Salzburg Forum Ministerial Conference 2024: ICMPD at the Center of Efforts against Migration and Human Trafficking

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: July 2, 2024; 19:56 ♦ (Vindobona)

The ministerial conference of the "Forum Salzburg" in Laxenburg took place under the leadership of the Austrian Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner. It attracted high-ranking representatives from the Forum's member states as well as the EU Commission and various regional and EU agencies. Discussions focused on topics such as asylum and migration, the fight against people smuggling, and measures against extremism and terrorism.

The Director General Michael Spindelegger of the ICMPD attended the Salzburg Forum Ministerial Conference. / Picture: © BMI/Gerd Pachauer

One of the most prominent participants at the conference was Michael Spindelegger, Director General of the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). The ICMPD, an important organization in the field of migration policy, played a central role in the debates and offered valuable perspectives and solutions. Spindelegger emphasized the importance of international cooperation and the need to address weaknesses in the current systems to combat people smuggling effectively.

During Working Group II on "Innovative solutions and common strategies to manage migration and combat people smuggling", Spindelegger gave a well-received speech. He highlighted the impact of people smuggling on the European migration landscape and security and presented a three-phase strategy to combat this problem.

The first pillar of this strategy involves improving law enforcement methods with a strong focus on regional and international cooperation. Spindelegger explained: "Only through increased cooperation can we effectively dismantle the networks of people smuggling."

The second pillar emphasizes the need to address systemic weaknesses. "Increased capacities of all partners along the migration routes for border control, implementation of asylum procedures, and repatriation will close these loopholes and seriously impair the business model of the smuggling networks," said Spindelegger.

He named cooperation with partners outside Europe as the third pillar. In this context, he highlighted the role of the ICMPD's Migrant Resource Centers (MRCs). "We see a high usage of the centers by our target group and firmly believe that providing easily accessible, honest, and sound information to migrants is an important tool to weaken the market position of smuggling networks."

Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner also emphasized the importance of the "Forum Salzburg" as an essential platform for international cooperation since its foundation in 2000. "In the 24 years of its existence, the 'Forum Salzburg' has proven to be an important platform for combating illegal migration and promoting police cooperation. The focus of this meeting is primarily on the joint fight against the smuggling mafia, but also on consistent action against extremism and terrorism," said Karner.

The "Salzburg Forum" currently comprises nine members: Bulgaria, Austria, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. In 2007, the partners in the Western Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, as well as Kosovo and the Republic of Moldova, were added to the group of friends of the "Forum Salzburg".

This year's conference builds on previous meetings and initiatives, including the establishment of the Joint Coordination Platform (JCP) in 2020 and the establishment of a return mechanism in 2022. These initiatives highlight the ongoing efforts of Member States to jointly address migration and security challenges and develop effective solutions.

In his speech, Michael Spindelegger also referred to the recently adopted EU Pact on Migration and Asylum and the associated opportunities for increased cooperation. He assured that the ICMPD would continue to mobilize all available resources and networks to support the member states and achieve the common goals.

"As ICMPD, we are determined to support this work with all our expertise, networks, and resources. I am convinced that the member states of the Salzburg Forum will be very much involved in this process and I am very much looking forward to our cooperation," concluded Spindelegger.

The Ministerial Conference of the Salzburg Forum 2024 has once again underlined the importance of international cooperation and the exchange of best practices to effectively address the complex challenges in the areas of migration and security. The role of the ICMPD and the strategies presented provide a solid basis for future measures and initiatives.


Austria Ministry of Interior