International migration affects by its very nature relations between states - at the very least relations between countries of origin and countries of destination and in many cases also countries of transit. Ensuring that migration is adequately managed and overall positive can only be achieved through international co-operation.
International co-operation on migration should take due account of the different interests of states involved. Yet, even though differing interests are acknowledged, we must be clear that international governance on migration must be based on a mutual recognition of the sovereign right of states to determine which foreign nationals are allowed to enter and reside on its territory. This right is not negotiable.
Issue Brief # 3 rightly says that a state has the right to return migrants who do not meet its entry requirements. In addition, all states are obliged by international law to readmit their own nationals. Disregarding this international obligation is unacceptable. Still, the practical implementation of return and readmission, whether voluntary or otherwise, is facing challenges.
Understanding the difficulties involved may, however, induce countries of destination to assist countries of origin to comply with their obligations.
In line with that, Norway has set up an assisted voluntary return and readmission programme. The programme, operated by IOM, aims to facilitate the reintegration of returnees by assisting them to qualify for active participation in the working life and to become self-reliant in their country of origin. They are offered pre-departure counselling, individual reintegration assessments, risk assessments and family tracing. More resources are made available upon returning home. A special programme is adapted to the particular needs of vulnerable migrants.
The obligation to readmit own citizens remains fundamental and must be a core element of international co-operation on migration. As Issue Brief # 3 says: States should closely cooperate on return and readmission, based on well-defined and agreed implementation mechanisms. Norway has agreed on such implementation mechanisms with around 30 countries in the form of bilateral return and readmission agreements. We stand ready to conclude more.
Countries of destination are bound by the non-refoulment principle. Migrants shall not be returned if they are exposed to serious security threats and human rights violations. The risks must be examined for each individual, taking into account all available facts.
In view of this conference’ explicit reference to the need for international co-operation on return, readmission, integration and reintegration it is somewhat surprising that Issue Brief doesn’t include this issue area in its proposal for ways forward and commitments.
Any comment from the Panel of the reason why this is so, would be appreciated.