ASRC – Session 4. The OSCE and its Neighborhood: Challenges and Opportunities Arising from Migration

Annual Security Review Conference Working Session IV: The OSCE and its Neighborhood: Challenges and Opportunities Arising from Migration

As prepared for delivery by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Harry Kamian
Vienna, June 28, 2018
Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and IOM are the lead organizations on these issues within the UN System, and the UNHCR has convention-mandated responsibilities. For maximum effectiveness and coordination, the OSCE should defer to them and follow their lead. At the same time, the OSCE can play a supporting, complementary role.

The United States has welcomed more than three million refugees since 1975. In the first four months of 2018 alone, we resettled more than 6,000 refugees. More than half came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but they also came from Eritrea, Burma, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries.

When faced with mixed migration, participating States must balance national security with legitimate individual protection concerns. The risk of interstate tension is real, even if unintended. Continued arrivals and the lack of a comprehensive European approach to address refugee and migration issues could stretch countries’ ability to manage another migration situation in addition to their own challenges.

In recent weeks, we have seen reports of an increase in the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, especially in the Western Balkans and across the Mediterranean. UNHCR reports that nearly 40,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe in the first half of 2018. Many countries in the Western Balkans face significant political and institutional issues, and they are on the front line in terms of these mixed migration flows. In our view, host governments should play a leading role in developing contingency plans, which should include respect for international obligations, non-refoulement, and respect for human rights. Without adequate systems in place to manage these movements, refugees and migrants will continue to turn to smugglers to reach the EU.

We welcome the Chairmanship’s intention to create and fund a Migration and Security Coordinator and a “Migration Hub” at the OSCE. These initiatives could better inform participating States and OSCE executive structures, thereby enhancing cooperation.

In conclusion, the United States reaffirms its strong support to the IOM, ICRC, and other international organizations as the leading voices in any conversation about migration or refugees. The OSCE can help by bringing a consensus understanding of the situation and policies of participating States, and empowering OSCE field missions to play a supporting role in their host countries.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.