Interview: working together to tackle migration and refugee flows 


Share this page: 

Elena Valenciano (left) and Agustín Díaz de Mera  

Some 244 million people were living abroad in 2015, including more than 20 million refugees forced to leave their country due to conflicts or human rights violations.

On 5 April MEPs vote on a report regarding migration movements. According to report authors Agustín Díaz de Mera and Elena Valenciano, migration flows are a global responsibility requiring a global response. Read on for an overview of the current situation and how Díaz de Mera and Valenciano believe it should be tackled.

Need for a global approach


The influx of large numbers of migrants and refugees creates different sorts of challenges. Valenciano, a Spanish member of the S&D group, said: “In the short term we need to fully accept our responsibilities and provide the humanitarian answer that this [refugee] crisis demands. However, we need to address the complex and numerous root causes behind them related to conflicts, extreme poverty, climate change in order to achieve a real solution."

Díaz de Mera, a Spanish member of the EPP group, added: “The answer needs to be global; we need to work together."

Their report on refugee and migrant movements calls on the Parliament to help reach and implement agreements on migration with non-EU countries and also stresses the need for a common European policy based on solidarity and human rights, and not just focused on security.

Diaz de Mera said: “We cannot limit the discussion to border controls. We need to talk as well about a better distribution of the responsibilities."

Together campaign

The report also back's the UN Together campaign which aims to combat negative perceptions of refugees and other migrants. Although migrants and refugees make valuable contributions to their host country, the report stresses that they also face opposition in some countries.

Díaz de Mera said: “Migration is part of the potential wealth of many of the societies that now turn their back to this phenomenon."

Valenciano added: “We need to change the current negative narrative around migration, which shouldn't be seen as a threat but as a natural and, in fact, needed phenomenon in Europe. Concerning refugees, we need to remind that we have not only a moral but a legal obligation towards them. They have the right to be protected. All democratic political forces in Europe need to redouble their efforts in explaining this to our citizens, if we want to stop the very dangerous xenophobic and anti-immigration discourse in the rise in many of our countries."

Current situation

In 2015 244 million people lived abroad, 41% more than in 2000. Most people migrate to a country in the same region. For example, 76 million migrants live in Europe and 53% of these come from another European country. The US boasts the largest number of migrants with 47 million people coming from another country, followed by Germany and Russia with 12 million each and Saudi Arabia with 10 million. Some 72% of migrants are of working age. Women account for 48.2% of migrants worldwide, but 52.4% of migrants in the EU. These figures come from the UN.

There are also people who have been forced out of their home. According to UNHCR, 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day. In 2015 more than 65 million people were living away from home after being forced out: 21 million sought refuge in another country, while more than 40 million stayed in their own country. Europe hosts 6% of the world's displaced people, while 86% of the world's refugees live in impoverished regions. The countries hosting the most refugees are Turkey (2.5 million), Pakistan (1.6 million) and Lebanon (1.1 million).

Learn more on EU response to the migration crisis in our top story.