From needs to rights

A minority rights based approach to social inclusion of third-country nationals

Events / Fri 17 Nov 2017 09:00

Refugee flight and mass migration as a result of religious and ethnic persecution has led to unprecedented levels of forced migration and refugee flows. In the Middle East alone, minorities have faced mass killings, forced displacement and, in the case of the Yezidis, genocide. This is partly due to a rise in religious extremism, but also to state-sponsored sectarian or nativist policies that leave minority communities vulnerable.

Europe is witnessing the largest movement of people since the end of the Second World War, which is seen in large tranches of populist discourse as a cause of competition between different communities and the further integration of new ethnic and religious cultures as a challenge to European values.

There is clear evidence of a consistent increase amongst member states of xenophobia and racist attitudes, fueled in part by migration debates, perceived failures of integration and the ease of expressing hatred through online means.

The response by the EU and many member states has been to identify integration of third country nationals as essential to European cohesion. This is most explicitly recognized in the recent,EU action plan on integration of Third Country Nationals, which addresses comprehensively the need for cultural, economic and social integration of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

However this attitude is changing in some cases, with governments  seeking to erect barriers, close their borders or to channel support to maintaining refugees in the regions or what were previously transit countries, outside the EU.

One possible response is to explore the value of extending elements of minority protection to so-called new minorities within the EU. These approaches often focus on transfer of established practice in terms of cultural and linguistic diversity in different areas of public policy. Most migrants, refugees and asylum seekers comprise numerical ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities within their host countries, and two of three essential pillars of minority rights protection i) anti-discriminiation and ii) cultural preservation are also essential pillars of  refugee and migrant protection.

The seminar will mix presentation and panel discussion formats, and will have a practitioner focus, with case studies of good practice from both inside and outside the EU, alongside policy analyses. It will include the presentation of our report outlining how a minority rights based approach could provide a framework for the integration of migrants and refugees.


9:30 Registration of participants, tea and coffee

10:00 Introduction

  • Welcoming statement by Mark Lattimer, Executive Director Minority Rights Group Interntional
  • Overview of the agenda and introduction by Minority Rights Group Europe and Centre Maurits Coppieters

10:30 Key note speech by Michael Ignatieff, President and Rector of Central European University

10:50 Panel I:  A Minority Rights Based Approach

  • Dr Stephanie Barry, University of Sussex
  • Iñaki Irazabalbeitia Fernandez, Bureau member of Centre Maurits Coppieters & Director of Ezkerraberri Foundation in the Basque Country
  • Carl Soderbergh, Director of Policy and Communications at Minority Rights Group International
  • Moderated by Gay McDougall, Chair of MRG International Council, Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

12:00 Panel II: Ideas for Europe

  • Balint Josa, UNITED for Intercultural Action
  • Karen Mets, Senior Advocacy Adviser at Save The Children
  • Adam Weiss, Managing Director at European Roma Rights Centre
  • Joe Frans, Founder & COO of NGA Novum AB & Board Member of the Swedish Association of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs
  • Moderated by Mark Lattimer, Executive Director at Minority Rights Group International

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Panel III: A Global Perspective ( the Minority Rights Based Approach in Perspective)

  • Albert Barume, African Representative to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Mahdis Keshavarz, Founder and Principal of The Make Agency, Board Member at Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists’ Association
  • Willy Matunga, Retired Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya
  • Francoise Hampson, University of Essex
  • Moderated by Claire Thomas, Deputy Director at Minority Rights Group International

15:15 Closing remarks

  • Gay McDougall, Chair of MRG International Council, and Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

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When: Thursday 16th November 2017, from 9:00 to 16:00
Where: Hotel Mercure Korona, Budapest, Kecskeméti u. 14, 1053


Do you plan to attend? Please RSVP via No registration fees.


There will be no interpretation at this event.

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This conference is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the conference or the opinions of the speakers.

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This conference is a joint initiative of Minority Rights Group and Centre Maurits Coppieters.

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Photo by Mitch Lensink on Unsplash.

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