Friday, 24 November 2017

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Migration: “We need to ask ourselves what we want”

Zaatari refugee Camp

17.5.2016 – At Brussel’s Palais d’Egmont, prominent UN speakers and Belgian Ministers gathered for a conference with the theme “Migration in the 21st Century: thoughts and prospects 2050”; it was hosted by the Belgian presidency of the Council of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The conference comes at a time when already 189,141 people have crossed the Mediterranean and nearly 1,400 have drowned or gone missing since the beginning of 2016.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General Peter Sutherland emphasized the crossroads the European Union inevitably is facing. “We have to ask ourselves: what is the logic of all this? What do we want? If the Schengen agreement falls, it will bring –according to a renowned Brussels think tank – an additional cost of 17 billion euros annually to the European Union. If we pick and choose among refugees and migrants,” he said, “taking in only Christians, is that what we really want? A clashes of civilisations, going back to the crusades?  Or, instead, do we seek integration? Speaking without bluntness in these matters is no longer viable.”

Mr Sutherland criticised the lack of concrete policy measures, and stressed the importance of the role of cities. “This is a city issue. If you are going to integrate people, you won’t succeed by stranding them at a reception centre on the most remote island one can find.”

Peter Sutherland

Director-General of IOM, Ambassador William Lacy Swing, also addressed the conference and emphasized the need for a change of narrative, as the word “migration” only in recent days has acquired negative connotations.  “This has not always been the case – far from it,” Swing stated.

“Germany alone will need 9.5 million migrants between now and 2025 in order to make up for the coming demographic changes,” he said. “We need to manage integration better.”

“The upcoming United Nations Summit on refugees and migrants on 9 September will be an important one,” Ambassador Swing told UNRIC. “We have seen accomplishments and the new report by the UN Secretary-General. We will need a broad discussion and I hope we can agree on some general principles on how to better govern migration, not to mention address the needs of the many categories of people on the move who today are not covered by any legal framework or convention.”

“I don’t think we are in for any changes regarding migration during the upcoming summer months,” Ambassador Swing told UNRIC. “The driving factors of forced migration have not changed – conflicts, joblessness, abject poverty – it’s all still there.”

Photo Top: UNCHR. Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan 

Photo Bottom: UNRIC. Peter Sutherland at the conference: “Migration in the 21st Century: thoughts and prospects 2050"

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