The High Commissioner for Refugees described a new model for meeting the needs of millions around the world forced to flee their homes due to crisis, presenting his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) amid calls for more equitable sharing of responsibility.
Filippo Grandi said the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework annexed to the landmark 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants provided the new model that placed the rights, interests and potential of refugees at the heart of a comprehensive response. It was time for change, and the international community appeared to be converging around directions it must pursue, which included easing pressure on host countries and communities, enhancing refugee self‑reliance; expanding resettlement and other third‑country solutions, and creating conditions conducive to voluntary return, he asserted.
As the Committee opened its general debate on the matter, Italy’s delegate pressed the international community to recognize that emergency humanitarian assistance must be complemented by long‑term development responses. He expressed full support for the “paradigm shift” in responding to forced displacement presented by the new Framework. Indeed, the number of people who had fled their homes in 2016 was 65.6 million, said the representative of the European Union, adding that 2018 must be a “showcase for collective action”. South Africa’s delegate said on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) the consequences of refugee outflows disproportionately affected the developing world.
Earlier in the day, the Committee concluded its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, with delegates focusing on self‑determination. Many also addressed the particular dangers refugees faced from discriminatory attitudes, with Nigeria’s representative urging both transit and destination countries to treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality and immigration status. It was a point echoed by Thailand’s representative, who underscored that social harmony would only come about through dialogue between migrants and host communities.
Also speaking in the general debate on racism and self‑determination were the delegations of Ukraine, Venezuela, Togo, Armenia, Algeria, Morocco, Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates.
Also speaking in the general debate on the report of the High Commissioner for Refugees were representatives of Saudi Arabia, Japan, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, Eritrea, Iraq, Russian Federation, United States, Syria, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Kenya, Iran, Algeria, Belarus and Turkey.
The representatives of Armenia, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Algeria and Morocco spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 2 November, to continue its dialogue with the High Commissioner for Refugees and take up the report of the Human Rights Council.
The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4215).
The Committee also had before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (A/72/12), the Report of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (A/72/12/Add.1) and the Report of the Secretary‑General on Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (A/72/354).
ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Constitution prohibited any form of discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnic origin or tribe. Urging States to recommit to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, he said they formed the normative basis for global efforts to eliminate racial discrimination, along with the universal ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Nigeria condemned racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and urged both transit and destination countries to treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality and immigration status.
DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, said national legislation guaranteed full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, colour, nationality or ethnicity. As racism and discrimination persisted around the world, there was an urgent need to ensure effective application of existing legislation, and to foster closer cooperation between Governments and civil society. Russian forces occupying the Crimean Peninsula and Sevastopol had mounted campaigns against ethnic Ukrainians and the Crimean Tatar community, she said, adding that the Russian Federation was attempting to impose ethnic dominance on the peninsula. Ukraine had filed an application in the International Court of Justice to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its actions, she affirmed, urging that country to immediately halt all acts of racial discrimination on persons in the occupied territories.
ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Group of 77 and China, affirmed his commitment to promoting a world free of racism and discrimination, adding that cultural diversity was the true path towards peace. Racism and xenophobia exacerbated violence. Stressing that technology allowed messages of hate to spread easily, increasing tension and undermining efforts to achieve peace, he said migrants were often victims of discrimination. Venezuela was working establish a multicultural society free of discrimination, he stressed, adding that a law against racial discrimination had been passed and a related institute was consolidating the instructional architecture on the matter.
KOMLAN AGBELÉNKON NARTEH-MESSAN (Togo) said his Government was committed to implementing international mechanisms to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was developing innovative approaches, yet challenges persisted. He welcomed global condemnation of acts commemorating the Nazi regime and said migrants and asylum seekers continued to be disproportionately affected by discrimination. Togo’s Constitution outlined measures to combat that behaviour and ensured equality before the law for all citizens. Legislative and regulatory measures were also being taken to combat racial discrimination.
THIRANAT SUCHARIKUL (Thailand) said global events had contributed to the rise in racial discrimination and stereotypes, and called for joint efforts to cultivate openness, tolerance and respect. Thailand’s Constitution guaranteed all persons were equal before the law and the Government was committed to implementing obligations under the International Convention. Thailand would also continue to improve the situation of migrants and displaced persons, she noted, stressing that social harmony would only come about through dialogue between migrants and host communities. Strong societies were based on social harmony, she emphasized.
LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said threats to human security on the basis of racist or xenophobic hatred should be perceived not just as crimes against specific individuals but also as threats to global stability. The most dangerous form of racial hatred toward other nations was the “institutionalization of racism” by openly encouraging prosecution of ethnic or religious groups, nations or races. That was exactly what Azerbaijan promoted. The struggle of the people of Nagorno‑Karabakh for self‑determination and freedom by the “despotic regime” of Azerbaijan exemplified how the use of force could only exacerbate the situation and trap parties into protracted conflict. Human rights and fundamental freedoms of people residing in conflict areas should be upheld regardless of the legal status of the territories, she said.
NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said violating the right to self‑determination was a form of racism. That right was a compulsory rule of international law enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. At a time when conditions were favourable, a free and integrated study could be carried out to help people exercise the right to self‑determination. Voting was the only way to express self‑determination, she said, calling for that right to be upheld through referendum for all people living under occupation. Western Sahara had been under occupation for more than four decades, she added.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said there was a double standard when it came to implementing self‑determination. That principle had been inscribed into two General Assembly resolutions in 1960: resolution 1514, to overcome the concerns of States, and 1541, which focused on implementation. The goal was to put into place guidelines for exercising the right to self‑determination. Assembly resolution 2625, of 1970, reiterated that self‑determination could not encourage action that would threaten the territorial integrity of any sovereign State. Despite legal and practical changes, self‑determination remained subject to legal interpretations. The Kabyle people had been deprived of self‑determination, while Algeria was focused on the Sahrawi.
HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) drew attention to the ethnic cleansing carried out against Azerbaijanis in Armenia and the occupied territories, as well as the creation of a mono‑ethnic State in Armenia. High‑ranking Armenian officials regularly made statements promoting ethnically and religiously motivated hatred and intolerance. People in Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and those living under foreign military occupation, deserved the right to self‑determination. Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan was illegal, as unilateral secession from independent States was prohibited by international law. “The fact that illegal situations continue because of political circumstances does not mean that they are therefore rendered legal,” he added.
Ms. ALHAMMADI (United Arab Emirates) said the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was a tool to combat intolerance, discrimination and hatred. The United Arab Emirates had long fought discrimination with fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution. The Government would continue to cooperate with relevant bodies to strengthen human rights. Encouraging tolerance and compassion was a priority, evidenced by a State institute that carried out such programmes at the national and global levels. She closed by calling on the United Nations to address the dangerous consequences of discrimination.
Right of Reply
The representative of Armenia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said statements made by her counterpart from Azerbaijan had been modelled after Nazi propaganda strategies. Armenians had experienced ethnic cleansing at the hands of Azerbaijan and its collaborators, she stressed, adding that Azerbaijan was denying the people of Nagorno‑Karabakh their right to self‑determination.
The representative of the Russian Federation, to remarks by his counterpart from Georgia, called on his colleague to recognize the new political reality, and the new sovereign States which had their own Governments and legal systems. Responding to the statement by Ukraine’s delegate, he recalled that the people of Crimea had exercised their right to self‑determination, a right enshrined in the Charter and both Covenants. Residents of Crimea enjoyed all human rights and freedoms, and if anyone was of the view their rights had been violated, they could address the courts.
The representative of Azerbaijan said comments by Armenia’s delegate were full of distortions which his country rejected. The ruling Republican Party had acknowledged a nationalist ideology, he said, adding that the younger generation was being groomed in that spirit. Armenia should abandon racist ideology and learn to live in peace with its neighbours. Armenia had unleashed war against Azerbaijan, carried out ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and destroyed cultural heritage of Azerbaijani people. Nagorno‑Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan and it was essential to recall Armenia’s involvement in a conflict that had claimed thousands of Azerbaijani civilian lives. Armenia’s leadership was known for hate speech and incitement to violence.
The representative of Georgia, in response to remarks by her counterpart from the Russian Federation, said that country continued to violate Georgia’s sovereign territory and had committed military aggression against Georgia. All those violations had been noted by the Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, she said, recalling that several waves of ethnic cleansing and other crimes had been proved by numerous international documents.
