Balancing the narrative on migration is the address by Commissioner Johannes Hahn for the 1st Ceremony of the Migration Media Award for Journalistic Excellence in the Euro-Mediterranean region
Delivered: June 14, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to be able to participate today, even if I cannot be present in person.
You will be discussing a very important initiative. Migration is on the minds of citizens across the Mediterranean – and HOW we talk about it, whether we are policy makers or journalists, MATTERS.
Getting the narrative right, is not just about correctly understanding the problem – it is part of the answer to meeting the challenges raised by large movements of people.
The Commission is fully engaged in a range of initiatives to improve management of migration flows and save lives on the Central Mediterranean migration route – and I would like to thank the Maltese presidency for its active support.
Our efforts range from actions aimed at breaking the business model of the smugglers, to improving the conditions of stranded migrants and working to build socio-economic stability in transit countries, particularly Libya.
On the Central Mediterranean route, we have seen violent conflicts and under-development in Sub-Saharan Africa drive up irregular migration, putting thousands of human lives at risk.
I believe that most people would prefer to stay where they are born – if they can build a good life there, in freedom and prosperity.
That is why the EU will continue to work with partners around the Mediterranean and beyond, to tackle the roots of irregular migration and forced displacement, addressing, where we can, the economic and political factors that make people – and particularly young people – want to move on.
We work closely too, with countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which are hosting so many refugees who have fled the conflict in Syria. The aim is to offer a dignified life to displaced people, who can be active contributors to their host communities
And this brings me to my central point : Migration means change – for the people who move and for the communities who receive them. There are challenges, and there are opportunities to be seized.
A balanced narrative about migration must reflect both of these.
The EU believes migration can be an economic and social opportunity. We will keep supporting actions that maximise the link between migration and development.
We believe too, that society needs to respond to migration on the basis of evidence: good, old fashioned facts. We must avoid that stereotypes and negative scare stories that catch the public imagination, without a basis in truth, and which can end up influencing public opinion.
The language we use must not feed lazy preconceptions about who the new arrivals are, or how they are likely to behave.
We all have responsibilities in this regard. Policy makers. Journalists. Leaders at community, national and international levels.
We all have a role in shaping perceptions of migration, and more to the point, of migrants.
A strong case for managed migration has to be kept separate from any support to those who would like to spread hate-speech and inappropriate language that can poison relationships and divide human beings.
We need to recognise legitimate concerns where they exist, but also give adequate space to the positive impact that migration can have in our own societies.
EU will keep using all instruments available to actively uphold a balanced discourse on migration, including dialogue platforms for policy makers, media and Civil Society Organisations who promote a more thorough understanding of migration.
The Mediterranean Migration Media Award that will be delivered later today is a simple and concrete step to encourage quality, evidence-based journalism on migration.
Objective reporting and fact-based information to the public is as important as ever it was – even in these days of fake news and campaign by tweet.
Without clear honest voices we will never have the rational and constructive debate that Europe so badly needs particularly at this moment.
So, I look forward to hearing about the winners… and about your discussions today !