg, Mrs Gultakin Hajiyeva, Mr DavitHarutyunyan, Mr Jürgen Herrmann, Mr Bernd Heynemann, Mr Jean Huss, Mr Ilie Ilacu, Mr Tadeusz Iwiński, Mr Mustafa Jemiliev, Mr Tomáš Jirsa, Mr Reijo Kallio, Mr Hakki Keskin, Mr Egidijus Klumbys, Mr Ruslan Kondratov (alternate: Mr Ivan Savvidi), Mr Dimitrij Kovačič, Mr Andros Kyprianou, Mr Geert Lambert, Mr Massimo Livi Bacci, Mr Younal Loutfi (alternate: Mrs Aneliya Atanasova), Mr Andrija Mandić, Mr JeanPierre Masseret, Mr Slavko Matić, Mr Giorgio Mele, Mrs Ana Catarina Mendonça, Mr Gebhard Negele, Mr Hryhoriy Omelchenko, Mr Morten Østergaard, Mr Alexey Ostrovsky, Mr Grigore Petrenco, Mr Cezar Florin Preda, Mr Gabino Puche, Mr Milorad Pupovac, Mrs Mailis Reps, Mrs Michaela Sburny, Mr André Schneider, Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, Mrs Miet Smet (alternate: Mr Daniel Ducarme), Mr Giacomo Stucchi, Mr Vilmos Szabó, Mrs Elene Tevdoradze, Mr Tuğrul Türke, Mrs Özlem Türköne, Mrs Rosario Velasco García, Mr Michał Wojtczak, Mr Andrej Zernovski, Mr Yury Zelenskiy, Mr Jiří Zlatuška.

NB: The names of the members present at the meeting are printed in bold.

See 24th Sitting, 25 June 2008 (adoption of the draft resolution and draft recommendation, as amended); and Resolution 1618 and Recommendation 1840.