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PM calls for a new global approach to respond to unmanaged migration

Theresa May will today call for a better approach to global migration when she attends the UN General Assembly.

Attending her first UN General Assembly ministerial week, the Prime Minister will argue that alongside stepping up our efforts on humanitarian assistance and development, the international community needs to build a more effective policy approach – addressing the root causes of forced displacement, providing proper protection for refugees and reducing today’s unmanaged population movement.

The refugee and migration crisis is set to dominate this year’s gathering of leaders from the UN General Assembly – Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, will chair a high level meeting today on the large scale movement of refugees and migrants and tomorrow President Obama will host a Leaders Summit on refugees.

The Prime Minister is expected to make keynote interventions at both events, reflecting the leading role the UK has played in providing assistance to refugees and seeking innovative and durable solutions to protracted crises as we did at the Syria conference earlier this year.

At today’s meeting, the Prime Minister will warn that the uncontrolled mass migration we are seeing across the world today is not in the interests of the migrants, who are exposed to exploitation and danger; nor the interests of the countries they are leaving, travelling through or seeking to reach; and nor does it best serve refugees, for whom resources and popular support are reduced.

The Prime Minister will urge leaders to have an open debate about what more we can do to better address the problem and thus avoid undermining the benefits that controlled, legal and safe migration can bring to our economies, and ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches refugees and those who need it most.

As UN countries gear up for 2 years of negotiations on new politically binding compacts on refugees and migrants, the PM will seek to put down an early marker by proposing three specific principles that should guide our approach:

  • A first safe country. This would help to ensure that refugees claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, recognising that the current trend of onward movement benefits criminal gangs, exposes people to grave danger and reduces the prospects of them ever returning home to rebuild their countries.
  • Better distinction between refugees and economic migrants - recognising that a failure to do so only encourages more people to put their lives in the hands of criminal gangs and undertake dangerous journeys.
  • The right of all countries to control their borders and the responsibility to manage borders to reduce onward flows illegal and uncontrolled migration.

Speaking ahead of UNGA, the Prime Minister said:

Across the world today, we are seeing unprecedented levels of population movement and we need to work together to find a better response, which focuses our humanitarian efforts on those refugees in desperate need of protection and maintains public confidence in the economic benefits of legal and controlled migration.

This is an urgent matter – more people are displaced than at any point in modern history and it is vital that we provide ongoing support for those people most in need of protection. As the world’s second-largest bilateral humanitarian donor, the UK is already playing its part and we will step up our efforts with further financial assistance and concrete action in partnership with the countries most affected.

But we cannot simply focus on treating the symptoms of this crisis, we need to address its root causes too. While we must continue our efforts to end conflict, stop persecution and the abuse of human rights, I believe we also need a new, more effective global approach to manage migration. This should be based around three principles which will better serve the interests of migrants, who are exposed to danger; the interests of the countries they are leaving, travelling through or seeking to reach; and, most importantly, the interests of refugees, for whom we all share a responsibility to help.

The government fully supports the New York Declaration on refugees and migrants which is due to be adopted this week and we now want to focus efforts on turning these commitments into reality.

We believe this requires more practical co-operation, building on the fundamental international legal instruments governing refugee rights and states’ responsibilities (the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol).

Alongside this, the United Kingdom will continue to play a leading role supporting refugees around the world, with the Prime Minister expected to announce later this week additional humanitarian support from the government’s ring-fenced aid budget as well as further action to provide services and create jobs in host countries.

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