UN holds first-ever summit on refugees and migrants

More concrete progress is expected at a follow-up summit on Tuesday called by US President Barack Obama, where at least 45 countries are expected to make pledges.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A display of around 2,500 lifejackets worn by refugees during their crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Chois, are seen Parliament Square in central London, Britain September 19, 2016.

The issue of what to do about the world's 65.3 million displaced people takes centre stage at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday when leaders from around the globe converge on New York for the first-ever summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.

With more people forced to flee their homes than at any time since World War II, leaders and diplomats are expected to approve a document aimed at unifying the UN's 193 member states behind a more coordinated approach that protects the human rights of refugees and migrants.

The agreement seeks to standardise responses to refugee situations and provide better education and jobs to refugees in long-term refugee situations like the Syrian situation.

It also encourages resettlement and includes plans for a campaign to combat xenophobia.

That may prove an uphill struggle, however, as the document is not legally binding and comes at a time that refugees and migrants have become a divisive issue in Europe and the United States.


Displaced children from Syria receive aid supplies at a refugee camp in Baiji, north of Baghdad, Iraq.

A number of countries rejected an earlier draft of the agreement that called on nations to resettle 10 percent of the refugee population each year, something that has led a number of human rights groups to criticise the document as a missed opportunity.

The US and a number of other countries also objected to language in the original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.

Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty in a statement said:

Instead of sharing responsibility, world leaders shirked it. The UN summit has been sabotaged by states acting in self-interest, leaving millions of refugees in dire situations around the world on the edge of a precipice.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose report on refugees and migrants laid the basis for the summit document, said he was aware of the criticism from non-governmental groups.


According to the UN Refugee Agency, refugees are people forced to flee due to armed conflict or persecution, while migrants chose to move in search of a better life.

More concrete progress is expected at a follow-up summit on Tuesday called by US President Barack Obama, where at least 45 countries are expected to make pledges that are in line with US goals of increasing humanitarian aid by $3 billion, doubling resettlement and increasing access to education for one million youngsters and access to employment for another million of the displaced.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said prior to the pledging summit with world leaders, Obama will host a meeting with top executives from 50 companies to discuss what the private sector can do to help address the problem.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an "unprecedented" 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from a year earlier.

They include 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million migrants.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, refugees are people forced to flee due to armed conflict or persecution, while migrants chose to move in search of a better life.

Source: 
AP