Immigrants and refugees should not - and must not - be seen as a burden, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in The Hague upon the launch of a document containing 21 principles for more humane government policies to deal with migrants.
If the issue of migration is tackled properly, citizens of developed and developing countries alike will come to understand how its benefits far outweigh the problems it may bring, the Secretary-General said in accepting the Declaration of The Hague, which was produced by the Society for International Development of the Netherlands.
"Politicians have a choice to make," he said, noting that they can embrace the potential that migrants and refugees represent, or instead use them as political scapegoats. The Secretary-General was accompanied at the Declaration's launch by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers.
Afterwards at a press encounter, the Secretary-General reiterated his challenge to world leaders not to scapegoat migrants. "For any number of illegal immigrants, there are thousands more who are in our midst legally and when we come up with laws, we have to be careful not to generalize from the particular, come up with laws that are designed to get certain individuals, but be careful that it is not applied to other innocent and law-abiding people in our midst," he said.
The Secretary-General then met with the judges of the International Court of Justice, who reviewed with him their caseload. He briefed them on his meeting with the Presidents of Cameroon and Nigeria last Friday, following the ICJ's ruling last month on the countries' dispute over the Bakassi peninsula.
After meeting with the leaders of the UN Association of the Netherlands and thanking them for their work, the Secretary-General had a working luncheon with his Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto.
On Sunday, the Secretary-General will leave the Netherlands for France.