The representative of Ukraine, responding to comments by her Russian counterpart, said the international community had identified Moscow as an occupying power. The Russian Federation continued to violate United Nations resolutions, she said, recalling that a “Crimean nation” did not exist. Self‑determination could not be exercised in violation of international law, she noted, urging the Russian Federation to end its tactics that caused human suffering in the region.
The representative of Algeria, responding to statements by Morocco’s delegate, said the United Nations recognized 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and not unilateral rumours launched by Morocco. She called on Morocco to address its internal problems, and on the international community to look into the shameful human rights situation in that country. She expressed concern over the situation in the Western Sahara, noting the people of that area had been unable to exercise their right to self‑determination. Algeria was abiding by all United Nations decisions on the matter, she said.
The representative of Morocco called unfounded statements the norm in Algerian diplomacy. No territory was being examined in the Third Committee. The issue of self‑determination was being discussed in the context of the Moroccan Sahara. He expressed regret that the United Nations had ignored the rights of the Kabyle people in that region, citing Amnesty International reports indicating that Algerian authorities had arbitrarily expelled people from the country and arrested migrants based on racial profiling. The issue of the Moroccan Sahara was one of territorial integrity, he said, adding that Algeria was financing separatist movements.
The representative of Armenia expressed disappointment that Azerbaijan continued to mislead. While rejecting the ungrounded accusations, she said equal rights and self‑determination should be among the principles of a resolution on Nagorno‑Karabakh. Regarding Security Council resolutions, she said Azerbaijan, in line with its usual practices, only referred to some provisions of those resolutions.
The representative of the Russian Federation said in response to Ukraine’s delegate that the right to self‑determination could be exercised by autonomous people. Until 2014, there had been the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which had been part of Ukraine. The people of Crimea had already enjoyed self‑determination within Ukraine, but the policy to deny them any rights and opportunities had affected their decision to decide to join the Russian Federation.
The representative of Azerbaijan said in response to Armenia’s delegate that the glorification of Garegin Nzhdeh showed disrespect to Soviet soldiers who had perished during the war. Regarding accusations around April hostilities, Armenia could not deny that hostilities had been exclusively conducted in territories of Azerbaijan. Armenia had derailed the peace process and continued a military build‑up. Military occupation never produced a solution. Instead, Armenia should engage in the settlement process, and implement the resolutions of the Security Council and other international organizations.
The representative of Algeria, referring to comments by her counterpart from Morocco, said “the camel could not see its head”. Calling on the international community to consider the appeals of the people of the Western Sahara, she urged Morocco address its internal problems before pointing to any reports about Algeria.
The representative of Morocco said Algeria’s delegate continued to make erroneous comments, seeking only to foment hostility and challenge Morocco’s territorial integrity. His Government had agreed to find a political solution to the dispute.
Introductory Statement and Dialogue with High Commissioner for Refugees
FILIPPO GRANDI, High Commissioner for Refugees, said the magnitude and complexity of forced displacement had captured the world’s attention, adding that 68 million people and counting were refugees. Giving figures on the situation in Myanmar, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, he noted that the latter two accounted for one quarter of the world’s forcibly displaced people. The situation in Yemen was also worrisome, and in Central America, tens of thousands of men, women and children were on the move; along the central Mediterranean route, refugees continued to face grave exploitation and abuse, alongside thousands of migrants. Principled leadership had given way to irresponsible demagoguery, he said, adding that policies of deterrence and exclusion had taken shape in some countries and regions. Yet, there had also been a parallel groundswell of solidarity with refugees, rooted in civil society.
Measures to shore up the efforts of refugee‑hosting countries and genuinely share responsibility were both essential, and they represented the fundamental challenge at the heart of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, he said. The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework annexed to the Declaration provided a new model that placed the rights, interests and potential of refugees at the heart of a comprehensive response. At the Executive Committee meeting of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last month, he said he had been struck by the recognition among participants that it was time for change, as well as their convergence around directions the international community must pursue. Those included easing pressure on host countries and communities; enhancing refugee self‑reliance; expanding resettlement and other third‑country solutions; and creating conditions conducive to voluntary return. The early pursuit of solutions was essential to the new model, he noted, citing refugee resettlement as an important solution.
