All countries must contribute to solving global refugee crisis, says General Assembly President

Mostly Syrian refugees crossing a stretch of wasteland between Hungary and Austria. Photo: UNHCR/Mark Henley

21 September 2015 – All countries must contribute to solving the global refugee crisis, the President of the United Nations General Assembly said today, underscoring that the international community has an unequivocal obligation towards the women, men and children seeking refuge from conflict and violence.

“The world has not seen a global humanitarian crisis of this magnitude since the Second World War and with winter approaching in the northern hemisphere, it is only going to get worse,” Mogens Lykketoft cautioned during his first formal press conference since taking office last week.

“The tragic stories and heart-breaking images we are seeing in the media are only the tip of the iceberg – the manifestation of much bigger issues which only multilateral cooperation and global leadership can solve,” he added. “This is a global crisis. And it requires a global solution.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has invited Member States to a special meeting on 30 September in New York to discuss the crisis, also voiced his concern about the deteriorating situation facing refugees and migrants arriving across Europe.

Mr. Ban “calls on all European States to ensure that they abide by their international obligations, including the right to seek asylum, and the prohibition of refoulement,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

“All persons must be received with dignity and their human rights must be respected. The Secretary-General has followed with increasing concern the closing of some borders in Europe, as well as the lack of proper reception facilities as well as the increased use of detention and criminalization of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers.”

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is helping survivors of two separate incidents over the weekend involving boats carrying refugees and migrants between Turkey and Greece, which left up to 40 people either dead or missing. Nearly 3,000 people have died or gone missing crossing the Mediterranean this year.

The agency and its partners in Greece are providing ongoing support for the survivors and families, including medical and psychological care, accommodation, legal assistance, food and water. Mr. Lykketoft will shortly be convening a meeting of the General Assembly on the refugee crisis, building on the high-level meeting organized by the Secretary-General. He will also discuss the situation with Pope Francis, who will be visiting UN Headquarters in New York on Friday.

“The majority of people fleeing war and violence are refugees and have the right to seek asylum without any form of discrimination. It is not a crime to seek refuge and asylum,” he said. “We need to ensure that our responses are tangible, focused and that we work towards lasting, sustainable solutions.”

“We need to ensure that countries affected by the arrival of refugees, particularly Syria’s neighbouring countries, receive the support and assistance necessary to address the needs of these vulnerable populations,” he added.


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