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New York, Dec 18 (Canadian-Media): As “policies shaped more by fear than fact” have caused untold suffering to migrants, the UN Secretary-General is urging countries to realize the goals of a global agreement that promotes enhanced international cooperation on migration, UN reports said.
A family is trying to build a new life in Chile after migrating from Vargas State, Venezuela. Image credits: ©UNHCR/Santiago Escobar-Jarami
António Guterres issued the charge in his message for International Migrants Day, observed annually on 18 December.
“Safe, orderly and regular migration is in the interest of all. And national priorities on migration are best achieved through international cooperation,” he stated.
Globally, there are more than 270 million migrants, according to UN estimates.
Last December, countries agreed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration following 18 months of consultation and negotiation.
Its objectives address the issue at all levels, including mitigating the factors which lead people to leave their homelands, whether to find work or for other reasons.
Host communities can thrive: IOM chief Host communities across the globe have a long tradition of welcoming migrants, said the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“The communities that thrive are those that embrace change and adjust to it. Migrants are an integral and welcome element of that change”, IOM Executive Director António Vitorino wrote in an op-ed for the day.
He added that migrants can also become “champions of resilience”, for example, during times of disaster, environmental change, unemployment, and political turmoil.
A longing to belong: Bachelet “Every person who migrates has their own reasons for leaving behind homes and families, and each one of these people has their own unique experiences along the journey: their own personal story of exile and belonging”, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in a video message for the day.
Born in Chile, Ms. Bachelet had a great-grandfather who left France for the South American country, where she went on to serve two terms as president.
She, too, was forced to leave her homeland for a period, and she recalled how the solidarity and generosity expressed at this time helped her develop “a new sense of belonging, and hope.”
Stories like these show how all people share what the UN rights chief described as “a longing to belong”, which includes caring for loved ones but also connecting with friends and communities.
“I have frequently expressed my concern about the attitudes and behavior that reject, dehumanize, exclude and attack migrants”, said Ms. Bachelet.
“Even though such sentiments rarely represent the mainstream view of migration, a few try to divide us and shout down more moderate opinions. The effects of such divisive narratives are wide reaching within our societies, reducing our trust in and connections with each other. “
On International Migrants Day, the High Commissioner encouraged people everywhere to celebrate “what unites us”, adding that “because it is when we come together that we can overcome differences and struggles. It is here where all of us find that we belong.”
National security fears As the UN chief stressed in his message, all migrants are entitled to human rights protection, which is enshrined in the Global Compact.
“Yet, we often hear narratives around migrants that are harmful and false,” he said. “And we often witness migrants facing unspeakable hardship as a result of policies shaped more by fear than by fact.”
The Secretary-General urged leaders and people everywhere “to bring the Global Compact to life, so that migration works for all.”
His message has been echoed by two UN independent human rights experts who also appeal for greater action to curb hate speech targeting migrants.
Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, and Can Ünver, chair of the UN Committee on Migrant Workers, warned that national security concerns are being wrongly used to criminalise migrants and those who support them.
“While security can be a legitimate concern and invoked as a justification for limitations to certain human rights, it cannot lead to the criminalisation of migration, or of those who support migrants,” they said in a statement.
The experts added that the Global Compact helps ensure human rights are respected at all stages of migration, and must be fully implemented.
Mr. Vitorino of IOM, the UN migration agency, observed that in the current “challenging” political climate, migrants make for an easy scapegoat for all the problems that plague society.
“Thus, on this day, we need to constantly remind the international community of the reality -- both historic and contemporary – that when well managed migration works, closed societies can become open, and political tensions fade away,” he wrote.
“Whether we are living, working, loving or building, we do so together.”
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Geneva, Dec 17 (Canadian-Media): The world needs to transform the way it responds to refugee situations and do more for the struggling countries that shelter almost all of them, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday, at a high-level forum seeking solutions to a decade of extraordinary mass displacement, UN reports said.
The first ever Global Refugee Forum brings together refugees, heads of State and Government, UN leaders, international institutions, development organizations, business leaders and civil society representatives, among others, at the United Nations in Geneva.
