The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) calls for humanitarian assistance and respect for the rights of the refugees who continue to arrive to our continent, fleeing from violence, conflict, and environmental disasters. The ETUC presented its demands in a conference held in Rome, at the Palazzo Rospigliosi Congress Centre, with the support and participation of CGIL, CISL and UIL syndicates.
During the works, it has invited the European Union and all the individual governments to put an end to all the measures that endanger human dignity, to stop the inhuman conditions in reception points and the violation of the refugees’ rights, to abandon ‘ EU-Turkey agreement with a European action plan, to recognize and defend the Schengen agreement, to demonstrate their political will to resettle asylum seekers in Europe, to support more effectively the development of the refugees’ countries of origin, and to help the EU leadership to restore peace in conflict zones; to put an end also to the austerity policies that made the conditions further more complicated in the countries of destination, and to pay special attention to the condition of women and to the growing number of children among refugees.
Mentioning women and children has become necessary because of the increasing phenomenon of violence against them along the entire escape route to and through Europe, as already highlighted in the Report of the United Nations in January, in the texts approved by the European Commission in March, and repeated in the warnings of Amnesty International. Over 80% of refugees are fleeing from countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. About 40% of them are women and one third are children.
Their presence, therefore, requires monitoring and control throughout the entire journey. Some women have denounced the risks and the dangers they face during the journey. They told about their long and difficult journey, saying they had been threatened and had suffered physical violence, economic exploitation, harassment, and had been forced to have sex with the traffickers, security personnel or with other refugees, even on European territory. In short, it is an endless suffering, against which we have to take firm and quick action, not to allow their journey of salvation to become a “trap”, starting with violence in their countries – such as the story of the 19 Yazidi women in Iraq who were burned alive, without obtaining much attention from the international community and from the media, for refusing to become slaves of the terrorists – and sparing them abuses in the transit territories.
Moreover, building walls and closing borders, increase their difficulties, encouraging gatherings and promiscuous cohabitation without any control and therefore at risk of violence of all kinds. We know that women, girls, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly men and women are the most exposed to these risks. Therefore, they require interventions and appropriate action for the protection of their physical integrity and for respect of their dignity as human beings. We, Cisl women, join the call of the ETUC, hoping for Europe’s decisive intervention, in close cooperation with individual member states, to ensure all refugees, but especially to the most vulnerable, such as women and children, the safety and serenity they have lost long ago and to counter human trafficking.
“Europe is the home of human rights” – Pope Francis said during his visit to Lesvos – “and those who set foot on European soil should be able to experience it themselves and become more conscious of having to respect and defend them in their turn. Unfortunately, some people, including many children, did not make it there: they have lost their lives at sea, falling victims to inhuman journeys and harassed by their vile tormentors”.