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I am very pleased to be here today at the Launch of the Pilot on voluntary return and sustainable, community-based reintegration (AVRR), which is funded by the European Union and implemented by IOM.
As you may know, Migration is currently at the top of the EU's external policy agenda.
The EU political leaders have stressed on several occasions the need to effectively integrate migration into national development and poverty reduction plans, recognising the importance of South-South flows, and identifying the need to integrate migration in long-term development planning.
The European Agenda on Migration (2015) calls for action for reducing the incentives and addressing the root causes of irregular migration in non-EU countries, dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks and defining actions for the better application of return policies.
[The Pilot that will be launched here today is also in line with the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.]
Migration in Africa mostly takes place inside of the continent, and thus EU migration policy is looking into opportunities to deepen the economic support to better migration and citizenship policies in Africa. In recent years, the EU has made efforts to assist Malawi and other COMESA countries in its performance in relation to migration policy. For instance, the EU support for enhancing migration systems and data management.
Most importantly, since 2013 the European Union has offered support to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security for the development of Malawi's National Migration and Citizenship Policy.
However, we have come to the realisation that doing business as usual will only address part of the problem. Providing more opportunities for the youth in the countries of origin and offering enhanced support to those who return to their communities need to be at the core of a sustainable long-term migration management approach.
First, I would like to talk about providing opportunities for those who have not taken the decision to migrate. The promotion of Growth and Jobs creation with an aim to eradicate the root causes of migration is at the core of the current EU Development and Migration policies and is also a priority for the Delegation. The EU is currently investing the largest share of our current 560 million euro multi-annual programme for Malawi on supporting Growth and Jobs, for instance through programmes on agricultural value chains, access to finance, irrigation, technical skills development, rural roads, etc.
These investments in growth and jobs are expected to contribute to the sustainable development of the local economies and the transformation called for by the Agenda 2030. We also hope that this type of interventions to increase the available opportunities in Malawi will help discourage people and, in particular the youth, from choosing dangerous irregular migration routes, paying large sums of money to smugglers and risking their lives.
[There are many different motivations behind irregular migration. But often, it ends in deep disappointment. The journey is often far more dangerous than expected, often at the mercy of criminal networks who put profit before human life. Those who fail the test of asylum face the prospect of return. Those who live a clandestine life in foreign countries have a precarious existence and can easily fall prey to exploitation. It is in the interests of all to address the root causes which cause people to seek a life elsewhere, to crack down on smugglers and traffickers, and to provide clarity and predictability in return policies.] – EU Agenda on Migration.
Therefore, let me speak to you now about the returnees. Long term growth and jobs investments need to be accompanied by specific migration interventions, including programmes providing support to those who return to their communities. In fact, we believe that sustainable returns can have a positive impact on the development of the communities of origin.
This is why the European Union and its Member States are helping to establish more than 90 specific assisted voluntary return and reintegration programmes (AVRR) across the world.
Through these projects, migrants are provided with social and psychological counselling, training and in-kind assistance to start up a business, as well as with accompanying measures to re-establish their social networks.
The project launched today is an example of these efforts. This Pilot Action is a EUR 15 Million regional initiative jointly implemented in 3 countries: Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa. It aims at contributing to the development of sustainable voluntary returns and community-based reintegration in targeted partner countries.
The action aims at strengthening the capacity of governments, who ultimately bear the responsibility for protecting migrants residing in their territory, as who are also responsible for their own citizens, in the management of return and reintegration processes. In countries of transit/destination, the Action will support the management of dignified returns for migrants assisting the strengthening of legislation, policy and procedures for return, as well as through assistance provided for voluntary returnees. In countries of origin, returning migrants will be better supported in their dignified voluntary returns for more sustainable reintegration approaches.
The idea behind this pilot is to explore what sort of activities could be more effective in providing returns and reintegration support across the process, from countries of destination to countries of origin, taking into account the returnees, but also their communities and all the relevant actors and institutions involved.
Thus, there are currently a number of challenges ahead of us. The success of economic and social integration of migrants in host countries is key for a successful reintegration. Migrants are frequently people in working age, with skills and a drive for success. Let’s try to open up opportunities for them.
Close cooperation with local partners will be required in order to include reintegration assistance within existing development initiatives, to avoid duplication, resentment against returnees, and to respond to local needs.
Finally, Governments in targeted countries need to demonstrate commitment and increased ownership of sustainable voluntary return and community-based reintegration approaches.
I would like to thank IOM for taking up on this initiative. I have confidence that working in close collaboration with the Government of Malawi, and in particular with the Ministry of Home Affairs, we will contribute to offer better protection for migrants in Malawi and enhanced opportunities for Malawian returnees so they can contribute to the development of their communities.