The presentation of the initiative at the Senate. Credit: ANSA
The presentation of the initiative at the Senate. Credit: ANSA

#WelcomingEurope is a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) demanding a ban on the criminalization of solidarity with migrants in member states, support for European citizens who want to offer safety to people fleeing persecution, and the guarantee of effective access to justice to all victims of exploitation and abuse.

The aim is to collect one million signatures across the bloc in a bid to change the rules on migration in Europe. The project has been presented in the Italian senate by the promoting organizations and political parties including the Radical Party, Legambiente, The Federation of Italian Evangelical Churches, Oxfam, ActionAid, A buon diritto, Baobab Experience, and the Coalition for Civil Libertires and Rights (CILD).

Three aims

The is a participatory democracy tool inviting the European Commission to present draft legislation on matters of EU competence. In order for this to happen, #WelcomingEurope needs to collect one million signatures in at least 7 member states by February 2019. Besides Italy, there are promoting committees in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. 

The main aim is to end the criminalization of humanitarian action in favor of migrants, but also to create safe passage for migrants, to increase the Asylum, migration and integration fund and enable civil society representatives to sponsor refugees entering Europe. In addition, the initiative intends to protect victims of abuse, strengthen protection and reporting mechanisms in the event of exploitation or human rights violations in particular in the management of Europe's external borders, and introduce legal entry channels for employment.

'Courageous' act of responsibility'

The petition can be signed online or on paper. The project is a "political response to make the European norms more effective", said Riccardo Magi of the Radicals. Riccardo Gatti of Proactiva Open Arms, the Spanish NGO that has been at the centre of a legal case in Italy, also attended the presentation. "We are paying the price of the political intention to prevent people coming to Europe, but we are aware of the panorama in front of us: the real victims are the people we rescue," he said.

"The idea is to see if we can take a few steps forward in taking responsibility within Europe," said senator Emma Bonino. "At this delicate point in time one limit could be to stop the deviation" towards the criminalization of solidarity with migrants.


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