While progress was happening on statelessness, the lack of citizenship for Rohingya communities was a key aspect of the discrimination and exclusion that had shaped their plight for decades. The solution was a voluntary, safe and dignified return to Myanmar, but that would not be possible without tackling their statelessness. “We must identify where our strengths can be of most value”, he said: where they must translate into direct action and where they should instead help others to engage, with their own expertise and resources. In his report to the Third Committee next year, he would propose the text of a global compact on refugees for consideration by the General Assembly, which would contain the comprehensive refugee response framework as well as a programme of action to support its application. A draft of the global compact would be shared in early 2018, he said, around which there would be consultations in Geneva with Member States. The promise of the New York Declaration must be translated into determined, collective action to find solutions for millions of people uprooted around the world.
In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Ethiopia said her country had taken various measures to accommodate refugees, introducing a comprehensive response framework, providing access to education and issuing work permits. However, there was a lack of international support and solidarity with such host countries and she asked how funding could be sustained to help them meet the needs of refugees.
The representative of Norway asked about closing the gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and how the Office would ensure that the needs of internally displaced people were met.
The representative of Iran wondered about the impact of hosting large numbers of refugees, asking the High Commissioner for the reasons behind the decline in countries offering resettlement programs.
The representative of Qatar asked the High Commissioner for solutions to the high influx of refugees.
The representative of Turkey asked the High Commissioner to assess resettlement trends and explain how current figures might evolve as the world moved towards the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees.
The representative of Iraq requested that more aid be provided to his country so it could accommodate refugees.
The representative of Kenya expressed concern over renewed violence in South Sudan, asking about ways to ease the pressure on host countries.
The representative of Azerbaijan wondered how internally displaced people would be reflected in the Global Compact on Refugees.
The representative of Japan asked the High Commissioner about the barriers to cooperation among humanitarian and peacebuilding organizations.
The representative of Iceland said his country had taken Syrian refugees, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals from Africa, stressing that local communities were involved in integrating refugees. He asked for suggestions on what else Iceland could do to accommodate refugees.
The representatives of Brazil and Cameroon also spoke.
The representative of Myanmar said he was fully aware of the outflow of refugees from his country to Bangladesh. Accounts from people wanting to cross the border included difficulties in daily life and safety concerns. Myanmar was implementing repatriation programmes for those who could establish evidence of their Myanmar residency, he assured.
The representative of Morocco asked what steps had been taken to implement the Office’s 2017 strategic guidelines and if the Global Compact on Refugees was having a positive impact on the ground.
The representative of Papua New Guinea asked what role Member States could play to help implement the Office’s strategic plans, and requested information on resettlement processes.
Mr. GRANDI, responding, thanked all States hosting refugees, providing financial support or assisting in resettlement processes. All Member States had responded positively to the Global Compact and his Office’s strategic guidelines would be strengthened by it. Noting that the Global Compact did not have normative value and did not substitute any legal instrument, he said it instead aimed to better organize responses and find solutions to the refugee crisis. The Compact would mobilize support and help States find solutions to forced displacement, he said, commending countries participating in initiatives towards its creation.
He said while financing remained a difficult element of response efforts, the expansion of responses to include development actors such as the World Bank, especially in education, had been a “game‑changer”. Marrying humanitarian and development actors was a large challenge but the World Bank initiative to establish data systems that accounted for displaced persons was promising.
He said the Office was reviewing how it could be more predictable in responding to refugee crises and fulfilling inter‑agency responsibilities in crises involving internally displaced persons. Both challenges must be represented at the same level and in the same manner. He expressed concern over States that had traditionally been good resettlement countries curtailing the number of refugees they were taking in. That decrease sent a wrong signal about responsibility sharing, he said, commending Iraq for providing statehood to previously stateless persons. He concluded by calling on Myanmar to include his Office in efforts to resolve its refugee crisis.
