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The challenge of migration and security: a call for a rights-based response

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Speaking at Sciences Po's Youth & Leaders Summit, Lakhdar Brahimi highlights the importance of security within the wider debate on migration and calls for nuanced, long-term policymaking.

It is vital that the international community does not, in trying to tackle security threats, end up creating even greater conflict and insecurity. –Lakhdar Brahimi

Lakhdar Brahimi alongside speakers at Sciences Po in 2017 (Credit: Manuel Braun | Sciences Po)

The complex and changing relationship between migration and security was at the heart of Lakhdar Brahimi’s discussions at the Youth and Leaders Summit at Sciences Po in Paris on 16 January 2017.

The overarching theme of the conference – the second such gathering following the inaugural event in 2016, where Lakhdar Brahimi and Martti Ahtisaari also spoke – was the “Migration Crises”. Panel discussions addressed different specific aspects from the challenges facing governments and institutions; humanitarian challenges; security; and economic and demographic dynamics.

Lakhdar Brahimi said that the international community must both appreciate the connections between these diverse challenges, but also the necessary distinctions and the need for nuanced, long-term policymaking.

He argued that policy should be guided by the four principles set out by The Elders in their 2016 report “In Challenge Lies Opportunity: How the World Must Respond To Refugees and Mass Migration”:

  • Response mechanisms to large flows of people must be developed and properly coordinated, both regionally and internationally
  • Assistance to major refugee-hosting countries must be enhanced
  • Resettlement opportunities must be increased, along with additional pathways for admission
  • Human rights and refugee protection must be upheld and strengthened

Lakhdar Brahimi refers to The Elders' report on Refugees and Migration, at Sciences Po. (Credit: Manuel Braun | Sciences Po)

The 2017 summit was bookended by keynote addresses by EU Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. Together with the diverse, engaged student body, the panellists debated the developments seen in Europe and the rest of the world over the past two years.

The “externalisation” of EU border control through the deal with Turkey on refugees was a contentious issue, as was the delineation of responsibilities between government and civil society for migrants’ welfare and protection. The rise of populist nationalism from Brexit to the election of Donald Trump – and ahead of key elections in France and Germany in 2017 – informed all discussions, as did the growing discrepancy between the general public’s perception of migration, and actual facts.

Speaking alongside former UK Ambassador to France Lord Peter Ricketts, former French Ambassador to NATO Benoit D’Aboville and French Climate Ambassador Laurence Tubiana, Lakhdar Brahimi insisted that security is a valid and necessary concern in the wider debate.

Insecurity is one of the key reasons why so many millions of people are fleeing their homes, from war in Syria and chaos in Libya to terrorism in Nigeria and across the Sahel in North Africa. But it is vital that the international community does not, in trying to tackle these threats, end up creating even greater conflict and insecurity, as was the case in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, and more recently in Libya after the Western intervention against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Brahimi said.

Even the French intervention in Mali against Islamist militants, although seen as more “successful” than others, is directly linked to the chaos and anarchy in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, where destabilising amounts of fighters and weaponry moved across the border to Mali, he noted.

One way to reduce this risk is for interventions to take place with the full authorisation of the United Nations and in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law, he added.

His points were echoed by the closing remarks of Filippo Grandi, who echoed the words of one the Sciences Po students and urged all governments to adopt an “intelligent and compassionate” approach to the issue, now and in the future.

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