Mr. President of PAM, Mr. Secretary General, Ms President of the 1st Standing Committee,

 Ms President of the Portuguese delegation, dear Joana Lima, Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your efforts and your initiative to propose the founding of the Women’s Forum (WPF), which has been successful and connects us here today in Lisbon, the host city of the inaugural session.

According to the UNHCR, the number of the forcibly displaced people has reached over 100 million. It represents over 1% of the world’s population. It includes refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as 53,2 million internally displaced persons due to civil conflicts. This should be a wake-up call for the immediate peace enforcement and elimination of forced displacement causes (conflicts, climate change, political persecutions, poverty).

As in the case of Ukraine, history and reality teach us once again that we can be forced to leave our homes at any time, just as our ancestors did, and become refugees in the blink of an eye.

In 2021 more than 3.000 people died or went missing trying to flee to Europe, while crossing the central and western Mediterranean and Atlantic Sea. Overland routes also remain a dangerous path to safety and freedom. People report a vast number of abusive practices, including illegal executions, arbitrary detention, sexual and gender violence, forced labor, slavery, forced marriages and other human rights violations.

It becomes more than obvious that countries should strengthen their legal framework and operational capacity at land and maritime borders and in capital cities to ensure reliable travel alternatives through integration policies, youth programs and local development. Integration is an obligation for the states and a right for the refugees, provided by the European treaties and is not a concession.

It is crucial to ensure humanitarian access to provide basic services to people en route, found at sea or in detention centers, and determine whether they meet the criteria for international protection.

Women and children is the most vulnerable refugee category. States ought to recognize that women and girls as migrants, refugees or asylum-seekers have particular needs that should be taken into account during the migration process.

The needs of women and girls should be meet in the refugee centers and complaint mechanisms must be available accessible to all in various languages.

Member States and the EU, in general, need to quickly identify and prosecute trafficking networks exploiting refugee women. They should provide safe and coordinated routes between Member States borders.

All host and transit countries must ensure access to sexual and reproductive health rights, such as obstetric care, birth control and abortion, including the rape victims.

In addition, to accelerate the integration of refugee women, host countries should grant access to the labor market through active employment policies, such as training and language learning programs, as well as access to childcare services.

It is also important to create housing policies addressed to refugees’ needs, with the collaboration of homeowners and landlords, by linking housing opportunities to employment in touristic or agricultural sector.

Finally, the implementation of gender equality workshops addressed to men, women and children is deemed necessary, as is training seminars and actions for students and frontline professionals to combat bigotry and discrimination.

The protection of women and children, the implementation of human rights and the respect for the international treaties must be a high priority for all of us. In the border policy, what should apply is the Geneva Convention and the New York Protocol.

The protection of human life by combating trafficking networks and ensuring a safe living environment, especially for women, children and people with special needs, should be a constant concern for all us.

We, as the legislators, must guard the principles and values of our legal and political culture. It is our duty to demand and form a society of inclusion and cohesion, with rights and responsibilities for all, in a world that includes every person.

At this challenging times, when the rights are being ripped apart, we must fight back against these conservative policies of persecution and exclusion of refugees. The humane and legitimate thing to do is to embrace all the people who are fleeing from war, poverty, climate change. This lies at the very core of the European culture, the culture of the European Renaissance and the social rebellions.

The founding of the Women’s Parliamentary Forum of the Assembly creates an added value and meaningful contribution to international dialogue and parliamentary diplomacy. I have faith in the success of these project and the prolific results.

I congratulate you on your initiative and wish you strength in your demanding assignment.