JESÚS DÍAZ CARAZO (European Union) said the number of people who fled their homes in 2016 was 65.6 million, and noted that the bloc had received 1.2 million asylum applicants that same year. About 84 per cent of refugees under the High Commissioner’s mandate were being hosted in low- and middle‑income countries. Underlining the importance of strengthening protections, he emphasized the relevance of preventive measures to address the causes of displacement. He echoed the High Commissioner’s call for action to meet the needs of asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons, and stressed that 2018 must be a “showcase for collective action” on the matter.
Affirming the importance of global responsibility sharing and international solidarity among States, he said the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was an expression of commitment to address the refugee situation. The European Union had proposed a development‑oriented policy framework to address forced displacement as a means to foster self‑reliance among displaced communities, he said. Noting the increasing financial pressures faced by international organizations, he said the record level of funding received by the Office of the High Commissioner was a testament to its competence. Still, funding gaps remained, he said.
EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated the Community’s attachment to international instruments to protect refugees and stressed that the Organization of African Unity’s Refugee Convention of 1969 was the main instrument governing their protection on the continent. He pledged to respect the principle on non‑refoulement, urging all States to do the same. Expressing concern over the displacement of some 65.6 million people worldwide, he said the consequences of refugee outflows disproportionately affected the developing world. The Community was particularly concerned with the decrease in assistance funding to address the matter.
He affirmed the Community’s commitment to the New York Declaration and its Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, and applauded States already applying the Framework to respond to large‑scale refugee situations. The Community also welcomed United Nations efforts to expand funding sources to include the private sector, he said, cautioning against initiatives that further burdened developing countries. Efforts were being made to target the causes of forced displacement, he said. Pointing to UNHCR’s new key orientations, he urged States to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure displaced people were granted their rights.
Mr. ALMERI (Saudi Arabia) said his country was at the forefront of countries offering support to Syrian refugees. The 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Saudi Arabia were also granted the right to free movement and afforded the same rights as Saudi Arabian citizens to education and health care, while 141,000 Syrian students had received free education. The Government also had provided financial support to Syrians in Lebanon and Turkey. Meanwhile, Yemeni refugees in Saudi Arabia were also provided with job and education opportunities. On the international level, Saudi Arabia had provided financial assistance to Rohingya refugees, he said, stressing the need to enhance international cooperation.
Mr. FURUMOTO (Japan), paying tribute to the work of the High Commissioner for Refugees, acknowledged the great responsibilities and expectations borne by the agency in the context of humanitarian crises in Syria, South Sudan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. He recalled that in September, Japan’s 2017 contribution to the UNHCR budget had reached $150 million. Global action for refugees represented the strong convergence between humanitarian and development aid promoted by his country. Noting aid projects sponsored by Japan in Uganda and South Sudan, he stressed the importance of the concept of human security, which he called a pillar of the country’s diplomacy.
GILLES CERUTTI (Switzerland) said efforts to assist refugees were falling short. There was a need to reaffirm the international principle to protect and express full support for the High Commissioner. Expressing hope that the Global Compact would bring the international community together, he called the inclusion of development partners in assistance efforts a positive initiative. It was also crucial to ensure assistance to internally displaced persons, and greater global attention was needed. Welcoming the High Commissioner’s strategic direction, he encouraged inter‑agency cooperation to address issues faced by internally displaced persons.
CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) underscored the relevance of the New York Declaration, which allowed for greater humanitarian financing. Colombia had participated in efforts to pursue the global compact on refugees. Noting references in the High Commissioner’s report to internally displaced persons in Colombia, he said the Government had implemented mechanisms to address the issue. Legislation and public policy were being implemented to address forced displacement, and relevant institutions were cooperating at all levels of Government to ensure return and resettlement of displaced persons. Focus was also being given to land return efforts, with more than 4,000 families receiving orders to have land returned to them and another 30,000 such requests under consideration.
ILARIO SCHETTINO (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said most of the 65 million displaced persons worldwide had fled conflict and severe human rights violations. Referring to the refugee crisis as the worst humanitarian crisis in history, he said its effects had fallen disproportionately on developing countries. The international community must recognize that assistance must be complemented by long‑term development responses. To that end, Italy fully supported the paradigm shift in responses to forced displacement presented by the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. The refugee crisis was linked to conflict and human trafficking, he said, adding that the Security Council could be a pivotal partner in the search for solutions to the plight of refugees.
RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) pointed out that most countries receiving refugees were developing countries. Financial support to those host countries was a key measure, but it could not be a counterpart for adopting restrictive policies regarding control of entry and permanence in their territories. He expressed concern that recent steps taken by some States to restrict entry and permanence of refugees and asylum seekers violated international refugee law and humanitarian principles. His country had approved a new migration law that guaranteed migrants’ rights and integrated foreigners. He also noted that Brazil was closely following the elaboration of the global compact on refugees, bearing in mind the importance of States’ contributions, so that responsibilities under the compact were compatible with the capacity of each country.
NATALIE COHEN (Australia) said her country had contributed $6.9 million to the High Commissioner’s Office to support implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in Uganda and Ethiopia. Australia’s refugee resettlement program would expand to include resettlement places for refugees from Uganda and Ethiopia. The country would also make multi‑year funding commitments to protracted displacement crises and invest in resilience of both refugees and local communities. The success of the Global Compact on Refugees would depend on the buy‑in of all States and key stakeholders, she said, adding that States were obliged to provide protection and security to those within their jurisdiction.
NEBIL SAID IDRIS (Eritrea) said he deplored the use by some regional Governments to use camps — funded and jointly administered by the High Commissioner — as centres of political agitation and armed recruitment. The lack of scrutiny and accountability of national camp administrators had led to misuse and diversion of resources allocated to refugees. People in those camps had been exposed to the dangers of human smuggling and trafficking. Claims by some, including the High Commissioner, that Eritrea had persecuted citizens returning from overseas was a “false depiction”, as his country maintained a policy of voluntary repatriation and assisted its returning citizens in reintegrating to society. The High Commissioner’s classification of Eritrean economic migrants as “bona fide” refugees was wrong, as it had led to Eritrean youths leaving for Europe and facing greater vulnerability to human trafficking.
Mr. AL HUSSAINI (Iraq) said the wave of terrorism in the country led to the displacement of some 3.6 million people. The Government was working to mitigate their suffering by providing shelters and establishing camps, with efforts also ensuring access to bank accounts and receipt of identification cards. Iraq faced several waves of displacement, he said, and safe corridors were being created for the movement of displaced persons. Moreover, military personnel were working to ensure the safety of displaced persons, especially in areas were terrorist groups remained entrenched. Iraqi security forces placed the protection of civilians at the core of their strategy in Mosul, he assured.
ROMAN KASHAEV (Russian Federation) said that during the High Commissioner’s visit to his country, the Government had pledged to do more, especially in terms of financial assistance, to assist displaced persons. The Russian Federation hosted refugees from several countries, with more than 1 million Ukrainians fleeing internal conflict in that country. A key element of migration policy was reducing statelessness, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts on that matter. If global efforts were pooled, the situation of people under the Office’s mandate could be greatly improved. Truly addressing the issue called for ending conflict, he said, adding that the “irresponsible interference” of Western States in the Middle East and Africa had led to the refugee crisis. Responsible States must carry the financial burden of assisting refugees.
Ms. BROOKS (United States) underscored the need to support countries that had opened their borders to refugees, as well as efforts to protect the dignity of refugees. This year, the United States had made a historic high contribution of $8 billion to the High Commissioner’s Office, and she called on Member States to follow through on their pledges to end conflicts through durable solutions. The Office could sustain predictable funding by maintaining transparent and open dialogue with stakeholders, she said, welcoming efforts to invest in the Office’s workforce and increase its efficiency.
AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria), citing the waves of refugees from Syria, said they were part of a strategy by the United States and European countries to leave his country empty of people. Indeed, the open door policy of European countries had encouraged more people to leave. Syrian refugees faced risks of human trafficking in Turkey, while the percentages of child marriages had doubled in refugee camps in Jordan. He questioned Saudi Arabia’s delegate, who commented that that country had hosted 2.5 million Syrian refugees, as the High Commissioner’s report stated otherwise. Moreover, it was important to distinguish between a legal resident and refugee, he said, urging Member States to implement Security Council resolutions to end the Syrian crisis and to stop any unilateral actions against his country.
