Valetta, Malta

11 November 2015

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Valetta Summit on Migration [as delivered]

I want to thank the Government of Malta and the European Union for convening this important Summit dealing with the crucial relationship between Europe and Africa on refugees and migration. Let me already at the outset commend the EU, the AU, their Member States and their tenacious and skilled negotiators, for a job well done.  I am honoured to represent the UN and speak on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this evening.

Failure of refugee and migration governance is fatal. 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.

I commend those European countries which are showing solidarity by taking in more asylum-seekers. I also thank 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.  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.

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.

The recent massive movement of people towards Europe is to a great degree rooted in conflicts, political crises, governance failures and abject poverty. That is why the search for political solutions, the strengthening of institutions and continued development efforts and assistance are so important. 

Here I would like to echo a statement issued by the Secretary-General in New York today.  To reduce external aid in order to finance the cost of refugee flows is counter-productive and will cause a vicious circle highly detrimental to a great number of vulnerable people.
While we address the root causes, we must also expand and open up new legal pathways to migrate.  When there are no legal options to leave, people often fall prey to criminal networks.  These networks exploit weak State authority and profit immensely from this human vulnerability.

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, I see 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.  We must also address governance challenges and better prevent conflict and divisions, both between and within nations. 

Second, migrants and refugees should be given the chance to become productive. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development points to including displaced persons in development work and breaking the vicious cycle of displacement, poverty and dependency.  This new universal agenda is a formula for combining international solidarity with enlightened self-interest of all Nation States.

Third, we must prepare to better respond to large migrant and refugee movements.  This requires more and better reception centers and processing systems.  We need increased resources for safe passages and humanitarian needs.  The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit can catalyze action on, and financing of, this humanitarian agenda.

We must also increase resettlement space, provide humanitarian visas and find other innovative solutions. The plight of displacement is a shared global responsibility.

Fourth, we need comprehensive approaches.  Cooperation between and among States, regions and organizations is key. I commend this Summit, as well as the Khartoum and Rabat processes between the African Union and the European Union. Well functioning regional models and capacities can help build a more effective global response.

The Secretary-General is committed to working with all Member States and to develop a proposal on forging a much-needed global compact for human mobility.

Finally, your political leadership is needed to combat the growing climate of intolerance and polarization.  Xenophobia must have no place in our globalised world. We must all stand strong against divisive forces, and rise above the fray to lead our peoples to a world free of discrimination and hatred.

The United Nations and its different entities congratulate the EU, the AU and their Member States for their impressive and substantial agreement here in Valletta.  We remain committed to work 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.