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Addressing refugee and migrant movements: the role of EU External Action

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Published on Apr 6, 2017

In 2015 over one million people arrived on Europe’s shores by irregular means. These people have fled war, famine, repressive dictatorships, economic hardship or a mixture of all of those combined. Their arrival has clearly sparked a huge debate in our societies as to where it is right to draw the line between compassion to those seeking a better life versus our actual political and financial capabilities to provide such relief.

I am convinced personally that, in many respects, the Geneva Convention is ill—suited to the modern globalised world, and that reform is vital if we are to maintain support for its key tenets of providing temporary safe haven to those most in need. Rather than seeking to offer opportunities to the few that reach Europe, the majority is better served by support for economic and political developments in the countries that they are leaving.

The Valletta Action Plan recognises this and I welcome the EEAS’s efforts to support state—building and development goals. Furthermore, its efforts to secure readmission agreements with third countries like Turkey, and support for the CSDP naval Operation Sophia Mediterranean against people smugglers, are also very welcome, to stop illegal migration to Europe. Europe’s neighbours are seeing a rapid population increase, a lack of job creation and, in Africa in particular, are increasingly troubled by future effects of climate change. Clearly more needs to be done to defend Europe’s external borders, but we cannot ignore, nor insulate ourselves from, the reasons that are pushing people to leave their homes in the first place.

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