Remarks by Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, New York, 14 September 2006
Some of you may be asking "Why is the international refugee organization participating in this High-Level Dialogue?" It is true that refugees and migrants are different. Why then is UNHCR here, and why is it concerned with the issue of migration? Does UNHCR want to be a migration agency?
The answer is, of course, "No". But at the same time, movements of people around the world are becoming more and more complex, and oblige UNHCR to play a proactive role.
Much of the migration we see today is not, in essence, refugee movements. But the movement of people with a need for protection and asylum is a feature of many of today's migratory patterns, whether across land borders, or across the sea in the Gulf of Aden, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and elsewhere around the globe. The phenomenon of mixed movements, stranded would-be migrants or those congregating in coastal cities and along borders, is growing.
This requires us to have physical access to people moving along these channels, where genuine asylum-seekers may use the same means and routes as migrants, even if these are illicit. It also requires us to ensure that refugees have access to national asylum procedures, and that those procedures are respected.
Mixed population movements mean also that protection capacity must be enhanced, and not just at the points of arrival. To respond to the phenomenon along borders and on the high seas, this capacity must extend from the places of origin, through countries of transit, to final destinations. Strengthening protection necessarily includes partnerships, building national capacities and innovative burden sharing arrangements.
UNHCR views its own role extending beyond advocacy. As a protection agency, we can provide practical support to States, for example, to build their capacity to protect and assist, to help to identify those in need of protection within broader movements, to provide country-of-origin information, and to use our good offices to promote burden-sharing arrangements, including a resettlement component.
Globalisation is a fact of life. But it is an asymmetric phenomenon that exacerbates existing disparities and disadvantages. Services and finance move almost unimpeded: goods, less freely. But persons much less so - except in certain cases. The law of supply and demand is also a fact of life, and where labour cannot move legally it does so illegally.
Globalisation is a fact of life, bit is an asymmetric phenomenon that exacerbates existing disparities and disadvantages.
The law of supply and demand is also a fact of life, and where labour cannot move legally it does so illegally.
Protection problems are increased by the absence of coherent migration policies and dearth of effective international programmes to address the root causes of mass migration, such as the despair caused by tremendous poverty. In order to guarantee humane migration, it is important to support economic development efforts in countries of origin, along with capacity-building efforts in both areas of departure and arrival. It is also crucial to acknowledge that population flows, like globalisation, are not about to disappear, and to devise effective programmes to manage them legally and create genuine opportunities. Refugees and returnees can also contribute to economic recovery and growth.
population flows, like globalisation, are not about to disappear
Waiting for this increasingly complex picture to sort itself out will simply mean that those in need of asylum will go unprotected, irregular migration accompanied by human smuggling and trafficking in persons will increase, racism and xenophobia will grow and the positive impacts of migration will be harder to realize. This High-Level Dialogue is, in itself, recognition that no State can be effective in reaping the benefits of migration acting in isolation, and no State should be left to face this alone.
1. Promoting the building of partnerships and capacity-building and the sharing of best practices at all levels, including the bilateral and regional levels, for the benefit of countries and migrants alike.