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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Farmleigh, Ireland, 25 May 2015 - Secretary-General's remarks at meeting with resettled refugees and Syrians [as prepared for delivery]

It is a great pleasure for me to be with you.

This morning I met with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Mrs. Frances Fitzgerald, and we discussed the challenges faced by people fleeing conflict and persecution.

I would like to express my appreciation to her for Ireland’s resettlement programme, the establishment of the Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme, as well as her ongoing support to the Syrian community in Ireland more generally.

I would also like to express my admiration for all of you gathered here today, from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Sudan and Syria, who have built new lives in Ireland.

You may be aware that I was a child during the Korean war.  One of my earliest memories is fleeing with my family into the hills surrounding my village. As we climbed in the rain, I looked back on the only world I knew: where I had played, where I had gone to school, where I had lived with my family; all of it was in flames. Our lives went up in smoke.

I know at least some measure of what you are going through.

Despite the hardships, despite the darkness, I came through it. Today, I carry a simple message: The world is with you, and I am with you. 

I know that we have all been shocked at the recent grievous loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea. Thousands of people have perished in search of safety.  We have also seen many people in peril in Southeast Asia.  This is a global issue. 

When we consider how to prevent such tragedies, it is important to think of the individuals who have been forced to flee, and ensure that the response reflects our common values and principles of humanity, solidarity, and respect for human rights.

I welcome the proposals in the European Commission’s “Agenda on Migration”, and particularly its focus on saving lives and ensuring the protection of those in need. The United Nations and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are ready to work with the EU, its Member States and relevant third countries in supporting and further developing the measures included in the Agenda.

The Irish Minister for Justice and Equality responded immediately to the Agenda by announcing an additional 300 resettlement places. This is very welcome, and I hope more States will make similar additional pledges for resettlement that reflect the scale of the needs.

We must also create additional safe and regular avenues of migration and access to protection. Private sponsorship schemes, enhanced family reunification and flexible visa arrangements, including for humanitarian, study and work purposes, can bring families back together. These initiatives work best when States work in partnership with local communities. I am happy that, in Ireland, the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Syrian community and UNHCR are working closely together to find the most effective ways to support the Syrian community here.

Thank you.  I look forward to meeting you all.

Statements on 25 May 2015