Project News

On the occasion of the Conference on "Security and Migration – Promoting Partnership and Resilience"

13 September 2018

Moldova (Republic of), *European Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Serbia

On 13-14 September 2018 the Austrian Ministry of Interior hosts a conference in Vienna under the auspices of its presidency of the Council of the European Union. The conference is dedicated to cooperation with third countries and is titled “Security and Migration – Promoting Partnership and Resilience”. It brings together home affairs ministers of EU member states and third countries as well as representatives of the relevant EU agencies and international organisations. 

During the first day of the meeting, the focus is on cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans and Moldova and on the second day, between the EU and North Africa. The conference addresses cooperation on inter alia migration, asylum and border protection and raises important questions regarding the future management of migration and cooperation between countries. ICMPD welcomes the conference and its timing and would like to provide input to the debate as well as support to its outcomes, based on 25 year of experience in supporting countries in migration management and cooperation. As a regional migration organisation it is one of ICMPD’s priorities to help overcome a lingering crisis mode in migration management and lay the basis for a future governance system. 

 In view of the conference, ICMPD suggests to include the following five priorities of migration partnerships in the debate:

  • improve the capacities of countries hosting large numbers of refugees,
  • support for main refugee hosting countries and create perspectives for these refugees,
  • skills matching to create perspectives for the young and skilled also involving the private sector,
  • intelligent return policies providing for successful reintegration, and
  • fostering of formal and informal cooperation on regional level – through migration dialogues and other frameworks. 

The Western Balkans belonged to the first priority region of ICMPD in the early 90s and the countries of the region have always remained close partners. Several countries of the region are among the Member States of ICMPD – Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia. 

The EU and the Western Balkans enjoy long and intense cooperation on migration matters. This is a close partnership formed first and foremost on the basis of a common history, traditions and objectives. The cooperation with the Western Balkans countries also runs against the background of their EU membership perspective and process. While still mainly countries of transit, the countries of the Western Balkans will increasingly become countries of destination of migration.

Emerging from a crisis scenario as in 2015-2016, it would be short-sighted to place focus only on isolated measures, which could only bring short-term results. It is of utmost priority to continue building comprehensive migration systems in the Western Balkans. ICMPD has focussed on migration governance  since the early 90s. Asylum policies, legal migration, entry policies and border management, measures tackling irregular migration including return policies as well as fighting migration related crime such as smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings should all be part of one overarching migration policy. The links between these areas have to be clear and the coordination between responsible units ensured. Necessary measures to protect human rights of migrants, manage borders and prevent migration related crime work best when they are part of such migration systems.

This is even more relevant against the background of the fluctuating flows through the Western Balkans earlier this year. During some months, Bosnia and Herzegovina had arrivals of several hundred migrants per day. Numbers have again gone down during summer, but these developments still serve to remind us that the migration challenges of the past years are not solved – but simply paused. Upcoming challenges cannot be overcome by temporary measures, but only by investing in strong, over-arching migration systems. ICMPD stands ready to continue supporting this process in the Western Balkans. Of course, this must be coupled with cooperation and the building of ties with countries along the migration routes. Informal governmental migration dialogues, for example the Budapest and Prague Processes, present well-tested platforms to create such networks.

Turning to the next region of focus during the two days – the Mediterranean. It is safe to say that few regions have received the same attention regarding migration as the Mediterranean - for good reason. Despite considerable efforts on both sides of the sea, the migration routes over and along it remain among the most used and probably the most deadly. In 2015, the region became, involuntarily, to provide a face to the challenges the world faces regarding migration - the desperation, the danger and the tireless efforts on both sides to both protect and prevent. 

The migration crisis of 2015/2016 propelled migration to the top of the global agenda and changed the international migration debate forever. Important developments include the addition of migration in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016 following which the global compacts have be developed - one for refugees and one for safe, orderly and regular migration. It will be interesting how these global commitments can also assist to improve migration management around the Mediterranean.

Of course, we need to step up efforts to deal with immediate challenges such as smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings and make sure that criminals cannot continue making a good living out of the misery of people. In order to break the business model of the smugglers, we need not only law enforcement, but also to ensure more effective paths to protection for people in need of it. We need to work to manage borders to in a way, which facilitates trade and mobility while improving security.  However, in order for this work to be sustainable, these areas have to, as mentioned above, be included in comprehensive systems for managing migration and also be included in a holistic set of partnership priorities. It is paramount to take a long term approach.

The next point relates to partnership. The migration challenges of the past years have prompted states to increasingly resort to unilateral actions. Unilateral actions can lead to short-term results but may led to replacement effects and are therefore not suited for long-term improvements in the field of migration. It is therefore time to reinforce cooperation and mature partnership as the preferred way forward in overcoming migration challenges.

Our vision is that people should not be forced to migrate. In order to make this vision less of an idea and more of a reality migration partnerships play a decisive role in improving migration management and cooperation. In order to do this, these partnerships must be balanced and address the interests and priorities of the partners involved. At the same time as they are addressing solutions for refugees they should include measures dealing with the actual root causes and drivers of irregular migration and ways to create legal migration perspectives. In this way, migration partnerships can be truly credible and efficient tools and represent strong frameworks to achieve migration objectives benefitting countries of origin, transit and destination - which would also help restoring trust among populations in all countries – that migration can be managed in a positive way.

In order to fulfil their strong potential, it would be useful to include the following five priorities in migration partnerships:

  • measures to improve the capacities of countries hosting large numbers of refugees,
  • more support for main refugee hosting countries and efforts to create perspectives for these refugees,
  • skills matching to create perspectives for the young and skilled also involving the private sector,
  • intelligent return policies providing for successful reintegration,
  • as well as the fostering of formal and informal cooperation on regional level – through migration dialogues and other frameworks.

Furthermore, the importance of evidence based migration policies cannot be stressed enough. We need to use clear facts and empirical research as a basis to form sound policies and avoid influences by sentiments or hearsay. It is equally important to create ways to communicate in a balanced way on migration to the public, based on facts and evidence. Only in this way can we ensure the confidence of the wider public in a longer-term migration governance approach. We believe in increasing work on communication and with media as part of a comprehensive approach and have made several positive experiences in this regard. 

To summarise, in order to improve cooperation and better prepare for future migration challenges, which were among the main questions for this event, we believe that we need to invest in the building of comprehensive systems for migration management. Flanked by broad migration partnerships and migration dialogues as tools for successful international cooperation, this is a crucial element to bring positive and lasting change in the field of migration management. We stand ready to continue supporting our friends and partners in strengthening migration systems and deepening their partnerships.