Secretary-General's remarks at joint press conference with Teodora Tzakri, Deputy Minister of Interior, Decentralization and E-Governance of Greece at the Global Forum on Migration and Development [unofficial transcript]
Athens, Greece, 4 November 2009SG: Thank you, Madam Deputy Minister. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the media and distinguished colleagues. It is a great pleasure for me to participate in the Third Global Forum for Migration and Development. And I am also very much honoured to pay an official visit to this great country, in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
You have just heard my opening statement on this very important issue. And therefore my remarks will be very brief. First of all, I would like to thank and congratulate the Government of Greece for arranging this excellent meeting in such an excellent manner, and its warm hospitality for all the delegations, including myself.
In recent years the Greek Government and people and its economy have benefited enormously from the contribution of migrant workers, and I hope that Greece will continue to promote and protect the rights of migrants.
We meet in what I have called an age of mobility, with the rapid progress of globalisation, and in the middle of this financial and economic crisis, it is all the more important and it has become a very important and serious issue that we must address in a harmonious and more comprehensive manner.
People are crossing borders like never before, in pursuit of opportunity, for hope for their better life. Today the number of international migrants in the world is approaching a record high. I quoted the number: 215 million people. This is the highest ever in recent history.
And thanks to the work of the Forum and others, there is a growing understanding about the good that it generates. Many governments are working to realise their commitment to safeguard the rights of migrants, but there is much more work to be done by the international community. And in that regard, having had the three Global Fora on Migration and Development, I am very much encouraged that we have raised quite significantly high political awareness among the international community on this very important issue of migration and development. We need to deepen our common values of inclusion and social acceptance and education and understanding.
I sincerely hope that this Global Forum will provide the Member States and all the distinguished delegations and civil society members and economic communities a great opportunity for us to address this issue, which has many implications for human rights and a better future for all these migrants, in this very difficult period of international economic crisis and in this process of globalisation. Thank you very much. I'll be happy to answer your questions.
And lastly I would like to recognise the presence of my Special Representative, Mr. Peter Sutherland, whose vision and commitment have helped generate a great contribution to this very important subject. Thank you very much.
Q: I would like to address a question to Mr. Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Gavras. How could we lobby? How could we exert pressure? There are a few of us who really believe in Greece's migration; there are a few that believe that migration is a negative phenomenon. How can we convince them that organised immigration can be a positive phenomenon, could have a positive effect?
SG: That's exactly why we are having this Global Forum. Of course there have been many such misperceptions and misgivings, while we have seen many positive aspects of migrants. While migrants, in the course of their integration into new societies, have created some problems, social problems, some crimes, their inability to adjust themselves to their new situations, at the same time, their human rights have largely not been properly promoted.
At the same time, you should look at this positive aspect: In the process of this globalisation, this is an era where people should live harmoniously together with all different nationalities, and they have been mostly doing the work which has not been done by the citizens of the host governments, receiving countries, like in the case of, in Greece, agriculture and construction. And they are quite difficult areas, difficult jobs, which normally the citizens of those receiving countries would not do.
Therefore promoting and protecting the basic human rights of all migrants, regardless of their legal status, is of paramount importance. And providing basic rights, access to education, social safety networks, sanitation and health: these are basic, which each and every country should provide.
I respect the sovereign rights to manage all these immigration policies, but however, there is a core international human rights instrument, which all the countries must respect. And therefore we must address this issue in a very much comprehensive manner, paying more attention to the positive side of migration for development. Thank you very much.
Q: A question addressed to Mr. Ban Ki-moon. This morning during your speech, you said that there is an effort to avert [human] trafficking, and he said that there should be no tolerance. What do you mean? There is no tolerance to people, to countries, to non-performing institutions?
Q: Human trafficking, particularly for women and girls, is an abhorrent crime which must be eradicated at all cost, in the name of humanity. The United Nations, led by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, has been leading this campaign, in close cooperation with Member States and civil society. First of all, we have been trying to strengthen the existing institutions and regimes of the international community and raising awareness among all the international community.
It is appalling that still the millions of these human trafficking cases are now taking place, and their human rights must be protected. We will continue to do all what we can to prevent and eradicate human trafficking crimes. And at the same time I would urge those countries who have not joined the United Nations protocol to prevent trafficking and [the suppression of] all these human rights, as I said this morning.
Q: I would like to address a question to the Secretary-General. Yesterday a discussion took place on the various commissions on the remittances. And Mr. Rath from the World Bank and other officials proposed for the commissions of such companies, such as Western Union, for instance, which range from 10-15%, which is really a robbery, to shrink to 1%. So I would like to ask Mr. Ban Ki-moon whether you aim, as an international organisation, to take any initiative towards this direction, because there is really a robbing of the toil of the immigrants.
SG: Remittances by migrant workers are very important sources, not only for their personal well-being and personal living, but also in many cases of countries, even for many countries, it becomes a very important source of their foreign income. Therefore their remittances should flow without much restriction. I do not have any clear answer to your question at this time, because unfortunately there does not exist any global legal regulatory framework on this. I think this can be one of the important issues which the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) delegations may discuss. Thank you very much.
Q: I would like to ask my question to the Secretary-General. Mr. Secretary-General, please allow me to ask: Since Greece is hosting this Global Forum, I am sure that you are aware, and because all the foreign correspondents in this country, we continuously write about migrant deaths, about the poor asylum system that currently exists in this country, and you are aware that Greece has a very small percentage of asylum acceptances, amongst the lowest in the European Union -- what do you have to tell the Greek delegates that are organising this event?
SG: I know that all states, including Greece, have a sovereign right to determine the conditions of entry and stay in their own respective countries. And I have heard concerns raised through media, through civil society, human rights communities, and particularly the High Commissioner on Refugees. I sincerely hope that all these issues, as one of the important members of the European Union, should be addressed in accordance with the relevant international human rights and international humanitarian laws. That's what I can advise to the Greek Government, as the host of this very important Third Global Forum on Migration and Development. I think the Greek Government may have very important political and moral responsibilities to addressing all these refugees and asylum seekers in accordance with the relevant international laws and regulations. Thank you very much.
Off-the-Cuff on 4 November 2009