Opening Statement, 44th Plenary Session, Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States

Date Publish: 
Saturday, May 20, 2017 - 18:30
Mr. William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

H.E. Madame Valentina Matviyenko, Chairperson of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS), Speaker of the Federal Parliament.

Your excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honor and pleasure to take part in the 44th Plenary Session of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS). IOM has been working in the CIS Region for almost 25 years, and almost every member of the CIS is also a Member State of IOM. Thus, I would like to express my profound appreciation in particular to H.E. Madame Valentina Matviyenko, the chairperson of the Council and Speaker, and the Russian Federation for their kind invitation; and St. Petersburg for their warm welcome and hospitality.

I would like to make three points:

1. The “Perfect Storm”

We live in a world that is on the move. Our time is an era of unprecedented human mobility – more people are on the move than ever before – more than 1 billion in our world of 7 billion. Unfortunately, we are also witnessing unprecedented levels of forced migration, crises and disasters, anti-migrant sentiment, and indifference and lack of leadership to address these challenges.

We live in an era of unprecedented human mobility and migration can be a catalyst of positive change and development on one hand; but on the other, migration – especially its irregular forms – can present serious challenges. Migrants are particularly vulnerable to extremism, xenophobia or discrimination.

Unfortunately, migration is pointed to increasingly, as the cause of violent extremism; this is a sort of cruel irony whereas, in actual fact, forced migrants are frequently fleeing violent extremism. We must address a growing anti-migrant sentiment and narrative. We must work to ensure that community perceptions, media coverage and political discourse on migration are more objective, balanced and historically accurate.

2. Calming the Storm

In order to calm this storm, we must manage more responsibly and humanely, and set new priorities.

IOM priorities for managing migration in this respect are:

First, saving lives, providing protection and upholding rights of all refugees and migrants.

Second, promoting access to more legal avenues of migration, to reduce the hold of smugglers particularly on those who are desperate to move, and to eliminate the allure of traffickers.

Third, addressing more concertedly the root causes of irregular migration.

3. Preventing Future Storms

A. Changing the migration narrative

First, we must find a way to change the migration narrative. The public discourse on migration at present is toxic. Historically, migration has always been overwhelmingly positive. My own country was built, and continues to be built on the backs and brains of migrants. Migrants are agents of development. Migrants bring innovation. Migrants don’t take our jobs, they create new jobs.

B. Managing diversity

Migration is at an historic high with 1 in 7 persons on the move world-wide.  The drivers of large-scale migration – demography, disasters, socio-economic desperation – ensure that all our societies will inexorably become more diverse, more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious.

The key to effective migration management is strengthening integration of migrants with the host societies – through jobs, language learning and community programs to welcome new arrivals. This helps prevent “home-grown” violent extremists.

In order to ensure harmonious multicultural, pluralistic societies we need to welcome migrants for the benefits they bring, and to provide concerted, long-term support to integrating migrants in receiving and hosting communities. I would like to commend the success of the Russian Federation in managing the influx of refugees and migrants as a result of effective migration policy and migration management.


I would like to end my remarks by highlighting IOM’s migration thesis. For us, increased migration is inevitable, due to the digital revolution, distance-shrinking technologies, demographics and disasters; it is necessary, for durable and equitable economic growth; and migration is desirable, if well-governed.

As I always say, migration is here to stay: so rather than seeing migration as a problem to be solved, we must regard it as a human reality to be managed. As we face the continuation of simultaneous, unprecedented and complex emergencies, people will continue to flee and resort to migration as a coping mechanism. To face the challenges associated with such scenarios, we need to actively tackle the root causes and promote and abide by commonly shared values that will address the risks to such mobility.

Once again, I would like to thank Chairwoman Matviyenko and the authorities of the Russian Federation for their excellent collaboration with IOM, that has been ever-growing and ever-improving and at the same time stress critical importance of IOM-Russia collaboration for the region and globally.

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