On 7-8 July 2017 Hamburg hosted the G20 summit, which has traditionally been one of the most important diplomatic events of the year. In addition to the official agenda, a lot of attention was concentrated on the bilateral meetings of heads of state, where a number of important decisions were made on key international issues.
In total, the summit’s agenda included four working sessions. The third session was devoted to the issues of ‘Africa, health and migration’. At first glance such a combination of topics in one session may seem strange, but in the logic of this year’s discussions, these issues are quite interrelated.
The problem of migration is one of the most important aspects of the overall growth of the global economy. The G20 audience, together with assembled leaders, discussed issues such as: 1) How to stop the flow of refugees and migrants from Africa into Europe; 2) How to integrate those who managed to make their way to Europe by land or by sea; 3) How to provide them with work and other social rights; and most importantly 4) How much will it cost taxpayers?
Migration was a very sensitive topic within the summit’s agenda and obviously all countries have their own positions and interests to protect. President Donald Trump, who proposed to build a border wall between the US and Mexico, and who signed a travel ban for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, appealed to control migration and criticised Europe for accepting too many migrants. Mexico on the other hand, continues to prioritise the rights of migrants, participates in global refugee programs, and tries to limit illegal crossings across the US’s southern border.
During this year’s G20 summit, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had much to say on the topic of refugees and migration, since Turkey currently hosts more refugees than any other country in attendance, mostly from the war-torn neighbouring Syria. Moreover, one of the topics for the EU-Turkey discussion was further implementation of the 2016 migration deal between the member states and Turkey.
For Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, whose country is struggling to cope with the arrival of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, migration was also one of the priority issues to deal with.
The main concern for South African President Jacob Zuma was migration from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia, who are in the midst of war or exhausted by poverty.
The issue of migration is among one of the top priorities for the German presidency of the G20, since Germany is Europe’s largest economy, and has taken in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015 (more than half of them are from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but there are also thousands of refugees from Ethiopia, Nigeria, and elsewhere in Africa). German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly spoken about the need to help the African continent, which resulted in establishing the G20 Africa Partnership. The partnership aims to renew efforts for sustainable economic development in Africa, and to facilitate private investment, sustainable infrastructure, and employment in African countries. This partnership is supposed to address and deal with the root causes of migration.
Moreover, in the final Declaration of the summit, leaders of the G20 acknowledged the importance of establishing partnerships with countries of origin and transit. Member countries committed to addressing issues related to the needs of refugees and migrants near their region of origin and in cases when applicable, to ensuring their safe return home.
The G20 leaders appealed for more effective management of migration procedures and for a comprehensive response to displacement. They also recognised the need to develop appropriate tools and institutional structures for these response procedures. In this regard, the leaders will count on the adoption of the UN global agreements on refugees and security in 2018.
Leaders also approved a set of measures to integrate migrants and refugees into the labour markets of receiving countries. They noted the sovereign right of states to control the borders, and that repatriation and reintegration of migrants who do not have the right to stay should be implemented in a humane manner. The leaders left the summit determined to take action against people smugglers and traffickers.
Generally speaking, the G20 heads of state unanimously agreed that migration and forced displacement in the world has reached a historic level, and among the main reasons for this named are protracted conflicts and natural disasters, as well as the disregard and violation of human rights and disregard for them.