Cause for optimism from New York summits

Danny Sriskandarajah reports on migration and refugees summits

I spent last week in New York where world leaders were taking part in not one, but two back-to-back summits on migrants and refugees. The first, hosted by the United Nations, delivered a process that will lead to the adoption of a new global compact on migration in 2018. The second, hosted by President Obama, delivered around $4.5 billion in additional funds for UN appeals and international humanitarian organisations working to alleviate the refugee crisis.

Many people have expressed their disappointment at the outcome of both summits. While I share their frustration in part, I cannot agree that the whole exercise has been a waste of time. Far from it. 

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UN's 1st ever Special Assembly on Refugees & Migrants

Vaughan Jones on the UN's recent deliberations

The United Nations first ever Special Assembly on refugees and migrants was held in New York yesterday 19th September. Whilst many of the planned events by civil society were disrupted by the discovery of explosive devices, leaders of the 197 countries met to endorse a non-binding international agreement on the treatment of those who need international protection or are vulnerable as migrants.

The Assembly was the conclusion of a process initiated by the UN Secretary-General in response to the burgeoning refugee crises on Europe’s borders and in the Pacific and the start of a process leading to a new international compact on refugee and migrants. This will come to another Assembly in two years’ time. 

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Japanese fears over Brexit

Vaughan Jones gives his take on the Japanese response to Brexit

The Japanese government has produced a comprehensive 15-page document outlining its priorities for upcoming negotiations surrounding the UK’s decision to leave the EU; it is a compilation of the specific concerns expressed by Japanese companies in the UK. Japan is an important investor and partner on the world stage. Japanese companies located here have created 440,000 jobs and been crucial to successive governments’ economic strategies especially in areas where industrial regeneration is desperately needed. Japanese commitment to the UK depends on this new UK/EU relationship being conducive to their businesses. A relatively liberal immigration system is key. They want to be sure their companies have access to workers with the necessary skills, there is acceptance of highly skilled professionals in the banking and other sectors and skilled power plant construction workers. This all needs an appropriate visa regime.

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Understanding migration statistics

Discrepancies between National Insurance Numbers and International Passenger Service Statistics

At a time of heightened rhetoric surrounding migration, any suggestion that numbers are higher than officially stated inevitably attracts attention.  So the apparent discrepancies between the number of people, particularly from Eastern Europe who have obtained a National Insurance Number and the numbers estimated in the quarterly migration statistics stimulated both headlines and hand-rubbing by opponents of migration.  The Office of National Statistics was potentially red-faced and the refusal last year by the Government to grant a freedom of information request on this matter added to the speculation.

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The New Odyssey – The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis - Patrick Kingsley

The New Odyssey reads as a novel.  It is an engaging, insightful page-turner.  It is a story book with plots and sub-plots, and a menacing background of failing politics.  However, the story is not fiction.  It is a fascinating and heart-breaking description of the lives of migrants on the move in 2015. As such it is an important first-hand witness account of significant historical events.

As the year 2015 unfolded, the narrative of migration followed a helter-skelter route. Fear of the barbarian at the gate of Europe gave way to compassion.  But the twists of fate turned the debate once more to the fear of the terrorist intruder. Patrick Kingsley, the Guardian’s Migration correspondent throughout this turbulent year, spent the time accompanying real people on their journeys from war, repression and impoverishment to Europe.  It makes sobering reading.

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