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Parliaments play a vital role in ensuring safe and humane migration through the ratification and effective implementation of international treaties. They can also help to change the negative discourse around migration by putting in place and strengthening legislation against xenophobia and racism and by promoting balanced and empirically sound public debate.
These were among the conclusions of a conference for parliamentarians on smart and humane migration across the Mediterranean. The conference, co-organized by the IPU with the Parliament of Malta and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), took place in Valletta, Malta, from 16 to 17 November 2017. It was the first Mediterranean Parliamentary Conference on Migration, with around 164 participants, including MPs from 26 national parliaments, and experts and representatives from regional parliamentary bodies in Africa and Europe, United Nations specialized agencies, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations. The UK was represented at the conference by Lord Dubs, with the support of Lauren Tait of BGIPU and Victor Fiorini of the British High Commission in Malta.
A wide range of issues was discussed, including migrant labour, refugee protection, border management, and education and training. MPs shared their national experiences as countries of origin, transit or destination, and agreed that cooperation between countries was necessary for successful governance of migration.
Participants pointed out that, contrary to the current perception, the majority of the five million migrants who came to the European Union annually used regular channels and provided much-needed skills, which were necessary to maintain vibrant, functioning economies.
However, not all migration is voluntary. Push factors such as armed conflict, poverty, climate change and lack of opportunities also cause people to migrate. Participants called for action to deal with these root causes of migration, including by seeking non-military solutions to conflict, increasing investment into regular migration channels, and funding development in countries of origin. They also stressed that non-discrimination and the integration of migrants were crucial to creating a cohesive society. In addition to addressing the push factors leading to migration, participants also called for increased opportunities for regular migration.
These and other recommendations are contained in the Summary Statement by the Rapporteur for the Conference. This Statement complements and builds on the IPU Declaration on The imperative for fairer, smarter and more humane migration, which came out of the 133rd IPU Assembly in 2015.