Emmaus Europe

Taking Action With Emmaüs 

New Pact on Migration and Asylum

On 10 April, the European Parliament voted on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

This pact contains eight texts, all aimed at tightening external border control and undermining freedom of movement and settlement.

Normalising the practice of refoulement

In practical terms, this legislation will allow people who do not apply for asylum to be returned directly to the border. Refugees will still be prevented from submitting their asylum applications in the country that they would like to go to, where it would be easier for them to rebuild their lives because they speak the language of that country or already know people there.

Widespread detention at borders

Those seeking asylum will be detained in “sorting centres” outside the territory or at the border while waiting for their applications to be examined. Sorting will be carried out mainly on the basis of the applicant’s nationalitý, without really taking into account the individual nature of his or her situation. People will be held in these detention centres, and deprived of their freedom, for up to 12 weeks.

No real solidarity and the externalisation of borders

European Union member countries will be able to choose not to receive a person seeking asylum by opting for an alternative: they can pay €20,000, provide human resources to “protect” the EU’s borders (such as sending national border officers to European sorting centres), or they can put in place national policies to externalise borders (e.g. create bilateral agreements to expel people to countries that are often perpetrators of human rights violations).

“Instrumentalisation”, yet another concept for circumventing the right to asylum

This pact introduces a new concept known as the “instrumentalisation” of migration. As such, if the EU considers that a non-EU member is trying to put pressure on it by sending a large number of migrants to its borders, it could decide to suspend the processing of asylum applications altogether.

Identification and forced fingerprinting from the age of six

The Eurodac system (a European database that registers the fingerprints of migrants and asylum seekers in order to identify them) will from now on contain records (fingerprints and facial images) of all foreigners, including minors from the age of six, even if done so under duress.

Slight progress on employment of asylum seekers

Lastly, a directive on reception conditions shows marginal progress by giving asylum seekers the opportunity to work after six months in the country, instead of the current nine months. There are also improved guarantees on reception conditions. However, the downside to this is the widespread use of house arrest.

TAKING ACTION TOGETHER

Emmaus Europe strongly opposes this text! We urge you to take action by posting a message on social media to voice your opposition to this pact, using the hashtag #NotThisPact. Do not forget to tag @emmauseurope so that we can share your messages.

© Emmaus Åland

Improving our ecological impact: Emmaus Åland’s experience

Emmaus Åland has developed a diagnosis to measure and improve its ecological impact. Martha Hannus, sustainable development coordinator, shares this project with us.

Can you tell us what this ecological diagnosis involves?

The ecological impact assessment is inspired by the principles of GRI, Global Reporting Index, that is an established standard for reporting carbon emissions. We have analysed the sources of emission that we have, identified ways to measure them and developed a plan for emission reduction. Included in the assessment are emissions from electricity and heat, our transports locally and abroad and travels. We have included a follow up in our yearly reporting every year.

When and why did you start working on this project?

We took on this project because we believe that even though our activities such as second hand and gardening are ways to contribute to a more sustainable society, to be credible we must also report on the impact we have on the world around us while we carry out those activities. That is, to us, a way to act in solidarity with other parts of the world and future generations. If we demand change in the world, we have to be critical also to our own operations and choices of economic activities. We decided that it is more environmentally efficient and cost effective to try to sell more goods locally and send more solidarity in the form of economic support to other groups to develop their activities.

We started in 2018 by a materiality analysis followed by a strategy adopted by the board. From 2019 we have developed and refined our ways of measuring our emissions. The goal we have is to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

What results have you achieved?

We have been able to diminish our emissions substantially in particular through changing to green electricity and oversee our transports. We also know what to do in order to continue our progress – we need to travel carbon neutral. For 2024, we are setting up a specific budget for travels that does not include money but climate impact, that we commit to follow.

For some years, we have also measured the amount of goods that we receive and followed up on the waste we produce. We do this by weighing the donated goods on selected weeks and calculating the numbers for the whole year. For the waste, we receive numbers from the waste company, where all the waste is weighed.

In 2022 we received approximately 450 000 kg of donated goods. We were able to sell 62 % of this locally, and 21 % was sent as containers to other Emmaus groups. 8 % was recycled by the waste management company and 9 % was burned for energy production. Only a small amount consisted of inert waste. We can reuse most of the bags, furniture, and home textiles, while electronics, books and media are the categories with the highest amount of waste. In our containers, 53 % of the goods are clothes. For electronics, only 50 % can be reused because we don’t have specific qualifications to repair them. We don’t have a solution for now, but perhaps in the future it could be possible. These numbers help us communicating with customers and donors and are also useful in lobbying activities.

What would you say to groups thinking about undertaking this process?

By measuring, you will know more about your activities, and there are always low-hanging fruits – actions that could easily be taken to improve your impact. Don’t be afraid of this, it is not as difficult as it sounds! We must act as provocateurs of change, and that includes being at the forefront of shouldering our responsibility for our emissions, and be transparent, as we would like others to be.

Open letter: Unlocking the role of the social economy for a fair Green Transition

Over 80 leaders from international networks, NGOs, and national organisations from 18 European countries have joined their voices in an open letter.

Focusing on the urgent issue of textile waste, RREUSE and co-signatories call on policy makers to unlock the potential of social economy in the ongoing Waste Framework Directive revision to make the green transition a just one.

