Trade unionists unite in Rome for refugees' rights

A high-level conference took place in Rome today, organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) with the support of the three Italian unions CGIL, CISL and UIL, and attended by trade unionists from 22 countries including the General Secretaries of CGT France Philippe Martinez, CCOO Spain Ignazio Toxo and ETUC President  Rudy De Leeuw of FGTB Belgium. 

They underlined trade union support for a humanitarian and European response to the many men, women and children seeking shelter from conflict in the EU. 

In particular, the leaders highlighted European trade unions' call for the EU and its Member States to  

  • support individuals and organisations that are working to give asylum-seekers a safe and decent life in Europe; 
  • allocate EU funding to countries receiving refugees;
  • open legal safe routes for asylum-seekers and stop paying Turkey to escape their own international obligations; 
  • integrate migrants and refugees into the labour market, ensuring equal pay and conditions for local and migrant workers;
  • invest in public services and economic growth to benefit both refugees and local communities. 

ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini, speaking in Rome, said: “Refugees must be hosted, resettled and relocated in genuine cooperation between all EU Member States. EU countries cannot just close their doors and leave others to cope.

“This humanitarian crisis requires a humanitarian response. It is precisely at a moment like this that the European Union should show its value, not dismantle achievements like Schengen free movement. It is shameful that governments of the richest region in the world want to leave it to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to receive far greater numbers of refugees than the EU.”

The trade unions adopted a declaration: ‘The European Trade Union movement demands humane assistance and rights for refugees’.

Trade union leaders also requested a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to discuss the refugee situation and the EU’s response, in light of the Migration Compact proposed by Italy to the European Commission and Council. The ETUC deeply regrets the Italian government's failure to respond positively to this invitation.