Brussels, 10 February 2017- UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomed today renewed commitments taken at this week’s Senior Officials’ Meeting on migration in Valletta, Malta, and called for the full inclusion of refugees in all migration-related EU actions.
“I am encouraged by the reiterated engagement taken by EU officials in Valetta to promote the principles of solidarity, shared responsibility and respect for international obligations in migration management,” said Vincent Cochetel, Director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau.
“However, to ensure proper migration management, it is vital to recognize the mixed nature of migratory flows within the African continent and from the African continent to Europe and to provide differentiated responses,” he said.
“While refugees and migrants often move along the same routes, refugees are different; they cannot return to their home countries. Denying their right to claim asylum can have deadly consequences,” he stressed.
The Senior Officials’ Meeting was organized in Malta on 8-9 February 2017 to follow-up to last year's Valletta Summit on Migration.
“Refugees must be included in all priority actions undertaken by the EU,” stressed Cochetel, noting that “strong protection safeguards, the respect of international obligations by all States, as well as the prospect for solutions should be at the heart of any EU-funded action.”
“Initiatives that aim at strengthening resilience, self-reliance and economic opportunities should go hand in hand with the development of solid asylum systems and protection programs, including in transit countries,” he added.
Cochetel also underscored the need for a comprehensive and better-coordinated approach in EU-funded projects and actions to maximize their impact and ensure that the five priorities defined in the Valetta Plan of Action in November 2015* are adequately funded.
“The commitment taken at the Senior Officials’ Meeting to further promote legal migration is positive, but it must promptly be translated into reality, with a rapid increase in safe and legal pathways to Europe,” he said. “In particular, unnecessary obstacles to family reunification must be swiftly removed. Resettlement opportunities in the EU remain limited, almost virtual,” he added, noting that during the past three years, the EU has only resettled 55 vulnerable refugees from Ethiopia
Cochetel also welcomed the recognition, by officials at the summit, of the necessity to address the root causes of migration movements and to fight human trafficking. “However, approaches to combatting human smuggling and trafficking should not be prejudicial to the right to see asylum and will only be truly successful if legal pathways to safety are accessible to refugees,” he noted.
The UN official also called for a dialogue on child protection to help find practical solutions to the plight of unaccompanied and separated children, including through identification, family tracing, family reunion and reintegration. “The best interest of the child must prevail in any situation, he said.
- Cécile Pouilly, email@example.com, +41 79 108 26 25