On the eve of the launch of the presentation of the European Commission’s new Pact on Migration and Asylum, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and IOM, the International Organization for Migration, are appealing to the European Union (EU) to ensure a truly joint and principled approach that addresses all aspects of migration and asylum governance. The two UN bodies are hopeful that the Pact will provide a fresh start to move from an ad hoc crisis-driven approach to asylum and migration in Europe to a common one that is more comprehensive, well-managed and predictable, both within and beyond the EU. With relatively few new arrivals of refugees and migrants to Europe, now is the time for common action.
Recent events across the Mediterranean, including delays in disembarking migrants and refugees rescued at sea, increasing reports of push-backs and the devastating fires at the Moria Registration and Identification Centre (RIC) on the Greek island of Lesvos, have further highlighted the urgent need to reform the EU’s management of migration and asylum. COVID-19 has also heavily affected relevant policies and practices, and its detrimental socio-economic impact has not spared anyone. Refugees, migrants and large refugee hosting countries around the world, have been particularly affected.
The current approach in the EU is unworkable, untenable and often carries devastating human consequences. With the lack of EU-wide agreement on disembarkation exacerbating human suffering, the organizations have been jointly calling for a common EU action to take responsibility for search and rescue, and for disembarking people rescued at sea. IOM and UNHCR strongly agree with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that saving lives at sea is not optional; a welcome assertion made in her State of the Union address. The organizations also extend concern for those along all migration routes who find themselves endangered, including on land. Saving lives must be the priority and should not be impeded or criminalized.
UNHCR and IOM have also called for more predictable arrangements on relocation within the EU, and actively supported recent relocations from the Greek islands, working with the Greek Government, the European Commission, EASO and UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund. The relocation of vulnerable people, including children, especially at a time of heightened hardship, has proven to be a workable example of responsibility sharing.
“The Pact presents the opportunity for Europe to show that it can uphold the fundamental right to asylum, while cooperating on pragmatic policies to identify those in need of international protection and share responsibility for them,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “We will welcome genuine efforts to ensure a fast, fair and effective protection regime in Europe, and pledge our full support and expertise to the European Commission and Member States in making it a reality.”
Most migration to Europe is managed through safe and legal channels, and the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the value of migrant and refugee workers in the EU and elsewhere. Their contributions and potential should be maximized. Well-managed human mobility will not only be instrumental in recovering from the pandemic, however. It should also be mainstreamed and inform longer-term policy and responses, including to climate change, as well as support flexible and dynamic labour markets.
“People on the move can be part of the solution. We are looking forward to the new Pact as an opportunity for Europe to reimagine the governance of migration and human mobility as safe, orderly, inclusive and human rights centred.” said Antonio Vitorino, IOM Director General. “A balanced, principled and comprehensive approach recognizes that migration is a human reality to be managed towards mutually beneficial ends. It will also be important for the EU to ensure that longer-term policy is coherent in its internal and external aspects, is rooted in genuine partnerships, and aligned with existing international frameworks and agreements,” he added.
Progress on fighting smuggling and enhancing humanitarian border management can be achieved with equal attention and resources devoted to strengthening and broadening legal migration and safe pathways, genuine partnerships, integration and building prosperous, healthy, cohesive communities. It can also reduce the demand that feeds the business of criminal smuggling groups. Investing in regular migration channels and enhanced mobility will also be essential to sustainable development and growth in the EU and elsewhere.
Dignified returns, for those who wish to return to their countries of origin or who are found not to be in need of international or other forms of protection, are equally crucial to a well-managed, comprehensive system. Voluntary returns should be prioritized and include provisions for sustainable reintegration. Some migrants, including victims of trafficking, sexual abuse and unaccompanied children, who are found not in need of asylum may have a legitimate need for other forms of assistance and protection.
The EU’s commitment to predictable global solidarity and responsibility sharing in partnership with large refugee-hosting countries outside the EU is also welcomed. This commitment has to be translated into action with additional, predictable and flexible financial assistance and political support to hosting states, including to strengthen their asylum systems. This will ensure migrants and refugees have adequate access to services, such as health, education and work, so they can live their lives in dignity. More strategic support to countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees or transit countries would also diminish the appeal of being smuggled.
With a viable future and greater commitment from EU countries to resettlement, complementary pathways and family reunification, coupled with the conditions to ensure direct access to territory and asylum in the EU for those who need it, fewer people might resort to dangerous journeys and states will be better able to manage arrivals.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, will present its Pact for Migration and Asylum, tomorrow, Wednesday 23 September, to EU Member States. The EU has the opportunity to ensure a united and human rights-centred Europe, where migrants and refugees can contribute their skills and resources—a Europe that leaves no one behind. UNHCR and IOM stand ready to support the EU and its Member States in line with their respective mandates and expertise.
IOM launches open South America portal
Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open South America, available in Spanish, English and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.
The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.
The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.
Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.
“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.
“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.
29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM
The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.
About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.
Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.
He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.
Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.
“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”
Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.
“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.
Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.
The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.
FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK
The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.
Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.
Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.
Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.
“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.
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