Western Balkans partners have adopted a comprehensive conference outcome document in which they commit to further strengthen cooperation to address the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings, notably by taking measures to adopt the rights-based and victim-centered approach and strengthening cooperation.
They have also committed themselves to increasing access to regular pathways for migrants according to the national and international legal framework and fostering social inclusion.
Finally, Western Balkans partners commit to work towards a holistic return management approach and improve return, readmission and reintegration practices through rights-based and process-driven systems and procedures.
On 15 and 16 November, the Czech Ministry of Interior, under the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Ministry of Interior of North Macedonia jointly hosted the Conference “Sustainable Migration Governance in the Western Balkans” in Skopje, North Macedonia.
In the course of this two-day conference, Ministers of Interior from the Western Balkans, representatives of neighboring EU Member States, relevant EU institutions and international organizations, and academia gathered with the objective of identifying comprehensive, sustainable, and solutions-oriented approaches to effectively manage migration in the Western Balkans.
“The topic of sustainable migration governance is of utmost importance for Czechia and the Western Balkans. The region is still a major crossroad for arrivals to the EU and managing migration is our common responsibility. Strengthening migration management, asylum and return is essential to find common solutions to the complex situation in the region” declared Mr. Vit Rakusan, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior of Czechia in his opening address.
Since 2015, the Western Balkans has emerged as a major transit region for migrants attempting to reach Western Europe. From an immediate emergency in 2015 and 2016, migration has become increasingly a steady phenomenon to which partners have been confronted and are now grappling to find a steady way to govern it. The migration situation in the region remains complex, testing institutional capacities. Migrants undertaking risky journeys through and remaining in the region, including children and families, are vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse, which raises protection concerns and needs.
The Conference, facilitated by the International Organization of Migration (IOM), aimed at marking an important landmark into even more comprehensive and sustainable migration governance.
Acknowledging that mixed migration movements in the Western Balkans is a reality to be reckoned with, all partners recognized the critical importance of addressing enduring migration management challenges, working towards a solutions-oriented approach, and enhancing safe and regular pathways to uphold the human rights of migrants.
“Interoperable systems are paramount to continue our work and establish sustainable and coherent management systems, including for the identification of migrants. Practical linkages to connect the region to the EU systems is also necessary for effective migration management, notably through comprehensive border management and readmission programming”, declared Oliver Spasovski, Minister of Interior of the Republic of North Macedonia.
Recognizing that sustainable migration governance in the Western Balkans is inextricably linked to long-term development, the declaration will set the way forward for actors to implement complementary initiatives under an overall solutions-oriented response to migration in the Western Balkans region.
“I leave the region today with reassurance that through the Skopje Declaration, we were able to set the tone for a comprehensive look at migration governance in the Western Balkans and find a solutions-oriented approach to address migration in a humane and orderly way. IOM is committed to help partners in the region to translate these important commitments into concerted and concrete actions through a comprehensive and whole-of-society approach”, concluded Mr. Antonio Vitorino, IOM Director General, stated the IOM.