Sutherland welcomes action plan but warns on implementation

UN special representative criticises distinction between migrants and refugees

 German chancellor Angela Merkel, United Nations special representative for  migration Peter Sutherland, European Parliament president Martin Schulz, European Council president Donald Tusk, French president Francois Hollande, and Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat attend the opening ceremony of the Valletta summit. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

German chancellor Angela Merkel, United Nations special representative for migration Peter Sutherland, European Parliament president Martin Schulz, European Council president Donald Tusk, French president Francois Hollande, and Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat attend the opening ceremony of the Valletta summit. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

 

United Nations special representative for migration Peter Sutherland has broadly welcomed the action plan agreed by European Union and African leaders at the Valletta summit but warned its success could be measured only by implementation.

Speaking to The Irish Times on the second day of the migration summit, Mr Sutherland said that while the purpose of the conference had been achieved, action needed to be taken on the basis of the draft agreement.

He also criticised the tendency to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants during the two-day summit.

“Whilst there is a legal and moral obligation to deal with refugees, there was a general proposition in the air that economic migrants could be returned. There are a lot of economic migrants who were themselves survival migrants . . . economic migrants who are escaping from life-threatening situations who should be entitled to humanitarian visas, not refugee visas.”

African immigration

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“We are under no illusions that we can improve the situation overnight. But we are committed to giving people alternatives to risking their lives,” he said.

In addition, the EU announced a €1.8 billion emergency trust fund for Africa, which could rise to more than €3 billion, based on contributions by member states.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the fund was a “key element” of the EU’s contribution to tackling the causes of instability, forced displacement and irregular. She also welcomed the emphasis in the plan on tackling people-smugglers.

Oxfam Ireland said the summit outcome “paid lip service to people’s rights and dignity” and claimed the €1.8 billion fund risked blurring the lines between development aid and “money to bolster African states’ border control.”