News > Event Report: Tackling the Root Causes of Migration

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Promoting fundamental rights

Event Report: Tackling the Root Causes of Migration

On 2 February 2017, the European Movement organised an event approaching the migration crisis from the development perspective. The event kicked-off a broader series of events to discuss the EU’s response to mass population movements (the next event takes place in March).

Jo Leinen MEP, President of the European Movement International, welcomed the distinguished speakers and gave context to the importance of the issue, with the focus at the Malta summit, taking place the following day, being on migration.

In a keynote speech, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, stressed that migration has always been and will continue to be a part of Europe and we should continue to look into the reasons for people migrating. He also noted that in the past century Europeans have sought and found sanctuary in the Middle East, for instance. The question should therefore not be how to stop migration, but rather how to reduce the pressure on people to migrate by reducing poverty and creating real opportunities in the countries of origin.

The Commissioner held that the notion of root causes is complex and that while there are no simple solutions, development has a central role to play. Through the EU trust fund irregular migration should be tackled and by strengthening existing partnerships, responsibilities will be shared.

Judith Sargentini MEP, part of the development committee in the European Parliament, and shadow rapporteur on several migration files, pointed out that, apart from the fact that economic growth leads to more migration as it enables more people to do so, the Commission’s policies are unlikely to help the countries in question to develop. The Dutch Green MEP noted that, instead of being used to eradicate poverty, a large part of the development budget is invested in training and equipping border control, thereby strengthening the ‘fortress Europe’. Sargentini further stated that there is a need for predictability and reliability of development flows which is often overlooked in a migration-focused approach. It seems unacceptable to her that the EU has not been able to improve the situation of legal routes for migrants since 2015.

Claire Seaward, Humanitarian Campaign and Advocacy Manager at Oxfam International made the case for safeguarding development programmes that aim to reduce poverty and uphold human rights, in a context of heavy political pressure for migration control. Development programmes must, moreover, be checked against mistakes in their design which could trigger unintentional consequences. Seaward further emphasised that the EU is a role model in how it deals with the migration crisis and has a responsibility to take leadership on justice and humanity and to be bold enough to withstand political pressure.

Ester Asin, Director and EU Representative at Save the Children International gave input from a human rights perspective. She stressed that the human rights dialogue is all too often overlooked. By way of example, in the European Agenda on migration the term “border” is mentioned 44 times, while the term “human rights” is not mentioned at all. For the moment there are fundamental rights gaps persisting even within Europe which needs to change.

Following the panellists interventions, a question from the audience focussed on whether or not development aid should be used in conjunction within migration control. The panellists were divided on the relative merits of diverting funds on this basis.


Read the full speech delivered by the Commissioner

Take a look at the photos from the event:

02.02.2017 Tackling the Root Causes of Migration

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