Statement by Professor Mattei, on behalf of the IFRC delegation, at the 31st International Conference’s Migration Commission, in Geneva.
Mr President, Mr Secretary, Honourable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As members of this Commission are aware, the IFRC is at the forefront of humanitarian issues relating to migration and displacement. This topic is regularly discussed during our statutory meetings and in the many conferences organised on these issues.
Guided by our fundamental principles and by our Policy on Migration, our global network of 187 National Societies provides, in all circumstances, humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable migrants at all stages of their migratory trail. However as our world is in constant change it is important to address today’s most crucial and pressing issues.
Indeed, affected by globalisation, migration now pose new challenges and the recent events in the Mediterranean region illustrate the increase of tensions brought about by rising migrations flows. How can we remain untouched by the sight of men, women and children sailing towards the island of Lampedusa in hope of a better life in Europe? How can anyone not be horrified by all the dead, whose lives were literally wrecked by their journey, found beached on the coasts? Whatever the reasons are, we cannot stay indifferent when facing the distress of these human beings risking their lives to flee their home country!
The increase in movements of populations is a reality. As a response, the European and national migratory laws and policies have been strengthened, pushing migrants into situations of extreme vulnerability and flouting their fundamental humanitarian rights.
It is to promote respect for these rights and for the needs of the most vulnerable that humanitarian actors provide assistance to all migrants. This help is unconditional because the duty of humanity is above all other considerations and because the humanity of a person does not depend on which borders he or she crosses.
Because our principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality guide our actions, we have a duty to assist these persons in distress, irrespective of their nationality, administrative or legal status, and for as long as they will need us. This is simply because they each hold, like every one of us, a piece of the one and only Humanity that we are all sharing. These elements are all clearly underlined in our declaration “Together for Humanity” made at the previous International Conference.
With regards to migrants who also happen to be unaccompanied minor, we consider that their status as children in danger should prevail in any foreign situation. To protect them is a moral duty, along with giving them the best possible conditions to grow up and become responsible adults, as provided for in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
In the field these principles are too often faced with obstacles that prevent humanitarian organisations from fulfilling their role. In this regard, major legal instruments are not applied – among which the UN Convention (1990) and the European Pact (2008).
Even more problematic, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers has not been ratified by the European Union! And what to make of the judicial dispositions that prevent people, no matter if they have papers or not, from access to goods and services of basic necessities, in particular access to health? Discrimination, exclusion and violence exacerbate vulnerabilities, making our action even more difficult.
Migration issues require harmonised actions and policies at the international level because migration, by definition, does not know any frontiers! Every vulnerable person need free access to humanitarian organisations, and humanitarian organisations always need to be able to have access to vulnerable persons. This requirement is essential.
Principles such as the protection of children or the respect for fundamental rights need to be upheld as an adamant imperative. Advocacy for the respect of diversity, non violence and social integration need to change mentalities, the same goes for the fight against racism and xenophobia. We still need to intensity our advocacy efforts on these matters.
We need to call upon States to provide National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as auxiliary to their public authorities and based on the Geneva Conventions, and other humanitarian organisations with the means to provide the best assistance possible to vulnerable migrants.
This Commission presents an opportunity for States and components of the Movement to strongly commit to be engaged into tangible actions. To this aim, we invite all the members of the Conference to adopt a resolution which would encourage States to set up the legal framework that would allow National Societies to fulfil more effectively their mission.
As it has done for over a century, the Red Cross Red Crescent will continue to assist vulnerable migrants whatever their circumstances. However, we achieve this aim even better if we are not alone and if we have built strong and effective partnerships.
Migration is a key topic. It brings back the never ending conflict between the civil law and the moral law... We believe it is today possible, not only to resolve this conflict, but to find a better balance between these elements by placing the humanitarian dimension of migration at the centre of the debate. The key is there: we need to harmonise laws, simply because they relate to human beings! It is time to gather our forces through humanitarian diplomacy, to rediscover advocacy work, each one of us with their own words and in their own countries. Together we can change the world!