Project News

Vienna Migration Conference 2016: “European Migration and Refugee Policies – The Way Ahead”

14 November 2016

On 10 November the Vienna Migration Conference opened in the presence of more than 100 invited senior and high-level representatives from politics, international- and intergovernmental organisations, academia and media. The Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz, delivered the opening statement to the conference’s high-level political panel entitled "European Migration and Refugee Policies – The Way Ahead". The ICMPD Director General then led the panel discussion on "the progress, gaps and visions for better solutions…".

The high-level panellists represented a width of actors involved with current refugee and migration issues, which allowed for a multifaceted discussion that shed light on short-term and long-term challenges from different angles. The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Macedonia Nikola Poposki spoke about burden-sharing and solidarity from the perspective of  non EU-member state. George W. Vella, the upcoming chair of the EU Council Presidency and Maltese Minister for Foreign Affairs, pointed out Malta’s commitment to making migration policy a key priority given the extent to which the country was affected by the 2015 refugee crisis. The Valetta Summit was highlighted as an important first step for Malta that brought African and European actors to an agreement on further strengthening their cooperation. 

EU-Commissioner Hahn declared that the current refugee crisis has been resolved, but that the next challenges in terms of migration lie ahead as the African continent’s population grows without the prospects for job growth. Laura Thompson, Deputy Director General of IOM, also referred to the job-situation albeit from a different angle. She highlighted some of the major pull factors, namely low-wage jobs in Europe that are difficult to fill with nationals. As long as these factors existed any migration policies would be doomed to fail. 

Lamberto Zannier, Secretary General of the OSCE and Michael Lindenbauer, UNHCR Regional Representative for Western Europe added to the discussion with the perspectives of the international organisations that they represent. Zannier pointed to the security related issues that may arise from migration flows such as in 2015 and called for safe and orderly migration policies as well as for stronger cooperation between international actors. Michael Lindenbauer emphasised that the recently adopted New York Declaration had been not only a milestone in its own right, but also a recommitment to the Geneva Convention. 

The current critical situation, however, is not only linked to the spike in the number of people displaced by conflict, but also reveals what happens when migration policies are not aligned with the economic, demographic, and social realities of today’s world. The lack of legal migration avenues, for example, pushed economic migrants to overburden the European protection system with asylum claims in order to be able to stay. With the spike in the arrival of refugees in 2015, the existing migration structures broke down, unable to handle a critical situation they were not designed to withstand.

The last panellist was Dr. Demetrios Papademetriou, co-founder of the MPI (Migration Policy Institute) and President of MPI Europe. His main point was that only strong governments that are backed by their people can guarantee the protection of refugees which is why it is important not to start losing the trust of the populace. Addressing the consequences not the symptoms is what needs to be done primarily in order to achieve real systematic change. 

Before ICMPD Director General held his last remarks and summarized the results, statements were delivered by Mr. Igor Crnadak, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ms. Jana Ljubičić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Dr. Alema, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation of Afghanistan and Mr. Mihail Beregoi, State Secretary at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Moldova.

The opening of the Vienna Migration Conference 2016 was closed by Michael Spindelegger who summarized the most important points, calling for new and comprehensive migration models for safe and orderly migration that are based on solid partnership that have the potential to create real perspectives for the countries of origin of migration. This "can only be achieved through a Europe that acts in a spirit of unity and solidarity both internally and externally towards its neighbours and partners".