Written By: Benoît Hamon, CEO of SINGA Global, former French minister and MEP, and Fatemeh Jailani, COO of SINGA Global, founder of Accidental European and EU Climate Pact Ambassador

10 months after the fall of Kabul and 4 months after the beginning of the War in Ukraine, World Refugee Day took place on Monday, June 20, with complete indifference of the political authorities and the media in France. The day before, by sending 89 extreme right-wing deputies to Parliament, the legislative elections confirmed the trivialization of xenophobic ideas and gave a pivotal role to the elected representatives of the Assembly National, which promises the worst for the fundamental rights and living conditions of new arrivals in France.  

Yet it is urgent to stop treating migration as a series of crises, but rather as a structuring, sustainable phenomenon that brings opportunities. 

Crisis has become commonplace, leading to political discourses that test citizens’ capacity to cope with ongoing perils – economic, sanitary, or environmental. So-called “Migration crises” test our capacity to “resist and push back against an invasion” according to some, or to be “firm in solidarity,” according to others. However, such visions convey a distorted version of reality and constitute a negative representation of migration.    

Migration is and will be a structuring, long-lasting fact in a globalized and connected world. Even more, considering the triangular threat encompassing economic inequalities and the current food crisis, international armed conflicts, and the effects of global warming. No wall, no police, and no law will prevent migration. 

On February 24th, Russian troops invaded Ukraine. In one month, the war sent three million people on the path to exile in neighboring European countries. In three months, six million Ukrainians have found refuge outside their borders. As a reminder, during the conflict in Syria and Iraq in 2015, Europe welcomed one million refugees in one year. The ratio is one to 18, which demonstrates the magnitude of the effort made by neighboring countries for Ukrainians.  

The European Union (EU), this time, has taken quick measures to address the tragic events unfolding at its doorsteps. SINGA, the first European network dedicated to the inclusion of newcomers, welcomed the activation of the EU directive in which Member States have given temporary protection to all refugees from Ukraine. This demonstrates that the EU has the means to welcome, in respectable conditions, those who have been stripped of their countries, homes, and jobs by war. This should therefore justify the application of this directive to other humanitarian tragedies in the future, even when taking place in other continents.  

Making the EU’s economies and societies truly inclusive is still a challenge, though. Millions of Europeans are calling for such an evolution, and citizen-led organizations, as well as a growing number of engaged companies, are preparing for it. However, a clear public signal from the EU institutions and Member States is missing, and the consequences will be considerable. The absence of an inclusive design of the economy and society results in the loss of talented individuals, innovations, and human potential which will either never be expressed, or will possibly blossom elsewhere. In addition, the lack of such inclusive designs further fuel discord and intolerance.  

The skills and fresh perspective of newcomers, made more agile, more resilient, and stronger by the challenge of their migration experience, is a considerable opportunity that organizations (including many small and large companies) are already taking into account when choosing inclusion and interculturalism. 

The debate on the employability of newcomers is symptomatic of the choice of society we want to live in. Today, most discussions aim to impose the idea that newcomers should fill in the gaps within our labor markets, even if that means having a job that could lead them to social downgrading and place them in precarious situations. SINGA rejects such an approach: directing the flow of newcomers according to the labor market needs, without any regard for their personal abilities, plans, and aspirations, can’t be sustainable. This approach is dehumanizing and narrows migration to numbers, thus denying individuals in exile their individuality, their hopes, their stories, and their desires. 

We believe that inclusion generates mutual benefits for newcomers and for citizens in welcoming countries.

Companies are increasingly understanding this reality and are working to change their organizations, governance, and management, to become more inclusive and intercultural… This is the core mission of the Inclusion Charter launched by SINGA and UTOPIES, already signed by more than 40 companies and 10 professional networks. These multi-stakeholder coalitions are new, unprecedented even. Such pioneers must be joined by others, especially local authorities. If States gave up their martial, often electioneering-motivated positions on migration, they would see that citizens, non-governmental actors, and companies are joining forces to develop solutions that reconcile respect for human dignity with a breadth of opportunities for innovation and cohesion – provided by the millions of women and men who progressively join our societies.

Read the article in French