Companies like Microsoft can help manage migration: incoming UN migration chief

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By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) - The incoming head of the U.N. migration agency said on Thursday that she has talked to companies like Microsoft to see how they can build partnerships to manage migration.

A record number of people -- more than 100 million -- are forcibly displaced around the world and the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) seeks to ensure humane and orderly migration and intervenes where needed.

Washington's candidate Amy Pope, who beat her Portuguese boss Antonio Vitorino in an tense election last month to head the organisation, said there was a need to ease strain on asylum systems in Western countries she described as "completely overwhelmed".

"I want to go to the private sector being a major part of how we deliver around the world," Pope told Reuters in an interview. "It's not just about doing good. It's really about building a partnership for sustainability."

Pope, who formally takes office as Director-General in October, cited talks with Microsoft about projects in Africa as an example of increased private sector investment in migration work.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

At present only about $15 million of IOM's total budget of $2.5 billion comes from the private sector, she said.

Pope said that such projects were examples of creating alternatives for economic migrants who might otherwise use the asylum system.

When asked about new asylum restrictions imposed by U.S. President Joe Biden at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, Pope said she would wait to see what happens with how the policy is implemented.

Under the new Biden policy, migrants who pass through Mexico or other countries without seeking protection or fail to use U.S. legal pathways from abroad will generally be denied U.S. asylum if they cross the border illegally.

Pope, who worked as a White House adviser and whose candidacy was backed by Biden personally, will become the 11th IOM head. All but two of them have been American.

Another priority of her mandate is to create more "climate sustainable solutions" for migration, Pope said. She does not currently support giving those fleeing climate change's effects refugee status, she said.

The world's deadliest migration route is from North Africa to Europe via the central Mediterranean and hundreds have drowned there this year. Pope described the issue as a "symptom" of what is happening in many places - desperation pushing people to pursue dangerous journeys. "My hope, my intent is that collectively, we can raise that perspective to 30,000 feet," she said.

(Additional reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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