Brussels, Belgium

24 June 2021

Secretary-General’s press encounter with European Parliament President, David Sassoli 

Question: (in Italian translated through interpreter): Good morning President Sassoli, Secretary-General Guterres, thank you very much for the chance to speak to you and for making time. Let me ask something of the Secretary-General on migration, one of the key issues of our time. It’s an issue which Europe is facing up to but without really coming up with satisfactory results, that has been happening for a while. What do you think about this, what do you think the UN can do to try to find a new mix of solidarity and responsibility which will allow us to make progress in this area? 

Secretary-General: Grazie Mille. Well, first of all, two years ago, the Global Compact on migration was approved in Marrakech. The Global Compact paves the way for international cooperation between countries of origin, countries of transit and countries of destination, in order to make sure that there is regular, orderly, safe, well organised migration and that, and this is our most important objective, we take the management of migration out of traffickers, out of smugglers that dramatically violate human rights, and to allow states in cooperation to manage migration flows.  

But for that to be possible, it is very important in my opinion that Europe comes together. There is no way a country alone, and I have the experience of being Prime Minister of Portugal and I have the experience of being High Commissioner for Refugees, there is no way a country alone can address these challenges in the European context. It would be very important in my opinion to have a European migration policy managed in solidarity by all European countries.  

For that, we need to have a new understanding about migration. My mother is 98 years old. She has serious health problems, as you can imagine, and we have permanently 24-hour support to my mother at home in Lisbon. When I see the people that are supporting my mother, I don’t find many Portuguese. And Portugal is not a very rich country, as you know, we are a country of immigration for centuries. So, it is clear that migration is necessary. It is clear that migration is an important contribution to the future of our continent, and I speak now also as a European.  

And so if something is necessary, better that it is properly managed. And my appeal for European countries is to come together and then to establish forms of cooperation in all aspects, namely also in relation to prevention, migration that is not necessary, supporting development in countries of origin, making everything to make sure that migration becomes not a need but a choice. Everything needs to be done and can only be done if European countries come together both in the internal management of the problem and in the international cooperation that is needed.  

And then another thing, all our societies are becoming multi-ethnic, multireligious, and multicultural, and this is a richness not a threat. But the success of diversity does not happen spontaneously. We must make a huge investment in social cohesion. To make each community feel that their identity is respected but at the same time that they are part of the community as a whole. This is a huge responsibility for governments everywhere in the world, but also in Europe.