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UN Secretary General Urges European Parliament to Work Together on Migration Management
Press Release
Thursday, January 29, 2004

UN Secretary General Urges European Parliament to Work Together on Migration Management

BRUSSELS (January 29, 2004) - Calling European enlargement "the greatest force for peace on the European continent," United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan urged members of the European Parliament to work together on managing migration better.

Annan was accepting the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on behalf of Sergio Vieira de Mello and other UN staff members who were killed in Baghdad August 19. He used the opportunity to outline a vision for an increasingly diverse Europe in which migrants are treated as part of the solution, not the problem.

He noted that migration not only helps those fleeing persecution and seeking better lives for themselves and their families, it provides important development assistance to poor countries through remittances, and will sustain European economies as their populations age.

"The message is clear," Annan said, "Migrants need Europe. But Europe also needs migrants. A closed Europe would be a meaner, poorer, weaker, older Europe. An open Europe would be a fairer, richer, stronger, younger Europe - provided you manage migration well."

Such management includes the need for more timely processing of asylum claims, burden-sharing on humanitarian admissions among European nations, and building up the protective capacity of developing nations, Annan said.

The Secretary General urged members to ratify the UN Migrant Workers Convention as part of assisting migrants and the communities in which they settle in the sometimes difficult task of integration.

"Integration of the immigrants who have become permanent members of European societies is essential for their productivity and human dignity," Annan said. "It is also essential for the functioning of healthy, humane democracies. They cannot extract the labor of immigrants and ignore other aspects of their humanity."

Annan also addressed the dangers of failing to manage migration, including human smuggling and trafficking.

"Kofi Annan has addressed a critical need in the European Union today - a system of migration management that takes power out of the hands of traffickers and places it where it belongs - among legislators and policymakers," said Migration Policy Institute Co-Directors Demetrios Papademetriou and Kathleen Newland.

They continued, "With characteristic vision, the Secretary General has charted a course that protects human rights, preserves individual dignity, and benefits both migrants and receiving countries. It will certainly require work, but far-reaching initiatives by the European Parliament now could pay off years down to road."