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U.K.’s May Will Urge UN Action to Control Mass Migration Flows

  • Prime minister to address UN General Assembly on Tuesday
  • Says refugees should seek asylum in first safe country

Theresa May will use her first appearance as British prime minister at a United Nations General Assembly meeting starting Monday to urge fellow leaders to do more to control mass migration, which she’ll argue hurts both refugees and the countries they enter.

Civil wars in Syria and Libya led to a surge in the number of people fleeing the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety in Europe. That’s led to arguments within the European Union about whether to welcome them or turn them back. The dilemma is compounded because many travel in unsafe boats, and some drowning or needing to be rescued. May will say the migrants should be encouraged to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.

Meanwhile the EU’s open internal borders have allowed large population flows, with many Eastern Europeans traveling to richer countries in search of a better life. It was partly resentment at this that led Britain to vote to leave the EU in June. May will call for a better distinction between these two groups.

“This is an urgent matter -- more people are displaced than at any point in modern history and it is vital that we provide ongoing support for those people most in need of protection,” May said in a statement released by her office. “While we must continue our efforts to end conflict, stop persecution and the abuse of human rights, I believe we also need a new, more effective global approach to manage migration.”

Just over two months into the job, May is attending her second international summit, with the goal of reassuring international partners that Britain is still open for business after the Brexit vote, and still willing to play a leading role in the world. On Monday evening, she’ll host a reception in New York for business leaders. She is also pushing for a new UN resolution on aviation security.

May is due to address the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday morning.