7 April 2017, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States at the 71st United Nations General Assembly on the Global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin, with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum seekers
Mr President, Excellences, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentleman
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Syrian conflict triggered an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which has uprooted thousands of people, displacing them within their territory, putting Syria’s immediate neighbourhood as well as Europe in front of major migratory challenges which required a collective response. The European Union member states have just endorsed an EU Strategy for Syria on Monday 3 April. The European Council Conclusions of April 2015 confirmed the need of a comprehensive and balanced EU external migration policy in order to address these challenges.
We have therefore strengthened our policies and instruments and put in place new comprehensive initiatives, both internally and externally with a view to stemming the irregular migration flows, in full respect for fundamental and human rights. The European Agenda on Migration, the subsequent Western Balkans Migration route Conference of October 2015 and the EU-Turkey Statement of March 2016are key initiatives to be seen in this context.
We recognise and highly value the action taken by countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, hosting a large numbers of refugees – forcibly displaced Syrians account for more than 2,7 million in Turkey, more than 650,000 in Jordan and more than 1 million in Lebanon. In 2016, the European Union made available significant financial support to make sure that these countries are able to provide adequate support to the people in need.
Our cooperation with Turkey, on legal avenues, and on reducing irregular migration, as the basic principles under the EU-Turkey Statement, continues. The number of crossings from Turkey to the Greek islands have been substantially reduced but have not ceased and the loss of life has been stemmed.
The EU will continue to work towards providing adequate legal pathways, specifically for persons in need of international protection, such as through resettlement, to contribute to international efforts, in line with the commitments taken last September in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The EU builds on existing efforts: EU Member and Associated States are implementing since July 2015 the first EU-wide resettlement scheme of 22 504 places. Discussions are also ongoing within the EU on establishing a permanent Union resettlement and humanitarian admission framework.
The EU hosted this week a ministerial Conference in Brusselson “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” bringing together representatives of 70 countries and organisations. The EU co-chaired the meeting together with the UN, with the presence of the UNSG and UN Special envoy for Syria, with Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar and the UK. Under the choc of the chemical attack in Idlib, the international community sent a strong signal recommitting to working together to support a peaceful future for Syria and all Syrians in a sovereign, independent, unitary and territorially integral country where all Syrians will be able to live in peace and security. Secondly, the conference recognised that the humanitarian and resilience needs of vulnerable people (especially women and children) inside Syria and in the region have never been greater. Participants agreed that in order to meet the massive needs of populations inside Syria and in neighbouring countries in particular Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, significant financial support and innovative and holistic approaches are needed. The economic development of Jordan and Lebanon will continue to be supported to address the impact of the protracted crisis as well as opportunities for Syrians to secure their livelihoods. The conference welcomed progress in opening labour markets to refugees and agreed to support job creation programmes aligned with the host country governments’ social and economic development strategies. The generosity of the participants has resulted in the pledging of EUR 5.6 billion (USD 6 billion) for 2017.
But current challenges go beyond the Syrian refugee issue, and there is a clear need to tackle not only short-term challenges, but also to address the long-term, root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement. This is what we are doing with the Migration Partnership Framework approach, endorsed by EU’s Heads of State and Government in June 2016. This ambitious strategy is grounded on the concept of partnership and co-operation with countries of origin or transit. Implementing this strategy with a first group of priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with the aim to address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement, fight smugglers and trafficking, ensure protection to those in need, promoting effective return and readmission and open as appropriate legal migration pathways. It is a holistic and tailor made approach aimed also at supporting our partners to develop socio-economically viable solutions in the countries concerned.
Building on this work, the EU is currently stepping up its action to address irregular migration flows along the Central Mediterranean Route, while remaining vigilant about the Eastern Mediterranean as well as other routes, as set out in the Commission Communication of 25 January and the subsequent Malta Summit Declaration adopted in February. The principles remain the same, putting forward a number of concrete operational actions to save lives, step up the fight against smugglers and traffickers in the Mediterranean, to ensure migrants are treated in compliance with human rights obligations and humanitarian assistance and to improve border management in close co-operation with North African countries, in particular with Libya. All these actions contain cross-cutting human rights dimension. The EU is working closely on the ground with its international implementing partners, especially UNHCR and IOM to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants and ensure their protection, in full compliance with our obligations under international law.
We are committed to working together for the success of this process and to move towards a global governance of human mobility. Recognize that States have rights and responsibilities to manage and control their borders, as an important element of security for states, and to ensure that border control procedures are implemented in conformity with applicable obligations under international law, including international human rights and international refugee law and in particular the principle of non-refoulement as established by the 1951 Refugee Convention. Large movements of refugees and migrants are at the same time a global challenge and an opportunity. They can only be addressed by the international community as a whole, based on the principles of global responsibility-sharing and the search for collective solutions that commit also to upholding the safety, dignity and human rights of refugees and migrants. Migration is indeed inevitable, necessary and, if managed in an orderly and sustainable way, also desirable. The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants builds on this recognition, andprovides for an overall political framework, to tackle such movements in all their different aspects. The EU stands behind the Declaration as an excellent and balanced basis for collective, multilateral action, and is fully engaged in the development of the future UN Global Compacts for Refugees and Migrants.
Within this context, we remain concerned about rising racist and xenophobic trends, targeting in particular migrants that can be observed in EU countries as well. Together with our Member States, we take up in particular the New York Declaration’s commitment to counter acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants. We have already been doing a lot on our New York commitments, within the EU and with our external partners, in particular with regard to preventing and countering prejudice, hate crime and hate speech. This includes the creation of platforms, such as the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, to foster peer learning and exchange of best practices between Member States, civil society and international partners, targeted action against the spread of illegal hate speech on the internet, and initiatives to foster balanced narratives and a pluralistic media environment which can promote a well-informed public debate around these issues. A hate crime training guide for law enforcement and criminal justice authorities or an overview of resources and initiative to support hate crime training programmes in the EU Member States as well as the first implementation report about the efficiency of the EU Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online have already been published and are available on the website of the High Level Group. EU policies are also evidence based and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights regularly provides data and reports on developments around migration and hate crime.
We firmly believe that our approach and activities, notably the engagement with partners under the Partnership Framework approach, taking into account wider geographical aspects of migration management forms an important contribution and will flow into the new Global Compacts that we are jointly shaping. Large movements of refugees and migrants havebecome the new reality, and we will all have to act in solidarity and unity in a broad multi-lateral context.
Only through effective multilateralism, with the UN at its bedrock, and by fully embedding migration into our respective foreign policies and relations, will we be able to achieve our collective goals.
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