of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on reducing the risk of vulnerability of elderly migrants and improving their welfare
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 25 May 2011
at the 1114th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress;
Recalling the Revised European Social Charter (ETS No. 163), in particular its Article 19 (The right of migrant workers and their families to protection and assistance), Article 23 (The right of elderly persons to social protection) and Article 30 (The right to protection against poverty and social exclusion);
Recalling Recommendation Rec(94)9 of 10 October 1994 of the Committee of Ministers to member states concerning elderly people and its guiding principles to be taken into account when taking measures concerning elderly people;
Recalling the commitment to implement specific measures to ensure the integration of the most vulnerable migrants, in particular children and young people at risk of exclusion, isolated women, victims of violence, the elderly and those in poor health or with disabilities in the Final Declaration of the 8th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Migration (Kyiv, 4-5 September 2008);
Recalling the provisions relevant to elderly people in the Council of Europe Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society: improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in Europe 2006-2015;
Recognising the contribution made by elderly migrants during their working lives to the economic, social and cultural development of both host and origin countries;
Being aware of the increased risk of vulnerability faced by some elderly migrants, especially single women, in the member states;
Wishing to reduce the risk of vulnerability of elderly migrants, protect their human rights and dignity and improve their welfare;
Recommends that governments undertake a holistic assessment of the situation of elderly migrants in the member states and take appropriate action at national, regional and local levels to promote their welfare, including the prevention of abuse and the reduction of their vulnerability, social isolation and marginalisation;
Recommends, furthermore, that such action draw upon the principles and guidelines set out in the appendix hereto.
Concerning the communication of this recommendation and its follow-up
Member states are encouraged to translate the present recommendation into their official language(s) so as to ensure that relevant actors fully understand its implications. Member states should, in any event, bring its principles to the attention of the public and private bodies concerned in their respective countries;
Member states should also define indicators to measure compliance with the principles of the present recommendation and the application of its provisions.
Appendix to Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)5
For the purposes of this recommendation, the term “elderly migrants” is understood as those elderly migrants who, because of their age or health, are (i) no longer active in the labour market and/or (ii) no longer self-sufficient in terms of their physical, economic, social and cultural needs.
2. General principles
Policies to promote the welfare of elderly migrants and provide against their vulnerability should be part of a general policy:
- to encourage the empowerment, autonomy, sense of belonging, recognition and participation of elderly people in society;
- to enable elderly persons to reside, as long as they wish and are able to do so, in their own homes and in decent conditions, taking into account applicable national policies.
Integration measures, in so far as they concern elderly migrants, should be applied to their situation in a sensitive manner and take full account of their personal needs, especially in a socio-medical context.
In general, the needs of elderly migrants should be met within mainstream service provision for elderly people so as to ensure their continued integration. However, there should be sufficient flexibility to allow for a sensitive approach to specific aspects of their care or welfare in a way that respects their cultural differences.
As for all vulnerable elderly people, avoiding the isolation (both physical and emotional) of elderly migrants should be an overriding objective of member states’ policies in this field.
Policies and practices relating to elderly migrants should reflect their gender and personal situation, taking proper account, for example, of their length of residence in the host country and familiarity with its norms and customs. Particular consideration should be given to the specific needs of elderly migrants with disabilities and those whose abilities have become impaired as a result of ageing.
As a general rule of good policy making, it is important that the interests of elderly migrants are fully taken into account in the development of laws, policy and practice that concern them and that, to the extent possible, they are consulted and given the opportunity to participate in this process.
The family, often seen as the most common and appropriate environment for ageing persons and intergenerational solidarity, should be supported by public authorities. Should they seek it, family members providing assistance and care to vulnerable and elderly relatives should, wherever possible, be given a formal status recognising and supporting their role. It may be appropriate, in some circumstances, to extend this recognition and support to others such as friends and neighbours who are providing care or assistance to vulnerable elderly people.
3. Specific guidelines
Residence, nationality, mobility and transfer of acquired rights
1. Elderly migrants should be free to choose their place of retirement. This principle should be supported by appropriate changes, where necessary, to national law, policy and practice and, in particular, as set out below:
a. as concerns legal status, member states could consider special provisions in their national legislation regarding the length of permitted absence from the receiving state in respect of migrants who have passed the legal retirement age for that state, including prolonged absences abroad for family reasons or for specific care needs;
b. member states could consider applying more flexibly their domestic provisions within the existing national legislative framework regarding short- and long-term visits by family members who wish to enter a member state to provide temporary care for an elderly migrant, where this represents the most appropriate option.
2. Elderly migrants should be informed of the opportunity to acquire the nationality of a member state, in accordance with its domestic law, and given support in completing the administrative formalities. In doing so, the provisions of the European Convention on Nationality (ETS No. 166), in particular those relating to multiple nationalities should be taken into consideration.
3. International co-operation and dialogue between receiving and origin countries should be developed with a view to safeguarding the legal status of elderly migrants, facilitating their ability to move between countries, ensuring their protection under social security schemes and securing their access to social services and health care.
4. As concerns health care, pensions and other social security schemes, the receiving countries and countries of origin, including countries that are not members of the Council of Europe, should consider concluding bilateral or multilateral social security conventions with a view to maintaining acquired rights and payment of benefits abroad in accordance with the principles contained in particular in the European Convention on Social Security (ETS No. 78). Moreover, such provisions could be used as the basis for adapting legislation or policies in respect of migrants from countries outside the Council of Europe.