To level the playing field and give social economy a chance to live up to its potential co-signatories jointly call upon EU policymakers to:

  • Uphold all positive provisions on the social enterprises’ role in the collection and management of used and waste textiles that the European Commission included in its proposal for a WFD revision;
  • Grant decision-making power for social enterprises, alongside municipalities, in the Extended Producer Responsibility schemes’ governance;
  • Require that Extended Producer Responsibility fees cover all costs associated with re-use and preparing for re-use activities carried out by social enterprises, including the management of residual waste;
  • Ensure that social enterprises maintain ownership over the used and waste textiles they collect.

Download the open letter

Natalia Sanotska and Grigory Semenchuk at the 2023 General Assembly of Emmaus Europe. © Emmaus Oselya

Emmaus Oselya: two years of war, two years of resistance!

Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine began on 24th February 2022. For the last two years the Emmaus Oselya group has been putting up daily resistance in Lviv with its own weapons: solidarity, mutual support, and unconditional welcome of vulnerable people; along with ideas and initiatives to keep helping those who suffer most. We spoke to Natalia Sanotska, Director of Oselya, and Grigory Semenchuk, the National Delegate for Ukraine. Together we discussed domestic politics, the local context in Lviv, and the daily life of an Emmaus group in a country at war.

Could you give us an update on the political situation and mobilisation?

Grigory: The presidential and parliamentary elections, which should have taken place in 2024, have been postponed indefinitely due to the war (5-year term, last elections in 2019). Ukrainians living in the occupied areas wouldn’t be able to vote, it wouldn’t be possible to campaign nor ensure voters’ safety. Moreover, the Constitution does not permit elections to be held while the country is at war.

Parliament is preparing a new mobilisation law. It has been under discussion for the last two months, and will mainly help to better define the conditions for those mobilised for combat duty to replace people at the front: duration, people affected, minimum age for mobilisation (which will be lowered from 27 to 25), and so on.

Natalia: Although there are fewer volunteers to go to the front, most people understand that it’s necessary to avoid occupation.

What is the situation like in Lviv? Have the profiles of the people taken in by Oselya changed since the start of the conflict?

Grigory: The overall situation has stabilised. Some people are still arriving in Lviv, fleeing the fighting, but the numbers are lower than in 2022. Victims prefer to seek shelter near their homes, around Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk.

Natalia: However, cities like Kyiv, Lviv and the western part of Ukraine have not been spared by the bombings. The most recent bombings in Lviv were at the start of January; the situation is still very difficult. Last week, for example, (editor’s note: in mid-January), Kharkiv was bombed every day, forcing people to flee westwards.

Grigory: At the start of the war, a lot of emergency housing was set up to accommodate everyone. Quickly these temporary shelters were closed, forcing people to find accommodation and get back to work, if possible.

Natalia: This placed significant pressure on the rental market, and rents went up dramatically. A new status has appeared: “poor workers”. These people have very little income and can no longer pay their rent and bills. The war has pushed a whole section of society into precarious situations. Many displaced people are now sleeping in shacks, without electricity or water, or in plastic huts, in Lviv or on the outskirts.

These people are therefore also welcomed at the new social centre, and during food distributions, alongside homeless and internally displaced people. Oselya and civil society are replacing the work of government social services and trying to find solutions, with the state concentrating primarily on the war effort.

We’re talking a great deal about mental health at the moment. How is this being cared for, given that war-related traumas affect the entire population?

Natalia: In Oselya, a psychologist works with the companions in the community. We work with the Order of Malta, which also pays the salaries of a psychologist and a social worker who are on hand one day a week to help people attending the social centre.

Grigory: For everyone, the current situation is very challenging: stress, physical and mental fatigue, short nights, etc. Some government mental health programmes do exist, but the psychiatric clinics are overcrowded and the most vulnerable people are excluded. Even medication is hard to find when it’s prescribed.

Natalia: We’re also in constant contact with our companions at the front. When they’re on leave, they come back to the community. Returning here is a real challenge, because they come back with their traumas, which can lead to aggressive behaviour, alcoholism, etc. How can we support them, work with them, feel that we can still help them? We are their family; we understand what they are going through. But we have our own rules and cannot upset the balance of the community. We’re working on this at the moment.

Oselya is developing new projects thanks to the support of Emmaus Europe and the funds raised by the Emmaus groups for the Ukraine fund. Can you tell us more about them?

Natalia: We’re trying to live like we did before the invasion: we work, we organise solidarity initiatives, and so on. But the war has had a huge impact on the life of our community. The new social centre, built in five months thanks to the Ukraine fund, is vital right now. It meets the most urgent needs (hygiene, soup kitchens, distribution of warm clothing, etc.), but also the equally important need for social contact, culture and self-esteem. For example, we offer a hairdressing and barber service and organise film screenings.

At the community, we have also begun renovating the workshop to create bedrooms, thanks to support from the Abbé Pierre Foundation and the Ukraine Fund (editor’s note: the group has taken in 30 companions yet it only had 15 places available pre-conflict). We can already see how essential this work is: the companions are coping better with the stress of war and already have more privacy. They’re living better!

What are the major challenges ahead for Oselya?

Natalia: We mentioned the sharp rise in property and land prices. This also had an impact on our shop: the owner wanted to double the rental price, so we had to move. This caused a lot of stress and involved a lengthy search before we finally found a smaller, more expensive, shop that was more affordable for us. We’re delighted because it’s in the historic centre of Vinniky, and we’re seeing new customers, while keeping the old ones. It’s good. But this means that we have to sell our furniture via photos because we no longer have enough space, which has a direct impact on the group’s economic activity (petrol, transport time, etc.).

For 2024, we want to develop a new project, and renovate an abandoned house next to the new social centre, to turn it into a “social restaurant”, a place where everyone can come to eat and mingle with people from different walks of life. This project is still in its infancy, but things are moving quickly!