Published: 20 September 2016

Remarks to Roundtable 5

“Global Compact for safe, regular and orderly migration:

Towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

to achieve full respect for the Human Rights of Migrants”

High-level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants

New York, 19 September 2016

Mr President,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Migration is already one of the defining features of this century. The combined impact of conflicts and violence; of crises and disasters; of poverty, inequality and discrimination; and the pursuit of opportunity, are causing unprecedented numbers of people to leave their homes in search of safety, dignity and a better future for their children.

While recent attention has highlighted the plight of people fleeing to Europe, in reality we are here today to discuss a global phenomenon.

Today’s gathering is our opportunity to make a difference. We can no longer accept the pervasive indifference that has, for too long, greeted the deaths and suffering of people seeking safety and dignity. We have both a moral and legal responsibility to act together to craft a new and better response, and to begin to shift away from a dominant narrative which posits migrants as threats and burdens.

We are encouraged by the progress we have seen today towards a substantial global governance framework for migration. This new framework will be transformational if we can put it into practice on the ground. We are especially hopeful that the proposed Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will help us to bring an end to the unacceptable toll of death, deprivation and abuse that many vulnerable migrants currently face. We stand ready to contribute as needed in its development.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – through its 190 National Societies and 17 million community-based volunteers – is present at all points along migration routes, in countries of origin, transit and destination. By virtue of this global presence, we are able assist vulnerable migrants throughout their journeys, accompanying them, providing food, shelter, medical care and psychosocial support.

Our permanent community presence means that we are also uniquely placed to provide them with information, and to listen to their needs, concerns and feedback. Access to information is crucially important for migrants, and we hope it will be recognized as such in negotiations towards the compact. For people deciding to migrate, accurate and credible information can be life-saving. It can help them navigate or avoid some of the dangers they will face on their journeys, and empower them to make informed decisions. In contexts where they find themselves unwanted and shunned, it can shine a light on their rights, and guide them to support and care.

In this spirit, we recently launched the “virtual volunteer” – a web-based application that helps people migrating access reliable and practical information and support wherever they are. It is currently being used in Greece and will be progressively rolled out to other countries at all points along major migration routes.

We were glad to see the facilitation of safe and regular migration included among the UN Sustainable Development Goals, along with the recognition that, if well-managed, migration can make a significant positive contribution to growth and sustainable development.

But achieving these goals requires strong commitments to fight abuse, exploitation and human trafficking by offering safe and legal ways to migrate. In the absence of these alternatives, people will continue to turn to smugglers, and will continue to make other life-threatening and traumatic choices.

We strongly encourage world leaders to invest in efforts to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities, and to increase support for local actors and host communities. Migration is more often than not a choice of last resort. To recall the words of the British-Somali poet, Warsan Shire:

“no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land”

Having the option to raise children in a peaceful environment is the hope of every family. Making this a reality – either at home or abroad – will be critical to achieving the ambition of Agenda 2030. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stands ready to work with you, and to work with all vulnerable people on the move, to make this ambition a reality.

Thank you.