UN urges ‘reboot’ of refugee response as millions uprooted - GulfToday

UN urges ‘reboot’ of refugee response as millions uprooted


Women stage a rally next to the UN Offices in Geneva Tuesday on the opening day of the Global Refugee Forum. Agence France-Presse

The United Nations (UN) urged governments, businesses and others on Tuesday to “reboot” the world’s response to refugees as the number of people fleeing their homes rises along with hostility to migrants.

The first Global refugee Forum, being hosted in Geneva by the UN and Switzerland on Tuesday and Wednesday, is meant to draw pledges to pave the way for a fairer and more coordinated approach to hosting and integrating millions of refugees worldwide.

But it also underscored international tensions, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan complaining of a lack of support for his country’s plans to resettle up to a million Syrian refugees in Turkey to Turkish-controlled regions of northern Syria.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan used his appearance to criticise neighbour and archrival India.

“Our world is in turmoil and 25 million refugees are looking to us for solutions,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for refugees, told the event.

He noted that the number is far higher if people displaced within their own countries are added in.

“As a new decade dawns with some 71 million people uprooted from their homes globally, inside and outside their countries, it’s time to reboot our responses,” Grandi said.

He called for a “broad alliance” of governments, business, development institutions, the aid community, sports organisations and others.

Business executives and the head of the International Olympic Committee were among those attending the forum.

The forum was “co-convened” by Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Pakistan and Turkey, most of them among the world’s major refugee hosts.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that nine of the top 10 — all but his own country — have low or medium incomes.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “developing and middle-income countries admirably host the vast majority of refugees and warrant greater support.” In addition, he said, “at a time when the right to asylum is under assault, when so many borders and doors are being closed to refugees, when even child refugees can be divided from their families, we need to reaffirm the human rights of refugees.” Erdogan said Syrian oil revenues could be used to help relocate Syrians in Turkey. He complained that no one wants to spend the money on the refugees.

“I say: come let’s take out the oil in the wells together and let’s implement projects in these areas so that these people can be settled in the houses, schools, hospitals that we build,” Erdogan said. “But they don’t support it because they need the oil more (than refugees).” “We need to put into effect formulas that will keep refugees on their own soil and allow those in our country to return,” he said.

A lack of international assistance to Turkey to support millions of refugees on its soil pushed Ankara to launch operations in northeast Syria, Erdogan added.

“Nobody seems inclined to help us,” Erdogan said.

“When we haven’t received the support we needed from the international community, we had to take care of our own self,” he said of Turkey’s operations into northern Syria since 2016.

In particular, he said the lack of aid made necessary Ankara’s latest military incursion into the war-ravaged country in October.

“We want this area to remain safe. Let us clear this land of terrorist presence once and for all (and) let the refugees go back to their motherland peacefully and in an dignified fashion,” Erdogan said.

“The Syrian refugees should go back on a voluntary basis,” he said.

“We need actions and we don’t just need empty words,” said Mohammed Badran, a 25-year-old Palestinian who in 2013 fled Syria for the Netherlands, where he founded a network of refugee volunteers to help the local community.

Meanwhile, Spanish police retrieved a body from a boat off the southern coast on Tuesday, the eighth migrant killed at sea in a 24-hour period while trying to reach the country.

Austria’s constitutional court on Tuesday struck down key provisions of a law passed by the previous right-wing coalition government, including benefit cuts aimed at immigrants.


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