Global Refugee Forum/Twitter
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is co-hosting the Forum together with Switzerland, and it is being co-convened by Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Pakistan, and Turkey. The aim of the Forum is to generate new approaches and long-term commitments from a variety of actors to help refugees and the communities in which they live. Worldwide, over 70 million people are displaced by war, conflict, and persecution.
Pledges in support of refugees were expected on Tuesday by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as by the private sector.
The Global Refugee Forum ends on Wednesday 18 December.
More must be done to protect refugees, respect their rights and address the reasons why people leave their homes in the first place, Mr. Guterres told the World Refugee Forum in Geneva, meeting for the first time.
“Now more than ever, we need international cooperation and practical, effective responses. We need better answers for those who flee, and better help for communities and countries that receive and host them.” he said.
Refugee Compact, ‘blueprint’ for rights
Speaking a year after countries signed the Global Compact on Refugees in New York – described by Mr. Guterres as the “blueprint” to reaffirm their human rights – the global forum comes after what experts have called “a decade of displacement”.
In his appeal for joint action, Mr. Guterres described the Global Compact on Refugees as “our collective achievement and our collective responsibility. It speaks to the plight of millions of people. And it speaks to the heart of the mission of the United Nations.”
More than 70 million people are forcibly displaced – double the level 20 years ago, and 2.3 million more than just one year ago, according to UN data.
More than 25 million of them are refugees, having fled across international borders, unable to return to their homes.
In reference to the main international agreements that have for decades underpinned assistance to refugees, the Secretary-General said that there is a need today to “re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime”, based on the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol.
“Indeed, 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 are being detained and divided from their families, we need to reaffirm the human rights of refugees,” Mr. Guterres said.
UNHCR chief Grandi calls for reboot
As event co-host, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called on the international community to “reboot” its stance on people in need of protection.
“Injustice, conflict and violence. This is why we are here,” said the UNHCR chief. “Our world is in turmoil, and 25 million refugees are looking to us for solutions.”
Assessing today’s global action on refugees as “piecemeal and unbalanced”, Mr. Grandi added that with “71 million people uprooted from their homes globally, inside and outside their countries, it's time to reboot our responses”.
But rather than displaying solidarity for people in need, “countries with more resources” had shifted the burden to the poorest nations.
This meant that “refugees are pushed aside too…often in camps, cut off from the social and economic life of the communities hosting them,” Mr. Grandi said. “Humanitarian aid helps, and remains vital, but is not enough and not adequate to turn the tide from despair to hope”, he added.
Switzerland commits $125 million over four years
Encouraging support for greater burden-sharing by all countries, Switzerland Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis noted that his country had committed around $125 million over the next four years to refugee protection.
Although around eight in 10 refugees were hosted in developing countries, Swiss towns and cities were contributing to their protection by helping them to integrate into their communities Mr. Cassis maintained, in his capacity as co-host of the Global Refugee Forum.
“Life is like a bicycle; you have to move forward to avoid losing your balance…This applies to all of us, we must not lose our balance and look ahead,” Mr. Cassis said, recalling a saying by Albert Einstein, one of the country’s most famous refugees.
He also underscored the positive role that could be played by religious partners in finding solutions to refugee protection and integration, citing the “unique” written accord between the country’s Christians, Jews and Muslims to this effect, based on “ethics and solidarity”.
On behalf of Germany, Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, called for the refugee “burden” to be distributed among “a greater number of shoulders and broader shoulders”.
Pakistan: 40 years of hosting refugees
Highlighting the pressures faced by developing nations that left their borders open to vulnerable families forced to flee their homes, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that such influxes “causes problems that cannot be imagined by richer countries”.
Europe was struggling in a different way with refugees, Mr. Khan added, amid the emergence of populist politicians which “cashes in on public distress” and the supposed threat posed by newcomers.
In Pakistan, which hosts almost three million refugees, “a country with massive unemployment, we know what we go through,” he said.
