Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on Maintenance of International Peace and Security

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
September 28, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to thank the directors of UNHCR and IOM for their briefings, and for the work they and their teams do every day to protect migrants. Your commitment is noted, and we appreciate the role of IOM and the High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure migrants and refugees are treated in accordance with international law.

The United States remains deeply concerned about migrant smuggling and human trafficking in Libya and around the globe.

Europe and the United States share many challenges related to irregular migration. We both share responsibilities for managing migration on our respective borders and a commitment to promote safe, orderly, humane, and regular migration.

We believe prioritizing both access to international protection and humane border management measures are essential to address forced displacement and the challenges of irregular migration. We also look to regional, multilateral approaches to migration.

We thank the EU for its commitment, through Operation Irini, to rescuing refugees and migrants on the high seas off Libya’s coast, when there are reasonable grounds to suspect the vessels are being used for migrant smuggling and human trafficking. Smugglers routinely subject those they are transporting to sexual violence, extortion, and beatings. They are transported in horrific conditions, and as the Secretary-General’s latest report notes, tactics by smugglers remain largely unchanged.

Operation Irini is a key component of international efforts to alleviate the human tragedy of migrant deaths on the high seas. The people dying in the Mediterranean are often fleeing violence or extreme hardships in their own countries, only to be exploited by human traffickers and smugglers en route before finally losing their lives at sea.

Migrants returned to Libya often face human rights abuses. Nearly half of the migrants and refugees in Libya are from Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the latest Secretary-General’s report. This report also notes an increasing number of migrant expulsions to neighboring countries.

We want to commend the attention the EU has given to ensuring Operation Irini places a primary focus on the human rights of the migrants themselves.

This challenge is bigger than just Operation Irini. The international community can do more to help vulnerable migrants by supporting the Secretary-General’s call for a holistic approach to address the root causes of irregular migration.

We want to thank the members of the Council for their engagement on a resolution to extend Operation Irini for another twelve months. We particularly appreciate the efforts of the penholders — Malta and France — in incorporating strong human rights language that stays within the scope of the resolution. We hope for Council consensus to renew this important part of our larger effort in the coming days.

Thank you, Mr. President.