Secretary-General, Accepting Refugee Petition, Urges Global Solidarity with People Fleeing War, Action to End Xenophobic Rhetoric

SG/SM/18066-REF/1235
16 September 2016

Secretary-General, Accepting Refugee Petition, Urges Global Solidarity with People Fleeing War, Action to End Xenophobic Rhetoric

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the #WithRefugees Petition Handover, in New York today:

Thank you very much for the chance to attend this moving ceremony.  Emi Mahmoud has touched our hearts with her powerful poem.  She vividly described what happened to Aylan Kurdi and so many others.  She said, “It makes the Earth a cemetery.”

We cannot let innocent people be buried by indifference.  We cannot let heartlessness expose so many children to deadly risk.  We cannot let indifference condemn families to tragedy.  We reject xenophobic rhetoric.  We stand with refugees.  The summit next week is for them.

The refugees here today are asking for what all people deserve.  A home.  A school.  A chance.  I understand.  When I was six years old, I fled from war.  My family survived thanks to the United Nations.  Without that global solidarity, I would not be standing here.

The summit is our foundation to build a stronger global response.  We are mobilizing all partners.  Thank you to the superstar Ben Stiller and the Supermodel Alek Wek here today.  They support us and so do ordinary people around the world.

That is why I am so honoured to accept this petition.  We must respond to its calls.  I have been proud to stand with refugees around the world in camps and reception centres.  Today we declare our commitment to share the responsibility.  That will benefit everyone.

We have an outstanding refugee athlete here, Yiech Pur Biel.  Not all refugees can compete for medals — but all of them can win in their new societies.  Let us help refugees and create a better future for all.

Thank you for your leadership and your commitment.

For information media. Not an official record.