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Speech at the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons Meeting in Athens

Under the Agenda Item: “CoE contribution to the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees”
Athens 19 September 2022
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Dear Chairperson,

Dear Members of the Committee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

First, I would like to thank the Chairperson, Mr. Rousopoulos, for his invitation to join you today in Athens in the premises of the Hellenic Parliament, for this opportunity to have an exchange with you and for the excellent cooperation we have established since I started in my role as SRSG in January this year.

According to some latest figures from the UNHCR, almost 90 million people have been forced to flee their homes worldwide. Among them, there are nearly 27 million refugees.

When the UN Global Compacts for migration and refugees were adopted in late 2018/beginning of 2019, there were 79 million forcibly displaced people around the world.

This means that an additional 11 million people became displaced within less than four years.

Unfortunately, it is highly likely that the number of displaced people will continue to increase in the coming years.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine brought back the war in Europe.

According to UNHCR figures, it triggered around 12 million people to flee their homes. 5 million have left for neighbouring countries and beyond - while seven million people are still thought to be displaced inside Ukraine itself.

In this regard, I would like to commend the activation by the European Union of the temporary protection directive - which gives the right to people who fled Ukraine to legally stay in the countries they took refuge in, to work there, to have access to healthcare and to education.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine does not only affect the lives of those who live in Ukraine. It has far-reaching implications beyond our region.

For example, the global food supply system was disrupted, which might lead to more people having to flee their homes.

The climate change may also have a multiplying effect on the number of displaced persons in the years to come.

This shows that we have to continue our efforts and work in the field of migration at a global level.

The implementation of the UN Global Compacts is more important than ever.

It is worth recalling that the procedure of the adoption of the two UN Global Compacts started already in 2016, based on the UN New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly.

The Global Compacts are clearly the result of a major refugee and migration crisis that started in 2011 and culminated in 2015/2016 when the number of people fleeing war and persecution and seeking refuge in Europe, especially from Syria, reached its highest point in decades.

It was in 2016 that more than 5,000 migrants lost their lives while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, marking the highest death record between 2014-2021.

It became clear at that time that no country could address this challenge alone.

It was also in January 2016, that the former Secretary General proposed the creation of my Office with a view to intensify and coordinate human rights protection of migrants and refugees.

The SRSG has been active in working with the UN partners already since day one, feeding into the reflection processes relevant to both Compacts, by providing written and oral contributions in the consultation phase.

The SRSG has been representing the CoE at all major events relevant to both the adoption, and the review process of the implementation of both Compacts ever since.

On these occasions, the CoE, represented by the SRSG, expressed support for the implementation of the Compacts and underlined the need to continue our efforts in the framework of effective multilateralism, also informing about developments in the CoE which supported the implementation from our pan-European perspective.

Strengthening the human rights protection dimension of the Compacts is the Council of Europe guiding principle since the process started.

The Council of Europe continues its work in the field of migration with a view to helping member states reach the objectives defined in the Global Compacts, not only by proposing new standards, but – very importantly – by proposing assistance for building capacity to better address human rights challenges.

The successful implementation of our previous Action Plan, namely the CoE Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017-2019), constituted one of the valuable contributions in this respect, in particular the different pledges done, such as the fight against statelessness, or the recognition of refugees’ qualifications (European Qualifications Passport for Refugees).

Our new, 5-year CoE Action Plan, Protecting Vulnerable Persons in the context of Migration and Asylum in Europe (2021-2025) not only provides for a contribution on a longer period, but also widens its scope, and hence, is in line with, and addresses even more objectives of the Global Compacts.

The standards and tools developed represent an added value not only for states, but for many other stakeholders shouldering the migration burden. Among others, the Recommendation on Protecting the Rights of Migrant Refugee and Asylum-seeking women and girls was adopted in May this year by the Committee of Ministers.

Finally, I would like to praise the Parliamentary Assembly and you, distinguished members of the Committee, for taking an active part in this procedure. The continuous attention you pay to the state of play of the implementation of the Compacts, the important report adopted in this respect at the end of 2021, as well as the excellent cooperation with the Secretariat of the Migration Committee developed in this framework with my Office all show the commitment of the CoE to the implementation of the Compacts.

Your role as parliamentarians is key in raising awareness on our standards and tools and in implementing them!

Thank you very much for your attention.


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