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I am very happy to be here with you today to launch the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. This, 45 million EUR, initiative is focusing on the Horn of Africa, and in particular Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.
For millennia, human beings have been migrating. Migrations flows have increased. Nonetheless, managing migration poses challenges for many countries – this applies to EU Member States and of course also to African countries. International conventions, domestic policies and action plans have been developed in order to set a just framework. Migration is a global phenomenon that requires global solutions. I therefore take the opportunity to recall the emphasis placed by the EU on the need to agree a UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration later this year.
The EU formulated a collective Agenda on Migration already in 2005. This Agenda has recently been revised, also to further embrace the opportunities offered by migration. The current Agenda builds on four pillars which are:
- Reducing the incentives for irregular migration
- Saving lives and securing the external borders
- Strengthening the common asylum policy
- Developing a new policy on legal migration 2
This Agenda requires actions which apply both internally in the EU and externally with our partner countries. The initiative we launch today bridges both internal and external aspects, and indeed illustrates the complexity of the migration phenomenon.
I have no doubt that my fellow speakers will outline the details of the programme. I will therefore focus on highlighting the fact that this project is part of a wider package for returns to Africa. We place a great emphasis on the voluntary nature of the returns, and on the need to support also the communities to which persons are returning. In 2017, more than 15,000 individuals safely returned from the EU to their home countries in Africa and were supported with reintegration assistance. As a point of reference, EU Member States granted asylum to over 720,000 persons in the year 2016, and in the year 2017, to 382,000.
A very important aspect, which is perhaps overlooked far too often, is the psychosocial need of persons returning. Many have been through traumatic, harrowing and haunting experiences and they will need a lot of support to deal with the effects of these. I am therefore very pleased about and interested in psycho-social components of the project, and I hope that also these will be pursued with vigour and determination by all involved.
Sustainability is a crucial element of any EU development cooperation programme, and indeed it is vital that we seek to ensure that the money of the European tax payer is well spent. Activities commenced and supported by our projects must continue, also once funding from the EU ceases. To this end we will work with partner governments to strengthen the capacity of the actors involved in reintegration activities, and support the national coordination structures and other relevant stakeholders. The aim is to increase government ownership of the reintegration of returning migrants and to develop and strengthen coordination mechanisms. In this respect, establishment of a National Coordination Mechanism on migration in Sudan is eagerly awaited.
We fully realise that Sudan is currently facing difficult times. We are seeking to find innovative ways in which to support the people of Sudan in this challenging period. We are also seeking, in the very near future, to work closer with relevant stakeholders to ensure a more robust economy and financial framework that will allow for enhanced delivery of social services and other basic needs.
I wish all every success in implementation of this programme and in helping some of the most vulnerable migrants to voluntary return to their homes and build a new life.