European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
The project in brief
The project is implemented by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) across Europe. It began in 2016, following the changes in ECRE’s strategic plan to include and increase refugee representation and diversity. It is currently ongoing: ECRE will continue to increase the participation of refugees and individuals with refugee backgrounds and ensure diversity of people throughout all its areas of work.
ECRE is dedicated to promoting refugee inclusion and diversity across all aspects of its work. In line with its strategic plan and the commitment made at the Global Refugee Forum 2019, ECRE has not only fulfilled its pledge but has also exceeded it in terms of the inclusion of individuals with refugee and migrant backgrounds. Currently, 25% of ECRE's staff comprises individuals with refugee and the situation of displacement. Moreover, ECRE has Board members with refugee backgrounds and has expanded its membership to include more refugee-led organisations.
In order to empower refugees, ECRE, jointly with UNHCR, organise every year a training seminar on EU advocacy for refugee advocates and refugee-led organisations. Furthermore, ECRE ensures that refugees and diverse voices are present in all its policy events.
The main goals of the project are:
- To empower refugees, channel their views into the policy and practice that affects them, and promote their inclusion in ECRE's work and across the sector.
- To facilitate their participation and meetings with EU policymaker.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Due to an increase in the number of refugees in Europe and the introduction/implementation of restrictive asylum policies in Europe, we witnessed an increasing presence of refugee individuals and refugee-led organisations as emerging actors alongside other CSOs, advocating for their rights and their inclusion in the host society.
The majority of them are active at the local or national level. Despite growing interest among refugees to be involved in EU policies, the number of refugees working on EU policies is very limited, and policies are being discussed and shaped without refugees' views and voices in the discussion; we thought to start the reform within ourselves and for us to be inclusive and practice what we are preaching. Furthermore, it is important for the overall quality and credibility of our work to have a diverse staff.
- Refugees and people with refugee backgrounds and people with the situations of displacements are represented in all areas of ECRE’s work
- Staff inclusion: ECRE has increased the representation of refugees and individuals with refugee backgrounds within ECRE staff to 25% and further increased the diversity of its staff, include people from different ethnicities, religions and geographical locations
- Involvement of Refugee-led organisations: ECRE has increased the number of refugee-led organisations
- Engagement of Refugee experts and advocates: ECRE actively engages refugee experts and advocates in all of ECRE's policy events.
- Dedicated outreach to refugee advocates: ECRE has established dedicated outreach efforts to inform and involve refugee advocates regarding EU developments. This includes sending out dedicated email updates and organising webinars.
- Annual training seminars on EU advocacy: ECRE conducts annual training seminars focused on EU advocacy.
- Advocacy grants: We provide advocacy grants, which also support the development of written outputs by refugee experts and individuals with refugee backgrounds.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice
- Policy: Since 2016, ECRE has changed its strategic plan to include refugees and people with refugee and the situation of displacement and has adapted its recruitment process accordingly.
- Funding: ECRE has allocated funds to cover the participation of refugee advocates and led organisations and people with refugee and situations of displacement in ECRE’s events and training seminars. Furthermore, to support the work of refugee-led organisations, ECRE has provided small grants to refugee-led organisations.
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
- The vast majority of refugee advocates who are interested in EU affairs are doing this work in their free time / next to a job or other commitments, and the opportunities for involvement need to be tailored to them
- The majority of the newly established RCOs struggle with a lack of knowledge of EU policy-making, and the majority of them are based in different EU countries. For refugees and people with refugee backgrounds, the complexity of EU institutions discourages them from engaging regularly with EU policies or to do advocacy at the EU level.
How they were overcome
ECRE tries to raise awareness about the importance of the EU’s role in asylum and migration by organising yearly advocacy training courses free of charge for refugees and people with refugee backgrounds.
Results of the Good Practice
- Refugees and people with refugee backgrounds and people from the situation of displacement are empowered, and their views are channeled in ECRE’s overall work.
- Refugees and people with refugee backgrounds now actively participate in ECRE's initiatives. Their perspectives and recommendations are included in ECRE's publications and events.
- Following the EU advocacy training seminar, refugees and people with refugee backgrounds acquired a more comprehensive understanding of the EU and its role in shaping asylum and migration policies.
- Participants in the training seminar have improved their advocacy skills concerning the EU and have established connections with EU policymakers.
- Refugees and individuals with refugee backgrounds remain well-informed about the latest developments and trends in EU asylum and migration policies.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
In line with the second objective of the GCR (Refugee self-reliance), refugees, asylum seekers and other forcibly displaced people should be included and at the centre when policies that affect their lives are being developed.
Inclusion of refugees, people with refugee backgrounds and people from the situation of displacement is an integral part of ECRE's strategic plan, and the organisation is committed to ongoing efforts to enhance their involvement across all areas of its work.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
ECRE would welcome funds and grants from donors and governments to support its work and maintain its work on inclusion.