28 March 2017

Opening press remarks at Zaatari refugee camp

António Guterres

[inaudible] …I have been to Zaatari about ten times. Remembering six years ago when I was seeing the first Syrian refugees coming over the border, how sad it is, how terrible it is, that today we still have Zaatari camp full with Syrian refugees, and that the tragedy of Syria is going on and on and on.

Now that the Geneva peace talks have started again, I want to make a very strong appeal to the parties to the conflict and, especially on the countries that have an influence on the parties to the conflict, to understand that we must make peace; to understand that this became a tragedy not only for the Syrian people but it became a threat to the stability of the region and a global security threat to the world as terrorism is benefiting from the crisis in Syria, and several other crises around the world. This is the moment for all countries that are involved, directly or indirectly in the conflict, to put aside their differences and understand that now there is a common interest and the common interest from the fact that they are all threatened by the new risk of global terrorism.

I hope that that if all countries that have an influence on the Syrian situation are able to come together these refugees, that are living here artificially, now for more than four years in this camp will be able to restart their lives again, to find jobs, to work, to have a normal life.

At the same time, I think it’s important to say that they would not be here without the generosity of the Jordanian people and the Jordanian government. But Jordan was left largely without enough international solidarity, receiving such a large number of Syrian refugees, after refugees from Iraq, after the Palestinian refugees. Jordan was always very generous in receiving and hosting millions of refugees but there has not been enough humanitarian aid for the refugees themselves and, especially, not enough aid for the communities that are hosting them, to increase their resilience, their capacity to face this challenge, and not enough support for Jordan itself a country with a vulnerable economy, a pillar of stability in this region that would need much more international solidarity to be able to cope with this enormous challenge. 

We are seeing in this world more and more doors closed for refugees. It’s difficult for Syrians now to flee the country and it’s difficult for those who are in this camp to see any horizon, or to have any countries to receive them. The opportunities are less and less meaningful. People are being more and more left alone. This is the moment to say that if the world fails to support refugees, the world is only helping those like Daesh and al Qaida that use these arguments in order to be able to recruit more people to put at risk our global security.  Solidarity with Syrian refugees is also a way to be able to express our capacity to guarantee global security. It’s not only an act of generosity. It’s also an act of enlightened self-interest. 

My appeal to the international community: increase humanitarian aid to the refugees, increase solidarity to countries like Jordan and Lebanon, and others receiving Syrian refugees,  and make sure that more opportunities are given to these refugees, and make sure that all those that have an influence on the parties to the conflict come together to put an end to this tragedy.