Koenders: cooperation by UN member states crucial in migration issue

During the UN summit on migration in New York on Monday, foreign minister Bert Koenders stressed the need for member states to work together to tackle the migration issue. ‘The migration and refugee problem is literally a cross-border problem. All member states need to take their responsibility and provide those in need with security and protection. For that, concrete steps are necessary,’ the minister said.

In the run-up to the summit, the Netherlands has pressed for a better approach to the direct causes of migration as well as for safe and regulated migration and refugee flows, the protection of vulnerable groups like women and girls, and more coordinated efforts to provide effective humanitarian aid to refugees. UN member states have expressed the political will to tackle these issues in a landmark declaration.

Positive reaffirmation

‘The declaration is a positive reaffirmation of existing international treaties, notably the Convention on Refugees, and constitutes a good starting point for further negotiation’, the Minister stated. ‘In the declaration, all member states agree to share responsibility for large movements on a global scale. This is important for countries that take in large numbers of refugees, like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. It also focuses on prevention, protection, human rights, reception and integration, return and border management’.

Nevertheless, the declaration does not go far enough in the view of the Netherlands. ‘It should have been more ambitious and concrete,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘I would have liked to see firmer commitments, for instance regarding the aim of finding new homes for all refugees identified as needing resettlement. Equally, insufficient provision has been made for monitoring [compliance with] the agreements. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has been asked to flesh this out further’.

For some time now, the Netherlands has been working to find solutions to the refugee and migrant issue, in both a European and global context. It has already taken in considerable numbers of refugees and is working with other countries on the issue of resettlement. The Netherlands is also taking responsibility for its share in the EU-Turkey Agreement by undertaking to resettle a maximum of 4,000 Syrian refugees from Turkey in the coming years. It is also working to establish partnerships with countries that take in large numbers of refugees, including those near Syria and in the Horn of Africa.