Security Council

SC/9566


Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Security Council

6062nd Meeting (AM)

BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL, HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES SAYS SITUATIONS

IN IRAQ, SOMALIA KEY TO RISING NUMBERS OF DISPLACED PERSONS WORLDWIDE

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Background

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Briefing

ANTÓNIO MANUEL DE OLIVEIRA GUTERRES, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, informed the Council that, since his briefing in January 2006, there had been a significant increase in refugee numbers, primarily due to the situations in Iraq and Somalia.  The current number of refugees under the mandate of his Office exceeded 11 million, not including the 4.6 million Palestinians for whom the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was responsible.  The number of conflict-induced internally displaced persons had grown to some 26 million worldwide.  UNHCR was working, in collaboration with the broader humanitarian community, to support States in providing the internally displaced with protection, assistance and solutions.  Another issue was Stateless people, of which there might be some 12 million.

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As for Gaza, UNHCR had no presence there, but its civilian population was not even allowed to flee to safety elsewhere.  UNHCR expressed its firm solidarity with UNRWA and called for strict adherence to humanitarian principles in and around Gaza, including respect for the universal right to seek and enjoy asylum.

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Statements

JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica), stating that the UNHCR briefing should become common practice, stressed that the Council’s consideration of specific circumstances should not keep it from addressing other issues and considering ways in which it could enhance its support.  Forced displacement was becoming increasingly complex; indeed, the situation in Gaza was a prime example of how people trapped by conflict, or forced to flee their homes, required effective responses and sustainable solutions.  The same was true in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa and many other places where displaced people were twice victimized — first by the actions of others and then by the international community’s failure to effectively address the challenges they faced.

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BAKI İLKIN ( Turkey)…

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Applauding UNHCR’s work and pledging his country’s continued support for the Agency, he said Turkey also appreciated the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in Gaza.  It was vitally important to ensure that UNHCR was properly resourced.  Indeed, reliability and continuity in donor contributions constituted a major part of the broader effort to address refugee issues.  Without such commitment, the international community could not expect organizations like UNHCR to deliver what was expected of them.

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KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), echoing the High Commissioner’s admiration for UNWRA’s workers in the Gaza Strip, called for immediate humanitarian access in light of the immense suffering caused by the escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel.  The United Kingdom called for an immediate ceasefire and condemned acts of terror and violence against civilians.

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LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) welcomed the progress that UNHCR had made in the areas of integration and resettlement of refugees.  At the same time, Viet Nam was seriously concerned by the increasing numbers of displaced persons and refugees worldwide, especially in conflict areas, and by the increasing difficulty of assisting them and comprehensively addressing the complex challenges they faced.  Of particular concern was the increasing victimization of displaced women and children in conflict zones.  The current situation in Gaza was a prime example of civilians trapped in an armed conflict situation.  In such circumstances, quick and comprehensive action and cooperation among all stakeholders were necessary to alleviate suffering and prevent dire humanitarian consequences.

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VANCE MACMAHAN ( United States)…

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Finally, he urged the Council to remain focused on the urgency of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.  While the United States delegation appreciated Israel’s initiative to open a humanitarian corridor into the enclave, its people needed access to a lifeline for food, basic supplies and medicines.

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CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico)…

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Expressing concern about continuing forcible displacement and the lack of a clear strategy to address the challenges faced by the displaced, he called for forceful mandates and measures to protect people driven from their homes by conflict.  At the same time, it was necessary to enact strong measures to protect humanitarian workers and local staff working to protect refugees and displaced persons.  UNHCR should not be looked upon as a separate entity, but as an integral part of the wider Organization’s work.  Indeed, there would be no way comprehensively to address the situation in Gaza without hearing the views of the relevant United Nations agencies on the question of displacement.

ILYA I. ROGACHEV ( Russian Federation) …

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He said conflict was the primary reason for displacement and Iraq had the lead in that regard.  The problem of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons must be addressed immediately, because of the heavy burden they imposed on host countries, Syria in particular.  As for Palestinian refugees, UNHCR should cooperate more closely with UNRWA, especially in cases where there was a new flow of refugees.

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RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia)…

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Turning to the situation in Gaza, he voiced the hope that all parties would adhere to the agreement to open a humanitarian corridor to help the civilians and displaced persons.  Croatia also hoped today’s briefing would serve as a model for future meetings, especially when the Council considered establishing and renewing complex and multidimensional peacekeeping mandates.  In addition to existing global instruments dealing with refugees and displaced persons, it was to be hoped that the African Union’s draft convention on internally displaced persons would be adopted and brought into operation soon, thus providing further help in addressing the situation on the continent.

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ABDELRAZAG GOUIDER ( Libya)…

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He went on to recount the disturbing events in Gaza, where the civilian Palestinian population was being displaced due to collective punishment with Nazi-like overtones.  The people of Gaza could not flee and had no option but death.  The Security Council remained silent while those preventing it from shouldering its responsibilities were evincing tacit approval of Israel’s operations.  Libya appreciated the work carried out by UNRWA and its staff in very dangerous conditions, and hoped that the Council could quickly arrange a briefing of that Agency’s Commissioner-General.  The Council should ensure that no effort was spared in protecting all civilians in conflict, including displaced persons and refugees.

Council President JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX ( France)…

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The general question of humanitarian access was essential for better treatment of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said, drawing attention in that regard to the situation in Gaza.  Prolonged displacement in the territory was often linked to the failure to resolve armed conflict and human rights violations.  The situation of the Palestinians was an example of the lack of a political settlement.

High Commissioner’s Responses

Mr. GUTERRES, responding to several queries and concerns raised by Council members, said there was perhaps no single “humanitarian solution” to the refugee challenge, but comprehensive solutions would always require political commitment and institutional cooperation…

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Expressing appreciation for the statements by the representative of the United Kingdom and others who had expressed concern about the situation in Gaza, he said he hoped the situation of displacement could be addressed in a concrete and comprehensive manner as soon as possible.  UNRWA was doing laudable work under extremely difficult circumstances in and around Gaza.  UNHCR’s main concern, from the perspective of its mandate, was that the enclave’s population could not flee, which made the humanitarian imperative that much more pressing.

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For information media • not an official record