The Mediterranean Crisis in a Global Context: A New Look at Migration & Development Approaches

On 15 July 2015, the Turkish Chair of the 2014-15 Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) convened the GFMD Thematic Meeting on The Mediterranean Crisis in a Global Context: A New Look at Migration and Development Approaches" at the Palais’ D’Egmont in Brussels.

Around 100 representatives from governments, international organizations and the civil society participated and brought into the discussions the points of view of origin, transit, and destination countries, with the end in view of managing and ultimately resolving the crisis.

In opening the meeting, Ambassador Mehmet Samsar, representing the Turkish GFMD Chair, remarked that the Mediterranean crisis has largely been dealt within the humanitarian framework and law enforcement and border protection framework. As current GFMD Chair, Turkey aimed to encourage a broader focus on the Mediterranean challenge to include the development framework as well, which considers the potential benefits of facilitating migrants’ entry in a safe, legal, and orderly way.

This objective supports a key goal of the Turkish Chairmanship, which is to enhance the focus of migration management on the rights, dignity, and well-being of the migrant, and to foster pragmatic partnerships between countries of origin, destination, and transit, as well as non-governmental partners.  As host to some 2 million Iraqi and Syrian refugees, Turkey feels very acutely the need for international solidarity around this issue.

The first session on “Situating the Mediterranean Crisis in a Global Context” underscored the fact that the Mediterranean crisis is not a problem of Europe alone, but also of Africa and other neighboring regions. Thus, it underlined the GFMD’s potential in promoting not only a genuine dialogue and exchange of concrete policies and programs, but also partnerships and a sense of shared responsibility among concerned states and other actors.

Speakers included Mr. Peter Sutherland, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for International Migration, Mr. Pierre Vimont, Personal Representative of the EU Council President for Preparation of the EU-Africa Summit (Valetta), Mr. Götz Schmidt-Bremme, Director for Legal and Consular Affairs including Migration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Germany and Ambassador Selim Yenel, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the EU. They posited, inter alia, that the solution to the Mediterranean crisis must be cooperative and comprehensive --involving all countries from the origin to destination and endpoints in between throughout the migrant’s journey – and must be in the spirit of shared responsibility. They also stressed the importance of building on existing engagements and processes instead of inventing new modalities to address the problem.

Session 2 on “A Migration and Development Perspective on the Mediterranean Crisis” explored how development assistance and cooperation can help increase the capacity of host states to provide protection and livelihood opportunities—including avenues for cooperation with destination countries . As well, the session looked at how host countries protect the human rights of migrants and recognize valid refugee protection needs while working

with countries of origin to fulfill their responsibilities to their own citizens. Speakers included

Ms. Yanit Tefera Habtemariam from the Ethiopian Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, Mr. Markus Reisle, Head of the Global Program on Migration and Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Mr. James L. Sharp, Director, Migration, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Ms. Karin Eriksen, Program Coordinator for the RDPP in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark.

The last session on “Strengthening the Framework for International Cooperation” illuminated some lessons from successful negotiated frameworks for the resolution of mixed flows involving refugees and migrants, notably the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese Refugees (CPA) and the International Conference on Central American Refugees (CIREFCA). It amplified the need to forge a global and comprehensive approach to addressing refugee and mixed migration situations, which should include such elements as robust state-led search-and-rescue operations with a clear humanitarian and lifesaving mandate, specific but differentiated responsibilities of states at the regional level, provision of more legal and safe options for movement, finding workable models to support States experiencing migratory pressures, and raising awareness about the dangers of engaging smugglers and traveling by sea.

The session featured as speakers Mr. Federico Soda, Director, Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, International Organization for Migration; Mr. José Riera, Senior Advisor to the Director, Department of International Protection, UNHCR; Mr. Ralph Genetzke, Head of Mission, International Centre for Migration and Policy Development; and Mr. Bruce Scoffield, Minister Counsellor for Humanitarian Affairs, Canadian Mission to the United Nations Organizations in Geneva.

Ms. Kathleen Newland, co-founder and Board of Trustees member of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) moderated all sessions. The MPI lent support to the Turkish GFMD Chair in organizing this thematic meeting.