Remarks by Ambassador Blake at Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process, Bali
On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank our Co-Chairs, Indonesia and Australia, for organizing this Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process and complement our hosts on providing us with a forum for a truly substantive discussion and exchange.
We find that robust multi-lateral engagement not only leads to more responsive and durable actions and programs, but also helps to develop and strengthen critical partnerships.
We’re here today because of a shared commitment to regional cooperation in addressing irregular migration and ensuring that humane migration systems are in place that take into account today’s realities.
I applaud and thank the many countries who have responded to the needs of vulnerable migrants with generosity and compassion by providing them with shelter, safety, and vital aid in times of urgent need.
We saw this during last May’s crisis in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal when thousands were left in perilous situations at sea by unscrupulous smugglers and human traffickers.
I commend Indonesia, and other affected countries in the region, for their leadership, and for the decisive, quick action they took to save lives and provide assistance to vulnerable migrants.
I commend you all for continuing to enhance and improve this forum’s strategy, including the proposal of a Ministerial Declaration on Irregular Migration which provides a clear pathway forward for all of us.
Likewise, the plan for a new consultation mechanism to enable member countries to expeditiously convene in response to crises will certainly benefit both the governments and the people in the region.
Across the world, migration has been on the front pages for some time now. It’s not new, but the scale of recent crises is unprecedented. All countries have a common responsibility to respond to these crises.
We must focus on saving lives and ensuring that the human rights of migrants are respected, regardless of their immigration status.
There is no doubt that the sheer numbers and needs of those fleeing toward Europe, Southeast Asia, Oceania and other regions have put tremendous pressure on governments, humanitarians, and political structures.
But the spotlight on what is happening has also helped us face a new reality. People are moving in ever larger numbers, for more complex reasons. We need to recognize that managing large numbers of refugees and migrants is and will be a challenge for decades to come. In doing so, we take an important first step toward the essential work of updating our systems.
One solution is to promote more legal avenues for migration. Legal programs recognize the economic benefits of migration while also keeping participants safer. The fewer legal options there are, the easier it is for smugglers and other criminals to step into the void.
Workplace protections are necessary too, to stop exploitation and allow migrants to contribute to and benefit from the societies in which they live.
Our commitment to the human rights of migrants extends far beyond our own hemisphere. The U.S. government supports many programs to protect and assist vulnerable migrants.
For example, in Southeast Asia, U.S. programs provided direct assistance to thousands of victims of trafficking, including over 1,000 trafficked fishermen, in an effort that relied on close cooperation with IOM and the Indonesian government.
U.S. programs also trained over 130 anti-trafficking officers on interviewing and investigation techniques, cross-border referrals and anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling laws, and supported numerous outreach activities on legal and safe migration, labor rights, and reducing vulnerability to trafficking.
We know Australia, and other countries represented in this room, also contribute greatly to anti-trafficking efforts and assisting victims of trafficking.
The last year has also highlighted with painful clarity that our current systems for assisting refugees worldwide are overwhelmed. They are not able to deliver the assistance and long-term protection that refugees need, nor the support that host countries deserve.
To meet the challenge, President Obama will host a high-level summit at the UN General Assembly in September that will seek new and significant commitments from governments in three priority areas:
- First, a pledge to increase funding to humanitarian organizations;
- second, a commitment to admit more refugees through resettlement or other legal channels of admission; and
- third, to increase refugees’ self-reliance and inclusion through opportunities for education and legal employment.
This event will be the culmination of a vigorous, sustained diplomatic effort undertaken by the United States and others in the international community over the coming months, including UNHCR’s high-level meeting on pathways for admission of Syrian refugees, the World Humanitarian Summit, and the President of the General Assembly’s high-level event at UNGA on refugees and migrants.
So I take this opportunity to urge all of your governments to make new and significant contributions throughout the year leading up to President Obama’s summit in September.
President Obama has said that no one country can solve these problems alone. The crises making headlines and those commanding far less attention are not the exclusive problem of Europe, or Africa, or Asia. They are global in nature and the shared responsibility of all.
The work that we are doing here today should be seen as part of a broader, global effort. By fostering regional cooperation on migration issues, the Bali Process can make a critical contribution to the overall development of its member countries and stability of the Asia Pacific region.