“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
In the afternoon the conference on human trafficking addressed the migration issue, a topic that dominates political and public debate. It was therefore added to the conference programme. In her opening address, Speaker of the House of Representatives Khadija Arib had already referred to the subject. She quoted Martin Luther King: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” No country can control human trafficking and migration alone, simply because these problems do not stop at our own national borders. Arib: “That is why we need seek a way together to address these two major issues, which impact existential values, such as personal freedom, safety and security. Major discoveries and improvements will be forthcoming only if we exchange knowledge and experience. This holds true not only for government leaders or ministers but also for MPs.”
State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff, in charge of immigration in the Netherlands, opened the afternoon programme. He emphasized that problems may be solved only if we work together to this end. “Given all the differences that exist between the countries in the European Union, we need to look for a common ground, to seek out solutions that will be good enough for everybody.” He also emphasized the importance of highlighting the achievements: “We should congratulate ourselves that refugees are being allocated increasingly rapidly.” He added that he hopes this is the “in between” week, i.e. the week before an agreement is reached with Turkey.
The afternoon was dedicated mainly to exchanging information. The opening address by Minister Klaas Dijkhoff was followed by keynote speeches by – and a debate with – Laurent Muschel, director of Migration at the European Commission, Claus Folden from the European Asylum Support Office, Andreea Niculiu from Frontex and Violeta Moreno-Lax from Queen Mary University in London. They offered insight into the numbers and routes, for example, and listed risks and opportunities. Folden: “In terms of logistics and operations alike, accommodating refugees is difficult. Success is contingent on a flexible, customised approach.” Moreno-Lax emphasized that the EU member states receive less than 2% of the refugees from Syria. She urged solidarity. “That is morally and ethically justifiable. Legal admission is the only alternative that will put an end to smuggling people and deaths at sea.”
After the coffee break, the participants conversed with the speakers, moderated by Senate member Tineke Strik. The negotiations with Turkey, which are ongoing at this time, were an important topic in the conversation.
In her concluding remarks, Loes Ypma, chair of the Standing Committee on Security and Justice of the Dutch House of Representatives, spoke about all the volunteers who helped make the conference a success. “You must have noticed them, those eager students who gave you professional service with a smile, from the registration desk at the hotel all the way to this conference room. They attend the Haagse Hogeschool, and we are proud that they are willing to help us.”