Resettlement and assisted voluntary returns of people on the move discussed at House of Lords event

COPENHAGEN, 5 March 2021 – Parliamentarians from the OSCE and Council of Europe participated in an online discussion today organized by the British House of Lords entitled “Refugees and migrants: Humanitarian emergencies, voluntary resettlement and assisted voluntary returns.” The webinar was co-chaired by Alexander Henry Scrymgeour, the Earl of Dundee and Chair of the PACE Sub-Committee on Refugee and Migrant Children and Young People, and Lord Alf Dubs, Vice-Chair of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration.

Featuring a keynote address by Isabel Santos, a former Vice-Chair of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration and current Member of the EU Parliament, the event aimed to identify ways in which countries of the OSCE and the Council of Europe could share humanitarian responsibilities particularly regarding countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Opening the event, the Earl of Dundee emphasized that the purpose was to provide a forum for best practices in order to build strategies to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees and migrants in emergency situations. Humanitarian resettlements are an imperative, he said, stressing that it is unacceptable to remain indifferent to the plight of migrants perishing at sea or to children sleeping rough on the streets of European cities.

Despite the global refugee and migrant crisis, with more people displaced around the world at any time since the Second World War, resettlements are at a near standstill, reported Rein Paulsen, Director for the Coordination Division at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). People on the move must be given the assistance they need to survive, he said, and national governments must include refugees and migrants in COVID response plans, including vaccination efforts. He also stressed the need to address the drivers of migration, including by resolving armed conflicts and tackling climate change.

Santos noted that Europe has become home to half of the world’s resettled refugees since 2007 and stressed that the continent has the opportunity in 2021 to start building resettlement programmes. It has been in the spirit of ad hoc solutions that progress has been made, she said, but what is needed now are durable solutions that build on the momentum of previous years. Significant political commitment and strong public messaging are key to communicate the need to promote resettlement programmes, which also require effective co-operation between national and local governments and the involvement of civil society, Santos said.

OSCE PA Vice-President and Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration Margareta Cederfelt said that the situation is desperate in many refugee camps in European countries. “The reduction in safe and legal pathways including for work migrants, is not the answer,” she said. “As long as there is conflict and hunger, people will seek a better future for themselves and for their families, risking their lives to reach our shores and lining the pockets of smugglers and human traffickers.” She noted that smuggling and cross-border trafficking had flourished during the pandemic urged a renewed commitment to multilateral approaches to meeting these challenges.

Hedy Fry, a member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration and Head of the Canadian Delegation to the PA, discussed Canada’s approach to voluntary resettlement of refugees. Noting that despite the pandemic, Canada resettled several thousand refugees in 2020, with more than 60 per cent being survivors of violence, including women and children, Fry stressed that a path to citizenship is essential to resettlement, so that immigrants can fully participate in society. She described Canada’s different tracts for resettlement, including its privately sponsored programme in which families are assisted with finding housing and employment, noting that this enables refugees to integrate more quickly because they have a network of friends.

Ad Hoc Committee on Migration member Mehmet Sait Kirazoglu spoke about Turkey’s assisted voluntary returns of migrants. As the host of the most refugees and migrants in the world, with some 4.2 million displaced people, Turkey is trying to meet the related challenges, he said, including providing education and accommodation. As for voluntary returns, there are many instruments in place in Turkey to assist people who choose this path, he noted, stressing that ultimately it is necessary to address root causes in countries of origin. The international community must co-operate to address the issue of irregular migration, he said.

OSCE PA President Peter Lord Bowness participated in the event, which was also addressed by Laura Lungarotti, Chief of Mission and Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Western Balkans, IOM Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo; and Gianluca Rocco, Chief of Mission and Regional Response Coordinator, IOM Greece, Athens. Lungarotti and Rocco provided detailed information on regional developments.




Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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