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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos to the European Parliament Plenary Session

Brussels, 8 March 2016

The sheer number of people arriving on Greek shores and through the Western Balkans, and the numbers we read daily in the press, risk making us forget that these are individuals and human beings, many of them vulnerable and in need of protection.

Many women traveling alone despite the dangers they are facing, many mothers risking their own and their children's lives.

Let me assure you that the European Commission does not forget and does not forsake its humanitarian duties.

Yes we have to take control of the flows, make them more manageable and lower them.

Yes we need to better manage our external borders – for the EU, its Member States and its citizens – but also for the people arriving.

Yes we need to stop the business of smugglers – also with the help of Europol – that send people in their thousands every day to a possible death.

Instead of dangerous routes, it is our responsibility to create more legal pathways for people in need of protection to be able to come to Europe directly, legally and safely.

That is why I continue to call on Member States to not only deliver on their resettlement commitments made in July last year and for the Turkey humanitarian admission scheme, but also to commit to more, and soon.

All irregular migrants who have arrived through Turkey will be returned to Turkey in accordance with European and International law.

For those people who are already here, we need to improve the situation.

That's why we have proposed a humanitarian assistance scheme to be used within the EU; that's why we urgently need to proceed to large scale relocations, and why we need to further develop reception capacities.

And in all of these things, the UNHCR is our steady and quintessential partner, and I look forward to continue to work closely together with Filippo Grandi.

He has come to lead the UNHCR in the midst of the refugee crisis, but he is a veteran on these issues: He is a man of commitment to the cause of refugees, and I count very much on his invaluable help.

Let me therefore once again welcome the close cooperation we have established with the UNHCR and let me express my strong appreciation of the work done by the UNHCR in the current crisis.

UNHCR support is highly valued in and outside Europe.

The European Commission and the UNHCR work closely together to help Italy and especially Greece in accommodating and relocating migrants, but also in resettling them from outside.

Together with the UNHCR we need now to ensure a quick implementation of the voluntary humanitarian scheme from Turkey and to implement projects that will further improve the situation of the Syrians in Turkey.

As you well know, our actions are not limited to the borders of Europe. The fact that over 60 million people are refugees or internally displaced across the globe, reminds us that we should not lose sight that migration is not a European issue only; it's a global challenge.

Everyone in the international community should take its share of the responsibility. All developed countries should respond to the call of the UN for resettlement from the affected regions. The pledging conference organised by the UNHCR on 30 March will be the next opportunity.

And we need all together to reflect on how to positively address the phenomenon which characterises our era: people's mobility.

A phenomenon which is expected to increase for many different reasons, to take different forms, to be directed in different routes.

We cannot ignore people's mobility. We cannot deny it neither stop it. We need to prepare ways to respond to it without destabilising our societies but on the contrary, by turning it into a two-way opportunity for the hosting countries and the migrants.

We believe therefore that it is Europe's duty and is in its interest to support key partners managing the migratory flows and addressing the roots causes of the displacements.

Dealing with the global migration crisis requires, therefore, solid partnerships and coordination with third countries and with regional and international organisations.

In other words, it needs a global strategy.

In a multifaceted and complex refugee crisis like the one of today, there cannot be a "one-size-fits-all" approach, and it cannot be the responsibility of just one country or one stakeholder.

We all need each other, and we need to work together. That is why the relationship and collaboration between the EU and the UNHCR is of utmost importance. A lot of work awaits us in the comings days and months.

And we are all ready and committed to do it.

SPEECH/16/664

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