In Paris today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the countries of Europe as well as the international community at large to work towards a compassionate and humane solution to the problem of refugees and migrants, emphasizing that he counts on the European Union and Britain to continue as strong partners of the UN on development and humanitarian issues.
“The challenges we face do not stop at national borders. It is clear that when we work together, we are stronger,” the Secretary-General said at a joint press conference with French President François Hollande.
“I count on the European Union and the United Kingdom to continue to be strong partners of the United Nations in development and humanitarian affairs and in the field of peace and security, particularly in migration,” Mr. Ban added.
Concerning the situation of migrants, the UN chief recalled that this past week, he visited the Greek island of Lesbos, where he met refugees from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
“These refugees have made long and tiring journeys. What they want is what we all want: to live in security, their children in school, find jobs, have the opportunity to contribute to the progress of humanity,” Mr. Ban said.
Mr. Ban called on all the countries of Europe and the world to find a “humane solution to the problem, which respects human rights and complies with international law, and that grants to refugees and migrants compassion they are entitled to expect.”
“In these times of growing division and xenophobia, I encourage the people of this great continent to be true to the values of freedom, compassion and generosity, respecting human rights, showing solidarity with those who suffer and helping humanity to move towards a better future,” the Secretary-General said.
Noting that he and Mr. Hollande had discussed the situations in Mali and the Central African Republic, Mr. Ban also said that France continues to make efforts to revive the peace process in the Middle East. He added that he will visit Israel and the State of Palestine in the coming days, and urged both parties to resume meaningful negotiations.
Turning to the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the Secretary-General said he is confident that talks between the two parties will take place in a “positive and pragmatic atmosphere.”
For its part, the UN will continue to work with the United Kingdom and the European Union, “both important partners,” he reiterated.
While in Paris, the Secretary-General also received an honourary doctorate from the University of the Sorbonne.
At a ceremony, Mr. Ban said he was deeply concerned by the sharp rise in xenophobia in Europe.
“We hear the echo of the rhetoric abject which plunged the continent into war in the twentieth century. Anti-Semitism has returned, as has hatred against Muslims and discrimination against foreigners,” the Secretary-General said.
“Europe is firmly committed to human rights and France, in particular, has always been the standard bearer. Now, this country and this continent have to put these ideals into practice,” he added.
The UN chief also called for a new commitment to the defense of human rights, a spirit of global citizenship, and for more open societies and greater international solidarity. He also appealed to young people to become global citizens.
“Reach out to those who suffer. Report injustice. Commit for our world. When you work for a better world, you develop at the same time a real sense of purpose,” the Secretary-General said.