HIGH LEVEL MEETING ON LARGE MOVEMENTS OF REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS
ROUND TABLE 6
Global compact for responsibility sharing for refugees : respect for international law
INTERVENTION OF BELGIUM
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
- In 2015 Europe was confronted with the largest influx of asylum seekers since World War 2. Over 2 million people reached the European shores. Even more than the financial crisis, this is a “stress-test” for the European Union, a stress-test we are not passing without a scratch. Borders reappeared within Europe and the public opinion quickly became alarmed over the large and uncontrolled influx of migrants.
- This crisis has a large political fallout. In many European countries extreme-right parties are gaining ground fast. Also in the Brexit campaign migration was a decisive topic. In a few months we will have important elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany, countries with a growing anti-migration opposition and deeply concerned citizens.
- It is clear that if we want to prevent the European Union from collapsing -and this is not a hypothetical statement- we have to make sure that the migration chaos does not repeat itself. To achieve this we need both a better intra-European framework on asylum and migration, but also a global compact for responsibility sharing.
- The European Union managed to end the uncontrolled influx of asylum seekers from Turkey to Greece by agreeing a stronger cooperation on migration management with Turkey. This has brought the number of people losing their life in the Eastern mediterranean almost to zero. This “anti-drowning” plan, consisting of border management, humanitarian aid and resettlement, should now be extended to the whole of the Mediterranean. This year alone almost 3.000 people lost their lives trying to reach Italy. This tragedy must end now.
- Belgium is a country of destination and has a long tradition of migration. This diversity is without doubt an enriching factor, but it poses big challenges as well. Integration of newcomers is incredibly important, something our leaders focussed too little on in the past and unfortunately, as tragic events in Brussels showed, we are now paying the price for that.
Ladies and gentlemen,
- Countries of origin should respect their international obligation to take back their citizens when in illegal stay. The United Nations also have a role to play on this issue. The base line of our Belgian government’s migration policy is to protect real refugees, but at the same time be firm on those who abuse our hospitality.
- The vast majority of refugees is of course living in countries close to their countries of origin. Therefore we have a global responsibility to stand by these countries in the region.
- I believe any future compact on refugees should contain these 2 crucial elements:
- Support to refugee communities in the region
- Resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees
- Only in 2015 Belgium made over 125 million euros available for humanitarian aid to support refugees in the region. At the same time one of my first decisions as a state secretary was to double and later tripple our resettlement efforts. Of course this is a global problem which requires a global commitment. Other countries like the US or Canada have also stepped up their resettlement and humanitarian efforts, but I can not help but notice the absence of some others. Not the least some of the rich and wealthy countries in the Middle-East who are often directly or indirectly involved in the ongoing conflicts.
- The challenges we are facing today will only increase. Ongoing conflicts, demographic evolution and climate change will only higher the migration pressure on Europe. Therefore I believe we have no time to lose. We have to adapt our international framework and work together towards better solutions for both host- and refugee communities.