Written by Joanna Apap,
In the face of ongoing migration challenges and the growing focus on external and internal security threats, growing rifts have opened up between Member States, hampering attempts to renew discussion on shared European values as enshrined in the Article 2 of Treaty on the European Union. At international level, the United Nations (UN) is the principal forum for promoting fundamental values. Based on these, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and UN system thus took action on plans to address large movements of refugees and migrants. To this end, a high-level plenary meeting on Refugees and Migrants took place on 19 September, immediately prior to the 71st UNGA General Debate, which started on 20 September 2016.
On 11 October 2016, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) organised a roundtable on Europe’s Migration and Security Nexus. The event brought together policy makers and academics, as well as policy analysts, to discuss the outcome of the 19 September UN high-level plenary meeting and the consequences for further action in Europe.
The first speakers, Cecilia Wikström, MEP, Member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and H.E. Ambassador Michel Lastschenko, Ambassador, Special Envoy Migration & Asylum, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both attended the high-level UN plenary meeting, on behalf of their respective institutions. Both speakers pointed out that people have always moved away from their homes to find work or to escape war, natural disasters, poverty, persecution, inequality and hunger, including Europeans. Migration is far from being a recent phenomenon. It has, however, long been (and still is) a risky undertaking, which leaves many very vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, whether they move within their own countries or to new ones.
The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, endorsed on 19 September 2016, is based on the recognition that the world is facing an unprecedented level of human mobility; most of it positive, enriching and voluntary. Approximately a billion people in the world are on the move. Among them, only 245 million are migrants, people who have voluntarily decided, or were forced by circumstances, to leave their country of origin, and are trying to resettle in a host country or are temporally stuck in a transit country. Of these 245 million migrants, 21 million are refugees, of which 3 million are asylum seekers. In addition to the 21 million refugees, who are forced to flee their country, there are approximately 40 million internally displaced persons in the world, people who are forced to seek refuge in another region, province, district or city within their own country, who are often doomed to find shelter in camps or improvised shanty towns. Of the 245 million migrants across the world, only five or six million have been resettled in the developed world. Indeed, almost 90% of migrants, refugees and displaced persons are located far from our continent, mostly in Africa and Asia.
One of the lessons from New York, certainly for European decision makers and for our own public opinion, should therefore be the realisation that migrations are universal. Migration and refugee issues tend to be perceived as a European phenomenon within Europe and hence the term ‘European migration crisis’. In fact it is rather ‘the crisis of the migrants and refugees on their way to Europe’. In adopting the Declaration of New York, States have declared their profound solidarity with persons who are forced to flee. States have reaffirmed their obligation to fully respect the human rights of migrants and refugees. This, of course, includes the rights of the child and the protection of the most vulnerable. In the Declaration, States have also pledged strong support to those countries affected by large movements of refugees and migrants.
The first panel addressed the question ‘how can Member States develop openness and control within a strong human rights framework?’. To address this issue, Elspeth Guild, Jean Monnet Professor ad personam at Queen Mary, University of London, set the scene by clarifying the definitions of who is a migrant; who is a refugee; who has a right to cross borders. Professor Guild about balance, security – both internal and external – and who is ‘entitled’ to what security. She asked which social norms influence society’s perceptions in this regard, and whatis society attempting to secure? Why is there a tension between state sovereignty and human rights, and what are we afraid of? Much has been written and discussed as to what the right balance between security and freedom might be. Security and law enforcement policies also need to be developed with human rights and fundamental freedoms as the point of departure.
The second panel discussed ‘how can Europe and the UN develop a new humanitarian approach to migration, borders and security following the outcome of the 71st UNGA’. The speakers discussed the need for human-centric policies, to build on our common humanity. Natacha Kazatchkine, Senior Policy Analyst with the Open Society Institute, underlined the rise of xenophobia in Europe, particularly in certain European Member States. The focus needs to shift away from ‘crisis’ and ‘management’ to long-term solutions for all migrants regardless of status. Restrictive migration policies focusing mainly on return do not have a long-term perspective. Respect for the human rights of all must be the cornerstone to avoid dichotomising policies (for example how the fight against terrorism is distorting criminal justice).
The framework of human rights and rule of law is not an EU trademark: it puts obligations on the EU, including positive obligations which need to be translated into actions Roderick Parkes Senior Analyst with EUISS, explained how the world now finds itself confronted with a completely new paradigm of international migration. Global migration is here to stay: connectivity and demography, insecurity and instability are shaping a new and rapidly evolving world (dis)order and these dynamics will have a major impact on Europe. A balanced policy debate on the challenges and opportunities migration is creating, starting with its wider foreign policy implications, is still lacking. The devolution of global power means that a new strategy on migration and refugees will need to focus mainly on the world beyond the EU’s borders, providing people with opportunities as close to home as possible.
By way of conclusion, Andrey Kovatchev, Quaestor, and Member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, reiterated clearly and firmly that all human rights agreed under UN conventions are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and that respect for these rights must be enforced. He called upon the EU and its Member States to honour the commitments made at the high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, which took place on 19 September 2016. Member States could increase their support to UN peacekeeping and peace building operations that include a human rights component and clear exit strategies. The EU, in view of a deepening of its multilateral relations with the UN, could further develop procedures for the use of an EU Common Security and Defence Policy in support of UN operations, including through the deployment of EU battlegroups, or through capacity building and security sector reform initiatives, while paying sufficient attention to issues such as human rights, sustainable development and the root causes of mass migration. In addition to diplomacy, Europe could perhaps consider creating a ‘common European army’ which could be involved in preventing new civil wars, violence of all nature, encourage democracy, good governance and the respect of the rule of law.
What are the next steps? The Declaration of New York reaffirms and reinforces major principles: first and foremost, the importance of adhering to the international protection regime, the 1951 Refugee Convention and its additional protocol, human rights and humanitarian law. States specifically acknowledge that protection of refugees and assistance of host countries are a shared international responsibility. This is very important, given that this notion has been contested in recent years. The European Union will be able and willing to play a positive role in the negotiations that the United Nations are going to launch in order to adopt the global compact for refugees and the global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration in 2018.