intercultural routes
and itineraries in Europe

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Grupo Ágora

Abstract (English)

"The European Council on Refugees & Exiles" (ECRE) is a pan-European network of refugee-assisting non-governmental organisations. "ECRE" is concerned with the needs of all individuals who seek refuge and protection within Europe. Its main aim is to promote the protection and integration of refugees in Europe based on the values of human dignity, human rights, and an ethic of solidarity. ECRE is its membership, nearly 80 full and associate member agencies, comprising key NGOs working in the European refugee field.


Abstract (italiano)

"Il Consiglio Europeo sui Rifugiati e gli Esiliati" è un network pan-europeo di organizzazioni non governative che fornisce assistenza ai rifugiati. Si occupa delle necessità di tutti gli individui che cercano rifugio e protezione all’interno dell’Europa. Il suo principale scopo è promuovere la protezione e l’integrazione dei rifugiati in Europa, sulla base dei valori di dignità umana, di diritti umani e di un’etica della solidarietà. Il network è formato da quasi 80 soci, tra cui alcune ONG chiave che operano nell’ambito europeo dei rifugiati.

1 The practice

1.1 Description of the project

Working together always makes things much easier. Maybe that is the reason of "ECRE"’s success. In dealing with the integration of third-country nationals in the European Union, we find many organisations and institutions which make a wonderful work but find too many limitations in relation with the information they cannot get, the fundraising they do not know how to make, the research they cannot afford and the questions they cannot answer. Since most of them share their general objectives and many of their particular aims, working together would save them the time and funding they need so much for the good development of their projects. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles is an European initiative that links those organisations whose main aim is to promote the protection and integration of refugees in Europe, and are based on the values of human dignity, human rights, and an ethic of solidarity.
"ECRE"’s main objectives include advocating a humane and generous European asylum policy and by promoting the development of a comprehensive and coherent response by the international community to refugee movements, strengthening networking between refugee-assisting non-governmental organisations in Europe, and developing the institutional capacity of refugee-assisting non-governmental organisations in Europe.
"ECRE" develops Capacity Building Projects in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. These projects began in 1993 (South Eastern Europe), 1996 (Eastern Europe) and 2003 (Central Europe). Although the Eastern and South Eastern Europe projects began with funding from the British Refugee Council and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, these projects are currently Community funded. These projects help national member agencies with fundraising strategies and donor databases, training, project management and planning consultancies, legal information and translations.

"ECRE" is most active in the legal area, where they have developed a legal discussion forum in refugee and asylum seeking in collaboration with The forum is called ELENA (European legal network on asylum) and does not only facilitate the exchange of information and experience between lawyers and legal counsellors, but also studies the implementation of national and international law relating to refugees and organises seminars on specific topics relating to refugee law, making results available to practicing lawyers.
Caritas Europa comments very positively on "ECRE"’s results in 2004: “We consider "ECRE" to be a valuable source of information and a reliable partner. The organisation has built up considerable know how in the fields of asylum and integration of refugees. We strongly encourage "ECRE" to continue on its advocacy efforts for more humane asylum policies; one of the main points of concern for Caritas Europa.”

1.2 Time, structure and steps of the project

"ECRE" began its work to support refugee-assisting NGOs in their development needs in 1991. The project began with an ambitious programme of legal seminars in Central Europe and then branched out into a wide range of trainings. Parallel with these developments ECRE facilitated a gradual engagement in its networks - ELENA (European Legal Network on Asylum) and ECRAN (ECRE Advocacy Network) - in membership applications and in regional coordination mechanisms. The principles underlying all this work in Central Europe, and that which characterised the future approach to all of "ECRE"'s capacity building projects, was to respect the pace of NGO development and to respond to their specific and stated needs.

