One of the main outcomes of the UN General Assembly in 2016 was a declaration demanding for greater international cooperation on managing migration widely endorsed, including the EU, but also criticized by NGOs for lack of clear commitment in putting forward the need to step up in the protection of displaced persons and the most vulnerable in national policies.
One of the most important moments of this General Assembly was the speech of the Secretary General at the side event on migration, where the main topic discuss was indeed the progress achieved in this area.
The Secretary General supported strongly the two global compacts to be adopted in 2018, for refugees and for other migrants. He also outlines what in his opinion are the five priority areas on which to focus efforts in the next year.
The first priority would be, in his words, “re-establish the integrity of the refugee protection regime”. Underlying the difficulties to guarantee a safe and dignified return to most of refugees and the obligation under international law to grant protection to refugees, he stressed that the respect of human rights of people on the move is a duty, and not a choice.
Aware of the misleading use that politician do of the errors made in managing migration, he recalled the importance to focus on reinforcing legal migration and avoid dramatic and unproven cases against the “threats” that migration would create. “Many of the negative perceptions about so-called “economic migrants” fuel xenophobia and intolerance, but are based on false assumptions and poor analysis.
The biggest threat that exists is indeed towards the safety of migrants themselves, especially the most vulnerable, which is another focus should be the fight against human traffickers and smugglers.
He also recalled that the vast majority of refugees are hosted by developing countries, and that south-South migration exceeds South-North. The media has a critical role to play here, distinguishing fact from fiction and deconstructing stereotypes that have long outgrown any basis in reality.