5. Where the payment of benefits abroad is not foreseen, state old age pension schemes should provide an option for beneficiaries who decide to leave the host country to withdraw the amount of their contributions paid into the system.
Elderly migrants living alone
6. Policies and practice should be put in place with a view to limiting the social or emotional isolation of elderly migrants by, for example, maintaining their social integration and strengthening their own family relations and personal networks, but also by promoting new contacts with society.
7. In order to ensure the effectiveness of such policies, research should be undertaken to better understand and neutralise the specific factors that may cause or reinforce the isolation of elderly migrants.
Elderly migrant women
8. Action should be taken by the public authorities to ensure that the principles of equal treatment and equal opportunities are applied effectively to elderly migrant women, especially women living alone. These women should be assisted by public authorities, public and private service providers and, where necessary, by associations, in order to ensure they have the same opportunities as men. In addition, they should have open and equal access to all assistance and support available to elderly persons, including specific services for elderly women.
9. Elderly migrant women whose residence status is still dependent on that of their partner should, in the event of divorce, separation or widowhood, have the opportunity to apply for and eventually obtain a residence permit in their own right.
Support to families and other people caring for elderly migrants
10. The relevant authorities should facilitate the involvement of families in the daily care of their elderly migrant relatives.
11. Immigrant families who care for an elderly relative should benefit from support, particularly as concerns the provision of daily physical and psychological care, as well as in making informed decisions on how to best satisfy their long-term medical, financial and emotional needs.
12. The same level of support should be granted to other people such as friends and neighbours who care for elderly migrants.
Active ageing and elderly migrants as actors of development
13. Dialogue between generations should be encouraged, promoted and supported so that younger family members can learn from and appreciate the knowledge, experience and values of their elderly migrant relatives.
14. Migrants (both male and female) who are no longer economically active should be encouraged by the public authorities to participate and contribute voluntarily to community-based activities with a view to transmitting their knowledge, skills and experience to the wider society.
15. Examples of activities that would particularly benefit from the participation and contribution of elderly male and female migrants include those in support of the labour market integration of young people, the integration of newly arrived migrants and co-development projects in countries of origin.
Organisation of public services in favour of elderly migrants
16. All public and private services should be organised in such a manner that elderly migrants are assured of early and effective access to the benefits, facilities and services to which they are entitled. In particular, attention should be given to addressing and removing potential financial, physical and mental obstacles.
17. Where necessary, outreach services (for example social and medical) in local communities with high immigrant populations should be established or, where they already exist, developed in order to ensure direct contact with elderly migrants and to support their families and migrant associations involved in their care.
18. Medical staff and social workers responsible for the care of elderly migrants should have the necessary linguistic and cultural skills to communicate effectively with them. They should, where necessary, have recourse to professional interpreters or properly skilled members of migrant associations.
19. Authorities responsible for the development of public services and the oversight of private services for the elderly should take steps to ensure that their programmes are sensitive to the cultural diversity in their region or state.
20. Moreover, people working with elderly migrants should be given appropriate training to develop their linguistic skills and their understanding of intercultural relations, and to ensure they are sensitive to the particular needs of elderly migrants.
21. Accurate and clear information on benefit entitlement, health care and nursing provision relevant to the specific needs of elderly migrants should be made available to them in a manner that it is easy for them to understand.
22. Member states should encourage social and medical services to appoint cultural and linguistic mediators who can actively participate in dialogue with elderly migrants and ensure accurate and appropriate exchanges of information in order to avoid any risk of misunderstanding.
Co-ordination of services
23. Appropriate and effective co-operation should be established between all public authorities responsible for delivering services in favour of elderly migrants. In particular, attention should be given to addressing the functional and structural obstacles that may impede such co-operation between health authorities and social services.
24. Public authorities and private services responsible for delivering services in favour of elderly migrants should be encouraged to make every effort to co-operate fully with the families of elderly migrants as well as with migrant associations, in particular those involved in their care.
Role of associations in supporting elderly migrants
25. The voluntary sector, including migrant associations, has an important role to play in the welfare of elderly migrants, including in the prevention of abuse and reduction of their vulnerability. In order to develop its involvement and expertise, it should benefit from appropriate support and funding from the public authorities. This role can include, inter alia, the activities below:
a. lobbying for change in law and policy at national level and for improvements in service provision at local level;
b. acting as advocates for individual, and groups of, elderly migrants and as intermediaries between them and the public authorities;
c. evaluating service provision at local level, especially in terms of its relevance to the identified needs of elderly migrants;
d. providing information and training to public and private actors responsible for the welfare of elderly migrants on language and cultural needs of the elderly within their care;
e. providing personal and daily care to elderly migrants, and generally accompanying them through, and helping them adapt to, the ageing process;
f. providing opportunities to meet and socialise with other elderly people.
Care for elderly migrants approaching the end of life
26. Medical staff, care workers and others who are responsible for the welfare of elderly migrants approaching the end of their life should be made aware of the issues that are important to these people and of how to manage their concerns, particularly in relation to property, inheritance, family, burial and funeral services. In this regard, when appropriate, migrant associations and cultural mediators that are well placed to provide supplementary help, support and advice, should be involved.