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"Managing the Humanitarian Consequences of Migration" - Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the World Economic Forum, Davos, 30 January 1993

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"Managing the Humanitarian Consequences of Migration" - Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the World Economic Forum, Davos, 30 January 1993

30 January 1993
IntroductionTowards a Comprehensive ApproachComprehensive European refugee strategy


1. 18 million refugees and possibly another 15 million internally displaced people worldwide. Asylum seekers in Western Europe have steadily increased from around 70,000 in 1983 to over 750,000 in 1992.

Growing migratory and refugee pressures from the South, deepening conflict in the Balkans, economic upheaval in eastern Europe, rising costs of cumbersome asylum procedures as well as the move towards European integration have led European governments to review their refugee policies and practices, begin harmonising, introduce measures to control entry (fines against airlines, visa requirements, accelerated procedures, streamlined criteria, etc.).

In the short term numbers of those seeking entry in most European countries are actually falling, but how effective are such measures in the long term? To what extent are they taking account of demographic patterns and labour market perspectives? What effect are they likely to have on other countries and regions? In other words, are such measures part of the solution or could they in time add to the problem? (Migratory movement to the Gulf, especially from South Asia).

Towards a Comprehensive Approach

2. A humanitarian strategy for managing population movements cannot be based on immigration control alone, but must take into account inter-relationship and complexity of causes: a mix of political instability, resurgent ethnic tensions, growing population pressure, environmental degradation, poverty, debt burden, etc.

3. End of Cold War has opened the way for comprehensive approach. Focus no longer only on exodus and country of asylum, but also on country of origin, prevention of flows and return of refugees. In Central America, Cambodia and Mozambique, political, humanitarian, economic and social concerns have been brought together in comprehensive peace settlements, within which new refugees strategies are being developed for the return and rehabilitation of refugees and prevention of new displacement.

Regional examples:

Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) in Southeast Asia: how to reverse the flow of Vietnamese boat people who were increasingly fleeing poverty rather persecution? The CPA developed measures to distinguish refugees from economic migrants, resettled refugees in western countries, but at the same time helped non-refugees to return to Vietnam, with economic assistance for reintegration and internationally monitored guarantees of safety.

CIREFCA in Central America: objective to promote solutions mainly through voluntary repatriation to country of origin. Guarantees for safety, modalities for return and assistance for reintegration were developed in a comprehensive framework linked to the political peace-making process and the overall economic development plans for the region.

Comprehensive European refugee strategy

4. Europe must develop its own comprehensive strategy, in order to a) address Europe's refugee problem, and b) reaffirm Europe's leadership role and solidarity with the global refugee problem. Some elements of comprehensive strategy, which are inter-linked:

i) protection for refugees: firstly, through a liberal interpretation of 1951 Convention relating to the Status for Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Secondly, when massive numbers are displaced by war or generalised violence, devising more flexible concepts of temporary protection, based on admission for temporary stay, humane treatment and eventually safe return when conditions permit, e.g. former Yugoslavia.

ii) fair, efficient and expeditious procedures to differentiate between refugees and non-refugees, and an effective system for return of rejected asylum-seekers. (At Davos last year I proposed a humane code of conduct for the return of rejected asylum seekers).

iii) immigration policies which recognize the demographic patterns and labour needs of Europe as well as the aspirations of poorer countries in the East and South.

iv) greater assistance to refugee programmes in other parts of the world. UNHCR's needs will exceed US$1 billion for the third exceptional year - funds are needed to support poorer countries of asylum and also countries of origin to which refugees are returning (e.g. Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique).

v) promotion of human rights, particularly of minorities, and development encompassing development assistance, trade, debt relief, and investment to enhance the economic growth: preventive measures.

vi) better public information to create a more positive image of refugees in the West, and to educate potential immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees of the possibilities and limits of migration.

vii) political will to bring together all these elements and the various actors - governmental, inter - governmental and non-governmental. (Pleased to note Conclusion of European Council in Edinburgh recognises the complex and diverse root causes of population movements and the need for coordinated action between foreign policy, economic cooperation and immigration and asylum policies.)