At the UN summit in New York, the prime minister said the migration crisis had been “exacerbated” by “unprecedented” numbers of economic migrants.She urged a change in approach, saying refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.
The UN says a record number of people have been displaced by conflict.It estimates that 65.3 million people were either refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of five million in a year.
The UN summit for refugees and migrants is aiming to agree a “more humane and coordinated approach”.Addressing world leaders, Mrs May called for a greater distinction between refugees and people trying to enter a country for economic reasons.
But she said the current levels of “uncontrolled migration” were not in the interests of the migrants or the countries involved, and served to reduce popular support for refugees.
“We need to be clear that all countries have the right to control their borders and protect their citizens and be equally clear that countries have a duty to manage their borders, to reduce onward flows of illegal and uncontrolled migration,” she said.
She argued that refugees should seek asylum in the first safe country they arrived in because the current trend of onward movement exposed them to increased danger and benefited criminal gangs.
Such an approach would bar EU countries from allowing migrants to travel onwards from countries like Greece, Italy and France through Europe to Britain.