Flanagan calls for more coordinated response to migrant crisis

Minister makes pitch for security council seat in address to UN assembly in New York

Minister Charlie Flanagan speaking at the UN general assembly in New York on Saturday. Photograph: CharlieFlanagan/Twitter

Minister Charlie Flanagan speaking at the UN general assembly in New York on Saturday. Photograph: CharlieFlanagan/Twitter


Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan in an address to the UN has called for greater coordinated international effort in response to the Middle Eastern and African migration crisis.

Speaking at the 71st UN general assembly in New York on Saturday, Mr Flanagan evoked Ireland’s long experience of emigration saying that it forms the enduring backdrop to Irish foreign policy.

“That part of our past is unfortunately the tragic present for others,” he said.

The vast scale and sustained nature of the movement of migrants and refugees is “bewildering,” he said, and threatens to overwhelm the rules-based migration systems of countries. He cited the violence in Syria, the “barbarism” of the Islamic State militant group, the collapse of order within Libya and “ruthless” people smugglers as the causes of the crisis.

“These are challenges that no one country can resolve alone,” he said. “These challenges that must all be tackled at the same time. These are challenges that require the international community of nations to work in close cooperation to overcome.”

Mr Flanagan paid tribute to Ireland’s representatives at the UN led by Ambassador David Donoghue, who co-chaired five months of negotiations leading to this week’s New York Declaration. The agreement is aimed at offering greater protections to people migrating across borders and adopted at the first high-level UN summit for refugees and migrants on Monday.

Ireland accepted their leadership role at the UN because we know that no country by itself can resolve the vast challenges the world currently faces,” he said.

The Minister asked for the support of other countries behind Ireland’s election to a two-year term as one of the 10 non-permanent members on the UN Security Council in 2020.

“We believe that our values and principles and our steadfast commitment to the UN will enable us to make a valuable contribution if we are successful in that election,” he said.

Ireland seeks election to the council every 20 years and last sat on the council in 2001 and 2002. The Government’s role in co-facilitating the Sustainable Development Goals and New York Declaration are expected to help Ireland’s chances of being elected for the 2021-2022 term.

Referring to the efforts to tackle world poverty and inequality, Mr Flanagan said there also needed to be renewed investment effort to address conflict prevention and resolution, another driver of the mass movement of people.

“These are the values and principles that Ireland stands up for through our engagement with the UN system, and which will inspire our contribution to the UN Security Council should you, the membership, entrust us with that responsibility in the 2020 election,” he said.

Mr Flanagan in his speech referred to the specific Irish responses to the migrant crisis, including the deployment of naval ships to the Mediterranean in search and rescue missions.

He made no reference to the bureaucratic delays that he and his cabinet colleague, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald referred to on the fringes of the UN this week that has prevented the Government reaching its target of resettling 4,000 people fleeing the five-year conflict in Syria.

Mr Flanagan argued that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN’s 2030 targets created in negotiations co-chaired by Ireland and aimed at tackling global problems such as world poverty, could address many of the root causes of mass migration.

“Lack of economic opportunity is a substantial driver of migration,” he said.

Acknowledging the peace agreement ending five decades of conflict in Colombia, Mr Flanagan said that Ireland was actively committed to supporting the country’s peace process to which Mr Flanagan’s predecessor Eamon Gilmore is the European Union’s envoy.

“We are pleased to offer whatever assistance we can to the process of rebuilding the country after decades of violence, including through sharing experiences from Northern Ireland, ” he said.

The Minister said that Ireland supported efforts to reform the UN’s coordinated response to “increasingly complex humanitarian needs around the world,” including the protection of vulnerable groups in emergencies, notably women and girls.

“Collectively we must ensure that in addressing crises closer to home we do not allow more protracted crisis, not in the headlines to be forgotten,” he said.