GHULAM SEDDIQ RASULI (Afghanistan) said that finding solutions for refugees must be at the centre of the international community’s response to refugee movements. That was a key component of the New York Declaration and featured strongly in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework that was annexed to it. The issue of refugees was of central importance to Afghanistan. Over 2 million of its citizens were registered as refugees in neighbouring countries, having fled from imposed conflict over the past decades. His Government was committed to ensuring the return and sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees and was working closely with UNHCR and a variety of international actors to make that happen, he said.
PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam) noted that in 2017, half of all refugees under the mandate of UNHCR were children. Refugees and asylum seekers often were driven to use the services of smugglers, exposing them to abuse and exploitation, human rights violations and even death. The refugee problem was closely linked to the issues of peace and security and human rights. They needed assistance in obtaining legal status. Voluntary return or resettlement was an indispensable tool for burden and responsibility sharing. The commitments under the New York Declaration should be transformed into action. Countries had a shared responsibility in support of refugees through funding and humanitarian assistance, among other things.
SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) expressed concern that some countries had developed measures aimed at keeping refugees in countries of origin, pushing them back at or across borders, and some directly into conflict zones. Such actions were inconsistent with the principle of non‑refoulement and the New York Declaration. She expressed hope that the Global Compact for Refugees would address the disparities and include explicit language on more equitable and predictable burden and responsibility sharing. Kenya maintained an open door policy for admission of refugees. Since October 2016, her country had witnessed a significant increase in the number of arrivals from South Sudan. Currently, Kenya was hosting 183,542 refugees in the Kakuma complex, of whom 109,000 were South Sudanese. Noting difficulties with the Dadaab refugee complex, which had become a base for planning terrorist attacks on Kenya, she said prolonged settlement was resulting in the depletion of scarce natural resources and was leading to conflict. In May 2016, her Government decided to close the Daadab refugee complex, and sought to relocate the refugees to safe areas in Somalia under the Tripartite Agreement with Somalia and UNHCR. Since 2014, approximately 75,000 Somali refugees had been voluntarily repatriated to Somalia, and another 13,000 had been resettled to third countries. In that context, she urged the international community to collectively support the enhancement of stability in Somalia.
MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said foreign occupation and terrorism had caused massive displacement worldwide. Developing countries with limited resources were too often the final destination of people fleeing crisis, he said, adding that no country could address the issue alone. Noting Iran’s long‑standing assistance to refugees, he called for a mechanism to assist countries hosting large numbers of refugees. Iran’s ability to provide services, while facing sanctions, could not be guaranteed, he said, as the Government was providing health, education and employment assistance to refugees, and it was impossible to do so indefinitely. He called for the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees, adding that the responsibility to protect was not confined to certain regions.
ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria) expressed concern over the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa, and underscored that developing countries continued to host the most significant amount of displaced persons. He called on UNHCR to provide more information on the impact of refugees on the development plans of those host countries. The most appropriate solution to the crisis was the safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees. Global efforts to address the problem had to be centred on providing assistance, protection and sustainable solutions. Noting Algeria’s long‑standing commitment to refugees, he said his Government was waiting for the voluntary repatriation of refugees in Western Sahara.
IRINA VELICHKO (Belarus) commended the efforts made to establish the New York Declaration. Her country had engaged in national consultations to develop strategies to deal with the global refugee crisis. Member States needed to agree collectively on the action they would take to meet the needs of refugees, she stressed, noting that the refugee crisis was the result of States which had not followed the norms of international law. She added that many of the tensions and conflicts felt today were caused by the inability of major countries to build a new world order after the end of the cold war.
YIĞIT CANAY (Turkey) said that, in line with commitments made in Istanbul during the World Humanitarian Summit, his country had pursued an efficient model of cooperation between humanitarian and development actors, and its assistance to those displaced from various parts of sub‑Saharan Africa was an example of that effort. Hosting close to 3.3 million people displaced due to conflict in the region, including 3 million people from Syria, Turkey was now the largest refugee‑hosting country. Syrians were provided with free access to education, health services and the labour market, he said, highlighting that the ratio of displaced children attending school had doubled to 60 per cent in 2017, compared to the previous year. Reducing the number of lives lost at sea and the fight against human smuggling were other areas of importance for Turkey.