The Humanitarian Respons to Refugees in North Africa and the Mediterranean

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Geneva, 18 June 2015

State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen's statement at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc) Humanitarian Affairs Segment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The crisis we are facing in the Mediterranean is a result of multiple crisis in Africa and the Middle East.

The tragic loss of lives is affecting us all.

All of Europe needs to be involved, take responsibility and contribute to solutions.

This is not a situation for the countries on the southern borders to solve alone.

  • Under the Schengen Agreement, Europe's external borders extend from Italy in the south to Norway in the north.
  • Europe's southern borders are therefore also our borders.The crisis in the Mediterranean and the humanitarian dimensions of it – is at the top of Norway's agenda – as it is at the top of EU's agenda.

Managing migration involves a wide range of policy issues:

  • Human rights and humanitarian and development policies,
  • Border control and immigration,
  • European asylum policies and obligations,
  • Fragile states and conflict prevention,
  • The law of the sea and search and rescue regimes,
  • Security policy
  • and the fight against criminal networks and human trafficking,
  • just to mention a few.

Today we approach these issues from different perspectives. And we have yet to find a comprehensive solution.

  • Short-term responses may undermine durable solutions, but long-term policies will not save the people that are in risk of drowning today.
  • We need to act, both to save lives today and to find sustainable solutions for the long term.
  • The concern for the migrants must be at the centre of our efforts, - and
  • we must uphold human rights principles and standards according to existing mechanisms and legal conventions.

A coordinated international response is necessary.

Therefore, the Norwegian Government is carefully considering how we can complement EU efforts and support other stakeholders such as AU, UNHCR and IOM.

We have set priorities and identified policy initiatives to contribute to the response to the urgent crisis and long-term solutions:

First, we must act to save lives.

  • This needs to be our number one priority.
  • The shipping industry has done an outstanding job and rescued more than 40 000 last year.
  • Norwegian commercial vessels rescued more than 5000 migrants last year
  • They are heroes at sea. Saving fellow human beings.
  • But we cannot lay this responsibility on the shipping industry alone.
  • It has been necessary to scale up EU operations to handle the challenges and to save lives.
  • Norway contributes with two ships patrolling the Mediterranean – one under Operation Triton and one under Operation Poseidon.

The world's attention is right now on the Mediterranean Sea, but we must not forget that people risk their lives crossing the deserts in Africa and are victims of grave human rights violations in the hands of criminal networks before they reach the coast.

Therefore, we need to do more to prevent the hazardous journey, and we need to increase our efforts to fight human trafficking and organized crime.

We must address the root causes of migration.

  • We know that many of the migrants are fleeing from conflict, and from or through states often labelled failed states.
  • Our peace and reconciliation engagement is key parts of addressing the root causes.
  • Conflict and wars are today causing enormous humanitarian suffering and the first refugee catastrophes since the second world war.
  • It is necessary and urgent to find political solutions for peace.

Finally,

People south of the Mediterranean have the same dreams and aspirations for their lives as we do in Europe.

A sustainable solution must include development that provide hope and opportunities for people where they live.

  • Education and job creation are key elements in our fight against poverty through our development cooperation.
  • This will take time but we have no time to loose and therefore we have put education at the centre of our development policy.

Thank you for your attention!