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Bern meeting ICRC hopes for consensus, resettlement deal at migration conference

Maurer, who recently visited Yemen, also said his organisation is hoping to use diplomatic channels to gain access to the war-torn country


The head of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is hoping that an upcoming international conference on migration being held in the Swiss capital will yield political consensus over aspects of the Mediterranean refugee situation. He supports a Swiss proposal to directly resettle some refugees from Libya. 

Peter Maurer told the SonntagsBlick newspaper that he finds it a shame that the world’s interior ministers are “still mostly focused on controlling migration” instead of on improving the humanitarian situation in countries like Libya, where many migrants gather in dangerous circumstances before attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. 

“We are especially interested in speaking directly with the interior ministers, also with those from Africa,” Maurer said in anticipation of the Mediterranean migration conference set to take place in Bern tomorrow. “They are the ones who can take concrete steps to improve the situation in their own countries.”

But Maurer also managed expectations for the gathering, where he said, “we must remain realistic”. 

“It’s important now to aim for consensus,” he said. “The African leaders will only be able to implement a common strategy in a second step.” 

He also admitted that simply pushing the problem entirely onto the shoulders of African governments is a “legitimate concern” that “must be avoided”. 

In order to ensure Europe does its part, he supports initiatives like the one proposed last week by Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga to directly resettle certain refugees to Switzerland via special flights. 

“Even if resettlement programmes can’t solve every problem, they can still help to ease the migration pressures in northern Africa,” Maurer said. and abencies/vdv

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