Theresa May is to tell the UN general assembly of the dangers of “uncontrolled mass migration” as it meets in New York to discuss how to help more than 21 million refugees around the world.

At the UN, May will argue that it is not in the interests of the migrants to be exposed to exploitation and danger as they cross borders, nor the interests of the countries they are leaving, travelling through or seeking to reach. She will say that mass population movements reduce resources and popular support for refugees.

Her arguments appear to echo those made by David Cameron’s government, which targeted most of its aid to refugees in countries bordering war zones, in contrast to Germany’s approach of accepting hundreds of thousands of people who had journeyed across Europe.

It does, however, leave the door open for the UK to accept more refugees straight from camps, who have not embarked on journeys across seas and borders.

May will propose three measures: helping refugees to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach; a better distinction between refugees and economic migrants; and the right of all countries to control their borders, along with a responsibility to stop uncontrolled migration flows.

Speaking before the general assembly, May said: “We cannot simply focus on treating the symptoms of this crisis, we need to address its root causes too.”

The gathering comes as May faces criticism in the UK for failing to do enough to help refugees and demands to improve the UK’s pledge to settle 20,000 people from Syria over four years.

Last week, the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was one of 200 religious leaders to call for more action, criticising the government’s response as “too slow, too low and too narrow”.

David Miliband, the head of the International Rescue Committee, said this weekend that May should use the summit to promise that the UK will resettle more refugees.

“Frankly, the UK should be saying we’ll take 20,000 or 25,000 a year, so four times the current level, 25 refugees per parliamentary constituency rather than just six, because countries like Canada are already doing that,” he said. “So I think the UK could do more on the refugee resettlement side to match the frankly exemplary performance that the UK has on international humanitarian aid.”

Yvette Cooper, the chair of Labour’s refugee taskforce, called on May to speed up the government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrians – setting a 2018 target rather than 2020 – and offer more help to those fleeing the war.

She urged the prime minister to resettle 500 unaccompanied child refugees from the Calais camp and ensure that none were left by Christmas.

“The prime minister must show leadership on the refugee crisis,” Cooper said. “She must go to this summit to galvanise international support for refugees and show that Britain can and will meet our commitments. Right now, the decisions parliament and our country have taken are being mired in red tape and government foot-dragging.”

The UN summit on refugees and migrants comes as the outgoing secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Obama attempt to use their remaining time in office to try to make some headway on issue.

Read more: The Guardian 

Photo credit: Nick Ansell/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian

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