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Tackling Migrant Trafficking Crisis Will Require Exceptional, Coordinated Response, Senior European Union Official Tells Security Council

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7439th Meeting (AM)
Security Council
Meetings Coverage

Addressing the growing crisis of migrant trafficking — exemplified by the recent tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea — was a shared international responsibility that required a complex combination of efforts, the Security Council heard today, as speakers stressed the need for concerted action in source, transit and destination countries.

In terms of deaths of migrants trying to reach Europe by sea, the year 2015 looked to be even worse than 2014, when some 3,300 migrants had perished, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told the 15-member body. “Our first priority is to save lives,” she said, adding that the plight of migrants was “an exceptional situation that requires an exceptional and coordinated response”. It was critical to address the root causes of the crisis, which included poverty, conflict and human rights abuses. “There is no one magic solution.”

The European Union, she said, was ready to address the root causes of the crisis in close partnership with the countries in the region and with the wider international community, including the Security Council. The issue needed to be addressed in a comprehensive way, tackling the root causes in both countries of origin and transit. The Union would do its part, and had already discussed ways to deal with recent tragedies. In two days it would present a new strategy on migration, including ways to better manage migration, stronger resettlement efforts among them. “If we close the door to all, people will come through the windows,” she noted.

There was a need to work on the “whole set of issues”, she continued. Tackling one aspect alone would not lead to a solution. On 23 April, the European Union had taken efforts to disrupt human trafficking and smuggling networks, including by tripling resources to the Triton and Poseidon operations. On 18 May, a new European Common Security and Defence Policy would be discussed, including ways to tackle human trafficking and smuggling. “We want to work with the United Nations, in particular the Security Council,” she said, adding that it was the firm intention of her delegation to always respect human rights and international humanitarian law. “We are taking responsibility, we are working hard and fast, but we do not want to — and we cannot — work alone,” she stressed.

While the situation was not all about Libya, the vast majority of human trafficking and smuggling this month would happen through that country, she said. As long as there was no unity Government that would govern all parts of Libya, including its maritime borders, human smuggling and trafficking would continue to occur. The European Union was, therefore, supporting the process of creating a national unity Government in that country, and partnerships had been stepped up with Mali, Tunisia, and other States in the region. Welcoming the summit on migration slated to take place in Malta in autumn, she said that the Union was ready to do its part. “This has to be a common global effort,” she reiterated, calling on Member States to “help us stop crying and stop feeling ashamed”.

Téte António, Permanent Observer for the African Union, said the ever-increasing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean should serve as a wake-up call for the world to seek the causes and find the appropriate response. Since the massive increase in migrants could not be divorced from the conflicts and humanitarian crises in Libya and the wider Sahel, any solution would need to take them into account.

He said that “push factors”, such as climate change, lack of progress in inter-African mobility, and the digital gap, resulted in the emergence of criminals gangs, which presented a threat to African and international security and stability. Solutions must be rooted in the principles of humanity, solidarity, burden sharing, international human rights, and humanitarian law, he said, stressing the role of coordinated partnership among stakeholders such as the African Union, European Union and concerned countries.

It was also important to step up collective efforts towards identifying root causes, realizing the development agenda and moving towards a more just international system, he said. Immigration by refugees from war was protected by international law, he said, noting that many refugees fled the impact of global warming and water scarcity. That revealed gaps in existing international instruments and underscored the urgency of including migration as part of the post-2015 agenda. The African Union was fully aware of its responsibilities and was ready to assume its share in cooperation with the other stakeholders.

Another critical issue was the political impact of immigration to host countries and an increase in xenophobia, he said, adding that more Africans moved within their region than migrated to other parts of the world. Therefore, the international community should acknowledge and support regional integration efforts in Africa.

Peter Sutherland, United Nations Special Representative for International Migration, said a collective response to the crisis required the following priorities: saving lives and safeguarding the human rights of refugees; law enforcement actions against traffickers and smugglers; radically increased safe avenues of refugee resettlement, family reunion and labour migration; greater solidarity with countries closer to conflicts; and an intensified effort to end the conflicts and stem development failures.

He stressed the need to make the most effective use of international collective experience and operational capacity through dialogue among the United Nations, regional organizations and Governments, especially in source, transit and destination countries. An effective strategy, including in the context of a Security Council resolution, began with the immediate need to save lives. “If we do not frame our response in this way, it would represent a moral failure of the first order, one that would undermine international law and security.”

Even if there was success in thwarting the smugglers, however, the world would still have trapped asylum seekers and migrants in some countries without access to protection, education, health care or livelihoods, he said. Refugee resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission were the safest, most organized means of providing protection, but were underused. More resettlement countries and quotas must be made available and more aid provided to countries close to conflict zones. “We speak of root causes, but what we really need are root solutions.”

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:41 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.