A shared responsibility for a common goal – solidarity and security. Speech by Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, at the Foreign Ministers Conference in Rome

06.07.2017 - Speech

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Almost every day, we see dramatic images of refugees making their perilous way across the Mediterranean. No one can remain unmoved by these images, which enable us to see and understand the face of human misery and misfortune. All this shows us that the situation is beyond dramatic and that we need to take action.

I would therefore like to thank my colleague Angelino Alfano for organising this conference here today. Only by working together and in a spirit of partnership will we overcome the great challenges that the migration crisis poses for us. It is right that we are focusing on the situation in the transit countries. We need to tangibly improve the situation for everyone – most importantly for refugees, but also for the transit and host countries.

We are not starting from scratch. On the contrary, in the EU Partnership Framework, the Valletta Action Plan and the Rabat and Khartoum Processes, we have agreed on instruments to tackle the causes of forced and irregular migration in a targeted way.

Germany does not only provide financial support in this context, but also contributes other tangible forms of support, such as taking in refugees from particularly affected countries as part of the relocation process.

My country is endeavouring to meet its responsibilities. But we are not doing so alone, as truly durable and lasting solutions can only be achieved if we work together, for example with Italy, France, the Niger and Mali in the framework of EU migration partnerships.

For this reason, I am pleased that Germany will increase its funding in many cases, thus complying with Italy’s urgent request for support. Via the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the Federal Foreign Office is contributing 48 million euros over a period of three years with Italy and the European Commission to an IOM regional migration-management project. In addition, we will provide IOM with a further four million euros to support its work in Morocco and Egypt. We will also provide one million euros in 2017 to the project suggested by Italy on measures in African transit countries.

Education is a crucial factor. That is why the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) in UNHCR awarded 2000 scholarships worth 4.2 million euros in total to refugees in Africa last year. The Federal Foreign Office is the main funder of this programme.

As part of its humanitarian assistance, Germany also supports people in need of help in crisis-hit regions and after natural disasters, including in refugee and migrant contexts. In 2016, the German Government more than doubled its humanitarian assistance in Africa to 270 million euros compared with the previous year.

But we cannot delude ourselves. There are no fast solutions and change takes time – time that we unfortunately do not always have, as there is no doubt that the transit countries need help soon. That is the dilemma facing us.

I myself have been able to see the situation faced by Syrian refugees, for example in Lebanon. What I heard from many people there was depressing. We need to guarantee that all refugees enjoy protection in accordance with international standards. UNHCR and IOM do essential work in this area in particular and I would like to take this opportunity to express my great respect for their endeavours.

At the same time, we need to be honest and to look at the topic from different angles.

Increasingly, people are leaving their homes and undertaking the perilous journey to Europe solely because they lack economic opportunities. They have no legal prospects of being allowed to stay in Europe and yet they risk their lives in the desert or on the sea. IOM is addressing this issue and working with its partners to enable people to return home voluntarily and to reintegrate with dignity.

Those who want to curb irregular immigration must create a wider range of legal options. The global compacts on refugees and migration to be adopted by the United Nations in 2018 are an important step in this direction.

The decision to leave one’s home country in the hope of a better life is often influenced by deliberate disinformation spread by people smugglers. We need to provide better information to people about the risks of such decisions and about the legal situation. It must be in the interests of all of us to tackle people-smuggling rings and criminal gangs efficiently.

Via the guidance and education measures of the CSDP missions in the Sahel and EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA, we are supporting state security structures in Libya in their fight against people-smuggling rings. However, the host communities in the transit countries also need our particular support. That is why we want to do more as regards long-term investments in public infrastructure and private-sector companies in the regions affected.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the main country of arrival in Europe, Italy is currently bearing much of the burden. Foreign Minister Alfano, I can promise you that we will not leave Italy to cope on its own and that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you, be it in the negotiations on the future Common European Asylum System or in taking in refugees under the relocation programme. Where we can, we will do more.

But we need greater European solidarity. And we will not stop demanding this of our partners and friends in Europe.

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