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Some ways to improve the assistance provided to migrants

Over and above direct aid provided to migrants, the humanitarian perspective concerns the extent to which public policy is in keeping with respect for fundamental human rights and humanitarian principles. Today in France, there is growing pressure on aid organisations, which is having an effect on their values and there operational methods, calling into question their ability to provide migrants with assistance. With the draft bill on immigration and asylum currently being debated, what ethical framework and operational limits can be established between the authorities and aid organisations in order to be able to provide basic assistance and protection to the migrants who are currently in the country?

If we look at the government’s approach in terms of its humanitarian consequences, it is clear that it has negative repercussions for the dignity, security and protection of migrants who are already very vulnerable, and it makes it more difficult to provide them with basic assistance. What is more, those providing assistance are faced with the issue of how far they can go: “how can dignified, humane and unconditional assistance be provided in keeping with a humanitarian, social and politically engaged mission in a context of restrictive policies?”

And yet, given the vulnerabilities, needs and violations of fundamental rights that exist, certain situations in France today could legitimately be described as “humanitarian”, even though this term is usually only used for contexts that are located outside the European Union. Indeed, regardless of how coherent or firm these government policies are intended to be, they should not be implemented to the detriment of the law and the fundamental values of human dignity and solidarity which are shared by humanitarian actors, as well as by social and grassroots organisations.

Within this myriad of actors involved in assisting migrants, there are varying, and sometimes conflicting points of view, particularly regarding what position and relations to adopt with the public authorities. Despite the differences of mandate and operational approach, it would be good if there was greater collaboration in the future between associations and citizen-based initiatives.

In the longer term, these difficulties could be detrimental to social cohesion and the humanitarian values that are promoted by European NGOs throughout the world.

This report by Groupe URD suggests a number of ways to improve the assistance provided to migrants.