UN chief calls for ‘bold, concrete’ pledges
“This is a moment for ambition”, Mr. Guterres told delegates. “It is a moment to jettison a model of support that too often left refugees for decades with their lives on hold: confined to camps, just scraping by, unable to flourish or contribute. It is a moment to build a more equitable response to refugee crises through a sharing of responsibility.”
António Guterres served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for a 10-year period (2005-2015) prior to his election as Secretary-General of the United Nations. He referred to the protections of refugees as one of the great issues of this era, or any era.
“One might say that as refugees go, so goes the world,” he said, adding that although solidarity “runs deep in the human character...Today we must do all we can to enable that humanitarian spirit to prevail over those who today seem so determined to extinguish it.”
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United Nations, Dec 16 (Canadian-Media): As refugee numbers approach 26 million, heads of state, top UN diplomats, powerful figures from the private sector and civil society are heading to Geneva to agree on “bold, new” ways to help, at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, which got underway on Monday.
On Tuesday, in addition to the presence of UN Secretary-General António Guterres – previously the High Commissioner for Refugees – other high-level attendees are expected to include Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country has hosted millions of displaced Syrians for years.
Find lasting solutions
“The international community is coming together to announce bold, new measures to ease pressures on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, and find lasting solutions for those uprooted from their homes by wars and persecution”, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said ahead of three days of discussions led by High Commissioner Filippo Grandi.
Turkey’s policy towards the refugee influx created by nearly nine years of civil war in Syria, is likely to be among the good practices highlighted at the UN Palais des Nations, from 16-18 December; in particular, how the Turks have managed to double the number of children in formal education since 2016, to nearly 650,000 this year.
Italy’s voluntary guardianship system is also in focus for enabling protection and care for unaccompanied minors, while Ethiopian investment in public water works has been shown to benefit refugees and host communities alike.
VIPs from Costa Rica, Germany, Ethiopia and Pakistan are also due to attend, their Governments having expressed a willingness to engage in finding solutions to alleviating the plight of the growing number of people in need of international protection.
Guided by the Global Compact on Refugees – inked by governments a year ago in New York - the Geneva meeting “is an opportunity to translate the principle of international responsibility-sharing into concrete action” that is more equitable, sustained and predictable, UNHCR said in a statement.
During the forum, national governments and other stakeholders will also have to opportunity to announce concrete pledges and contributions “that will achieve tangible benefits for refugees and host communities”, the agency insisted.
Highlighting the forum’s social media campaign message that #EveryoneCounts – and dovetailing with UNHCR’s longstanding emphasis on access to education as a key factor in arming refugees with skills they need for a better future – it announced that Sesame Street puppet Grover has already arrived in the Swiss city.
Echoing the impact of emergency displacement on youngsters ahead of the meeting, UN Children’s Fund UNICEF reiterated its warning that they represent around half of all refugees - around 13 million.
More than half of school-aged refugee children are not in class, UNICEF added, and “at the end of 2018, 138,000 unaccompanied and separated children were on the move alone”, it said in a statement.
In a bid to generate innovative approaches and long-term commitments from as many sectors of society as possible to help refugees and host communities, UNCHR has encouraged senior representatives from the private sector to attend, too.
These include the Ingka Group – part of the IKEA empire - the LEGO Foundation and British-based multinational Vodafone, which provides free communications and technical support in areas affected by natural or humanitarian disaster.
Telecoms solution for disaster victims
In the seven years since the telecoms firm set up its “Instant Network Emergency Response” units, its 70 staff have intervened in 14 countries and facilitated millions of calls to disaster victims, aid workers and refugees, according to its website.
Non-profit organization, the Tent Partnership for Refugees, is also attending the forum.
"One of the world’s most disturbing trends has been the shocking increase in the number of people driven from their homes by conflict and other calamities”, Tent Partnership founder Hamdi Ulukaya says on the non-profit’s website. “How we respond to this global humanitarian crisis may well be one of the defining challenges of our generation."
Working with around 100 partners including coffee chain Starbucks and McCain Foods, Tent has helped some 200,000 refugees in 34 countries, its website notes.