Text Box: The Council of Europe and migration

The Council of Europe and migration

Key points

·         The Council of Europe conferences of Ministers responsible for migration affairs enable European countries to discuss and shape multilateral initiatives concerning immigration

·         Promoting better integration of migrants and the respect of human rights in migration policies are the Organisation’s twin aims

·         Eight Conferences of Ministers responsible for migration affairs have been organised since 1980. Economic migration and international co-operation between states were the main topics discussed at the 8th Ministerial Conference in Kyiv (4-5 September 2008).


The conferences enable countries to collectively discuss migration issues from the Human Rights perspective. The unique combination of participants helps to develop a truly European integrated approach to migration, and to create concerted and collective action by European countries. At the end of each, a final declaration is adopted.

The declaration of the 8th Ministerial Conference in Kyiv called on the Council of Europe to devise an integrated approach to economic migration, development and social cohesion and assist member states in its implementation. This includes developing mechanisms for regular exchanges of information and training on necessary reforms and inter-ministerial co-operation.

Questions and Answers

What are the main aspects of the Council of Europe’s migration policy?

The Council of Europe develops and promotes migration and integration policies based on Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law. It aims to promote the principles of equal treatment, tolerance and non-discrimination and to eliminate all discriminatory policies and practices that still exist in the member States. The Council of Europe strives to ensure that migration is organised in a way that strengthens social cohesion and promotes development of both countries of origin and destination.

The work of the Council of Europe in the field of migration is traditionally divided into three main areas: migration management; integration; legal status of migrants. These areas encompass various specific issues, including developing effective channels for legal migration, promoting effective measures to integrate migrants in the labour market, and helping migrants to learn the languages of the host countries, and also includes issues concerning particularly vulnerable groups of migrants.

What are the  aims of the Council of Europe in the migration field ?

The Council of Europe promotes international dialogue on migration and integration and facilitates contacts between the countries of origin, transit and destination, which ultimately leads to orderly management of migration flows and construction of tolerant societies. Many of the initiatives and policy proposals developed by the Council of Europe have been integrated in the national legislations of different European countries and standards formulated by the Council of Europe become benchmarks for policy-makers at national and local levels. Many EU directives in the migration and integration fields also draw on the work that the Council of Europe originally carried out.

What are the aims the Council of Europe with regard to the role of migrants ?

The Council of Europe believes that the participation of migrants in social, economic and political life of the societies in which they live should be strengthened. For that purpose, the Council of Europe focuses on promoting the role of migrants associations and encouraging interaction between migrants and host societies.

One of the key objectives of the Council of Europe in the migration field is to ensure that migrants do not simply enjoy access to rights and services, but have a viable opportunity to become fully-fledged contributing and active members of host societies where they have equal possibilities for personal and professional development in accordance with their knowledge, skills, aptitudes and aspirations, while their contribution to the development of these societies is recognised and appreciated.

What were the main themes discussed at the 8th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs in Kyiv?

The theme of the conference was ‘Economic migration, social cohesion and development: towards an integrated approach’. It reflected the diversity of interests of member states of the Council of Europe and highlighted the need to develop an integrated policy approach in addressing current and emerging migration issues. Furthermore, it pursued one of the objectives set by the 7th conference of European Ministers responsible for migration affairs (Helsinki, September 2002), namely to strengthen the dialogue and partnership between member states on migration issues.

How does international co-operation work in the field of migration?

The Kyiv declaration gives guidance to developing effective policy responses to current and emerging migration issues by the member states and the Council of Europe and strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the field of migration. The conference provided an opportunity for ministers to debate and agree on policy solutions relevant to the conditions prevailing in their countries and stemming from the increasing flows of economic migrants, in particular, East to West and within the Eastern region of Europe. 

What about economic migration?

In the context of economic migration, the conference discussed how governments in the member states have responded in order to preserve social cohesion and identify how policies in this field can be improved. The conference examined the link between economic migration and development from the perspective of both countries of origin and destination as well as the impact of emigration on development.

What are the main problems of migration in Ukraine?

Ukraine is currently facing the challenge of developing a comprehensive integrated national migration policy capable of addressing the range of issues the country encounters. Ukraine witnessed in the 1990s a considerable emigration.

What might be the optimal migration policy in Ukraine?

The saturated labour market currently requires qualified labour to fill the existing vacancies and the recruitment of foreign labour is one of the possible solutions. This, however, should be done in an orderly manner that would ensure that social cohesion is not undermined and migrants rights and dignity are respected. A comprehensive, effective and well-funded integration policy framework might need to be developed by the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that migrants become an integral part of Ukrainian society and are not segregated or marginalised. This integration policy can also be of benefit to those migrants who are already in the country.

How could migrants contribute to economic development?

The large number of Ukrainian migrants abroad also constitute an asset for a country which can potentially use their skills, knowledge and financial resources to boost the development of the country. Remittances have already proved to be an important factor of economic growth, but their use was not always very effective. Mechanisms for using migrants resources in the country and channelling them into the economy are clearly missing. The Ukrainian authorities might wish to develop stronger links with the migrant communities abroad and offer them mechanisms of contributing to the development of Ukraine through co-development initiatives or encouraging them to return to Ukraine by putting in place an effective reintegration programme.

What about irregular migration?

Among other issues faced by Ukraine in the migration field, irregular migration is quite important. The authorities might wish to consider strengthening the control of its borders and improving the measures aimed at combating illegal employment and exploitation of foreigners. Although the number of irregular migrants is currently not critical, it is likely to grow and this should be taken seriously by the relevant authorities. In its fight against irregular migration and illegal employment of migrants, the government should ensure that migrants enjoy access to the minimum rights and services and that their human rights are respected.


Estelle Steiner, Press officer

Tel. +33 (0)3 88 41 33 35

Mobile +33 (0)6 87 31 49 10

[email protected]                                                                Updated: August .2009