The capacity building work in South Eastern Europe has been an "ECRE" project since 1993. The "lead agency" practice has applied to this project, with the Danish Refugee Council, the Dutch Refugee Council and the British Refugee Council consequently assuming responsibility for coordinating its activities on "ECRE"'s behalf. An external evaluation of the work in 1998 recommended that the scope of this work was so central to "ECRE"'s wider concerns that it should be integrated into the ECRE Secretariat as soon as practicable. This has now taken place.
"ECRE" commissioned a feasibility study into expanding its capacity building work into Eastern Europe in 1996 and since 1998 has been working in the region to provide high-quality and much-valued training courses, workshops, organisational support and access to ECRE networks and knowledge.

1.3 Place and context

"ECRE" was born thirty years ago in a very different Europe when people were still being forcibly exiled from the Soviet Union, arriving to Western Europe across checkpoints along the Berlin wall; Angola and Mozambique were Portuguese colonies and Spain was under a dictatorship, and organisations such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International did either not exist at all or were too small to be significative. In current Europe, "ECRE"’s concerns focus on EU’s increasingly restrictive legislation and tightening immigration controls that do not allow refugees gain access to European territory through regular means, continuously increasing the number of those who perish trying to clandestinely get to Europe by land or sea.

In the 2004 "ECRE" annual report, Peer Baneke, General Secreatary of "ECRE", remains optimistic about the future of refugee asysting in Europe: “Throughout its thirty year existence, "ECRE"’s member agencies have assisted and supported hundreds of thousands of refugees. Through "ECRE", refugee agencies are united in working for real protection for refugees in Europe.”

1.4 Target

Although "ECRE"’s target are refugee assiting NGOs, and not refuggees and asylum seekers themselves. The later are the indirect target of the network, but the direct target of "ECRE"’s member agencies. Since "ECRE"’s help to NGOs improve their results, its ultimate (though indirect) target are asylum seekers and refugees. also, "ECRE" puts a strong emphasis on the fact that assiting refugees and asylum seekers isnot only beneficiary for these target group, but for the host community too. Indeed, both the host community and the refugge and asylum seeking community are ocnsidered as the two components of a same reality that must be approached from a common perspective.

1.5 Methodology

"ECRE"'s policy work aims to demonstrate that the needs of refugees and the interests of European host states are not mutually exclusive, but can be realised simultaneously through policies which are principled as well as pragmatic. This work ranges from immediate reactions to governmental and intergovernmental policy to longer-term research and discussion projects. It is "action oriented", aiming always to make specific recommendations. It is firmly based on international human rights and refugee law.

"ECRE"’s working methods are guided by the principle of seeking to mobilise the widest possible active involvement of its member agencies through working groups, advisory groups, regional fora and Europe-wide networks. Member agencies are encouraged to lead on particular projects of their own. ECRE welcomes memberships from NGOs working on behalf of refugees and promoting a humane and liberal asylum policy for refugees and exiles in their own countries. All member agencies are present in the Plenary Asembly and can present their own candidate for the Executive Committee.
The Secretariat, which services and represents the "ECRE" membership, is based in London. "ECRE" also maintains an office in Brussels, responsible for activities vis-à-vis with the institutions of the European Union. Interns provide vital support to "ECRE"'s policy, legal and advocacy work, in both the London and Brussels offices.
"ECRE" is fertile in publications and generous with the accessibility of its results (available at "ECRE"’s website, which does not only help its member agencies, but also benefits any institution and organisation working on refugee and asylum seeking matters.

1.6 Authors, Financing and networks

"ECRE"’s list of member agencies can be checked at "ECRE"’s website, and includes NGOs from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Polland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia & Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.
"ECRE" is funded by grants from Community Fund, European Union, UNHCR, European Union – Integration, The Dutch Government/UNDP, Joseph Rowntree, The Barrow Cadbury Trust, European Refugee Fund, German Marshall Fund, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Atlantic Philanthropic Foundation, King Baudouin Foundation, Belgian Government, Dutch Refugee Council, Swedish Government, Mott Foundation, and others. It also receives funds from Members' Subscriptions, Conference Fees, Sale of Publications, Other Income, and Interests. 

2 Hints for an evaluation