British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for fortification of border controls, as European countries are grappling with an indiscriminate influx of refugees and asylum seekers.
“We should be clear that there is nothing wrong with going in search of a better life ... but countries must be able to exert control over their borders,” the British premier said in her address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
During her speech, May pointed to three fundamental principles that need to be established for migration.
“First, we must make sure that refugees claim asylum in the first safe country they reach,” she said, adding that more should be done to help those countries where refugees first arrive.
“Second, a distinction must be made between economic migrants and those fleeing violence,” May said, reaffirming the “declaration of human rights” as the third principle.
The comments were made as Europe, for nearly two years, has been suffering from a massive refugee crisis, which has been described as the most unprecedented in decades.
Earlier in the day, the UN refugee agency said more than 300,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea so far this year in the hope of reaching the wealthy European countries.
The UNHCR said the year 2016 has been “the deadliest year on record in the Mediterranean Sea,” as 3,211 refugees have been reported dead or missing on the Mediterranean so far this year.
The agency said Syrians, who suffer the crippling effects of the conflict in their country, make up half of those who have crossed the Mediterranean to Greece despite all restrictions imposed this year.
More than a million entered the continent last year, most of them fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa. Many blame Western policies toward the region for the refugee influx.
May backs Brexit
Elsewhere in her address, the UK premier backed Brexit vote, saying Britain will not turn away from the world after the vote to leave the European Union and will remain at the heart of international affairs.
"When the British people voted to leave the EU, they did not vote to turn inwards or walk away from any of our partners in the world," May said, adding that Britain would remain an "outward-facing, global partner at the heart of international efforts to secure peace and prosperity for all our people."
On June 23, some 52 percent (17.4 million) of Britons voted in a referendum to leave the EU after 43 years of membership, while roughly 48 percent (16.14 million) voted to stay in the union.
May is currently under pressure from the EU leaders to start the exit process without delay, arguing that postponing the decision to hand in formal notice is creating uncertainty and slowing economic growth.