Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today in welcoming a decision by the European Union (EU) to increase resources for humanitarian assistance to countries neighbouring war-ravaged Syria.
Mr. Ban and the UN refugee agency chief also welcomed the decision by EU to relocate a further 120,000 people within Europe.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the decision of the European Council to inject much needed funds, worth some 1 billion euros, into the UN humanitarian response in countries dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.
The Secretary-General also welcomed the decision to relocate an additional 120,000 people within the European Union from Greece and Italy over the next two years.
“While this is a step in the right direction, he stresses that efforts are still required to assist those in need of protection. Greater efforts are also needed to resolve the crises and conflicts that cause people to flee, including in Syria. Only peace and safety will allow refugees to return to their homes and communities,” he added in his statement.
António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees stressed that while the relocation program is not the solution for the problem, he hoped it would be “the beginning of a solution.”
“It is an important step toward stabilizing the crisis, but much more needs to be done. The plan can only work if, at entry points in Europe, robust facilities are created to receive, assist, register and screen people. These facilities must have a capacity that could handle the current average 5,000 people arriving every day by boat,” he added.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also welcomed the announcement that there is a critical need for additional funding that must be made available for refugees in the countries offering asylum.
“So many refugee emergencies in the Middle East and Africa are woefully underfunded, leaving refugees in conditions so dire that many chose to move on. People will continue to seek safety and survival further afield if the root causes of forced displacement are not addressed,” said Mr. Guterres.
He also noted that compared to the present situation, the current programme is limited, yet must be quickly implemented.
“In order for the system to work, effective support for the dignified return of those that do not require international protection must also be in place,” Mr. Guterres said.
He also insisted that EU must also offer protection to refugees who currently are journeying across “border after border at the mercy of criminal smugglers.”
In his statement, Mr. Ban also appealed to the EU to acknowledge the rights of refugees and migrants and to provide them with protection, calling on European leaders to do more to ensure dignified and humane reception and claim processing of the thousands of men, women and children seeking protection in Europe.
He also recalled that refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants have inalienable rights that must be respected, including the right to claim asylum, and that States must abide by their international obligations, especially the principle of non-refoulement.
The Secretary-General went on to welcome the EU’s efforts to fight trafficking and smuggling of refugees and migrants, and calls on the EU to consider increasing legal and safe pathways into Europe for them, so that they are not left in the hands of criminal networks and embark on perilous journeys.
Mr. Guterres added that the UNHCR was disappointed with the lack of legal pathways for refugees to reach safely in Europe. He also urged for “a substantial and rapid increase in legal opportunities for refugees to access the EU.”
This includes better resettlement and humanitarian admission, family reunification, private sponsorship and humanitarian and student visas. According to UNHCR, 1 in 10 Syrian refugees (approximately 400,000) are presently in need of resettlement.
“The international community as a whole should adopt the type of exceptional response which had been used in other humanitarian crises. Without such avenues, refugees will continue to be left with few options, and the increase in international efforts to crack down on smugglers and traffickers is unlikely to be effective,” the statement concluded.
The news release from the UN agency underscored strengthening and managing border control at the EU external border in compliance with national, EU and international law, including the guaranteeing the right to seek asylum.
Mr. Ban also insisted that other countries along with Europe must offer more relocation places and long term solutions.
“The Secretary-General emphasizes our common humanity and reminds every one of their shared responsibility. He stresses that Europe and countries beyond must make available many more relocation places to provide the many refugees who are in camps or living under temporary arrangements with a viable long term solution, when safe return is not possible,” said the statement.
Further, UNHCR has amped up its operations in affected countries due to the refugee crisis and is ready to provide full support to the EU and Member States and other stakeholders.