British Prime Minister Theresa May has demanded the United Nations take urgent action in tackling the growing European migrant crisis.
The PM flew to the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday to hold an emergency meeting with world leaders in order to tackle what she describes as the “unmanaged population movement” around the globe.
And she will call for great efforts to distinguish between genuine refugees from conflicts and economic migrants who are simply seeking a better life.
Her appeal to world leaders will be seen as further confirmation that the Government is building new international links beyond Europe following Britain’s Brexit vote. It is also likely to be viewed as a further sign that ministers have little faith in the floundering attempts by Brussels to lead a response to the crisis.
Mrs May will tell world leaders that simply providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and overseas aid is not enough to prevent the surge of migrants heading to Europe.
The migration crisis is set to dominate this year’s gathering of the UN General Assembly.
Outgoing UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon will chair a high-level meeting about large-scale migrant movements today and US President Barack Obama, attending his last UN General Assembly, will tomorrow host a Leaders Summit on refugees.
Mrs May is expected to make significant interventions at both events to call for greater efforts to find “innovative and durable solutions” to the crisis.
At today’s meeting, the Prime Minister will warn that the uncontrolled mass migration across the world is not in the interests of the migrants, who are exposed to exploitation and danger.
She will say it is also not in the interests of the countries they are leaving, travelling through or seeking to reach. The Prime Minister will urge leaders to have an open debate about what more can be done to better address the problem and thus avoid undermining the benefits that controlled, legal and safe migration can bring to economies.
She wants other countries to adopt the principle that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they can reach rather.
The current trend of onward movement benefits criminal gangs, exposes people to grave danger and reduces the prospects of them ever returning home to rebuild their countries, she will say.
Mrs May will point out that inadequate attempts to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants only encourages more people to put their lives in the hands of criminal gangs and undertake dangerous journeys.
She also wants greater recognition of the right of all countries to control their borders and to block illegal and uncontrolled migration.
Speaking ahead of the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister said last night: “Across the world today, we are seeing unprecedented levels of population movement and we need to work together to find a better response, which focuses our humanitarian efforts on those refugees in desperate need of protection and maintains public confidence in the economic benefits of legal and controlled migration.
“This is an urgent matter – more people are displaced than at any point in modern history and it is vital that we provide ongoing support for those people most in need of protection.
“As the world’s second-largest bilateral humanitarian donor, the UK is already playing its part and we will step up our efforts with further financial assistance and concrete action in partnership with the countries most affected.
“But we cannot simply focus on treating the symptoms of this crisis, we need to address its root causes too.
“While we must continue our efforts to end conflict, stop persecution and the abuse of human rights, I believe we also need a new, more effective global approach to manage migration.
“This should be based around three principles which will better serve the interests of migrants, who are exposed to danger; the interests of the countries they are leaving, travelling through or seeking to reach; and, most importantly, the interests of refugees, for whom we all share a responsibility to help.”
Her Government is to back the expected “New York Declaration” on refugees and migrants which is due to be adopted this week.
Alongside this, the UK will continue to play a leading role supporting refugees around the world, with the Prime Minister expected to announce later this week additional humanitarian support from the Government’s ring-fenced aid budget as well as further action to provide services and create jobs in host countries.