‘Failure of refugee and migration governance is fatal,’ deputy UN chief tells summit in Malta

Group photo of participants at the international summit, called by the European Council, to discuss migration issues with African and other key countries in Valletta, Malta. Photo: The European Union

12 November 2015 – At a summit on the relationship between Europe and Africa on refugees and migration, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General stressed the importance of searching for political solutions, strengthening institutions and continuing development efforts and assistance.

“Failure of refugee and migration governance is fatal,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told world leaders at the meeting in Valetta, the capital of Malta.

“We have witnessed thousands of people die on their journey to a better life, some of them as late as today in the Mediterranean. Thousands more are traumatized. Many face discrimination. Hundreds of thousands are in camps where poor conditions drive many to move on yet again,” he continued.

Speaking on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Eliasson commended the European countries that are showing solidarity by taking in more asylum-seekers, and thanked the African countries which have for long hosted far greater numbers of asylum seekers, often “without the international support they need and deserve.”

“We need to appreciate the challenges and strains in receiving newcomers in our societies,” the senior UN official underlined. “But research shows that migrants and refugees make a positive contribution to host nations, when they are given the chance. Migrants and refugees are not merely victims who need charity. They are productive human beings with human rights which are to be protected.”

He stated that readmission and return agreements must include human rights safeguards, unnecessary and unlawful detention must end, and all countries must respect the principles of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsions.

Mr. Eliasson recalled that six weeks ago, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set out some key objectives to guide our actions. “Let me list them: saving lives; enhancing protection; upholding the principle of non-discrimination; improving preparedness and prevention; sharing responsibility; deepening cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination; and anticipating future challenges.”

Based on these objectives, he highlighted what he sees as five major areas where political leadership is now essential.

“First, we need to tackle root causes of displacement, starting by providing people, not least young people, with opportunity and jobs. […] Second, migrants and refugees should be given the chance to become productive. […] Third, we must prepare to better respond to large migrant and refugee movements. […] Fourth, we need comprehensive approaches. [..] Finally, your political leadership is needed to combat the growing climate of intolerance and polarization.”

Concluding his remarks, the Deputy Secretary-General said the United Nations remains committed to working together with all partners to meet the challenges of human mobility “and to unleash the potential and promise of people on the move to a better future for all.”


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