All nations must do more to help stem the world’s massive tide of refugees and migrants and develop global standards for their treatment, said dozens of leaders attending a United Nations summit on the crisis held Monday.
“It is in the world’s singular interests, best interests — and it is right — to ensure that people who desperately need a new home, whether in or beyond the boundaries of their own country, can actually find a place to live in safety, with food, medicine, school, and a time to plan for what comes next,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants.
He echoed the sentiments of nearly 200 representatives of the UN’s member states, who adopted a landmark agreement Monday for better care of refugees and migrants as more than 65 million people flee wars, disaster, political persecution and civil unrest — perhaps the largest number to date, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants is a multi-faceted pledge by the UN’s 193 member states to create by 2018 a universal document with guidelines for the treatment of refugees and migrants and more equitable sharing of the burden of absorbing itinerant populations.
“The task of providing such a refuge falls most heavily on those states that are directly embroiled in strife, their neighbors, and on the nations along nearby exit corridors,” Kerry said. “But the responsibility to assist is shared by all. So we have to do our part to try to end wars, to oppose violent extremism, to respect human rights, and to support policies that humanely and effectively manage the flow of people who are on the move.”
Kerry’s speech, the day before President Barack Obama is to hold a summit on the same topic at the UN General Assembly, came as the world body announced its formal affiliation with the International Organization for Migration, symbolizing the UN’s commitment to resolving the refugee crisis.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the member states, saying, “Today’s summit represents a breakthrough in our collective efforts to address the challenges of human mobility.
“More children can attend school, more workers can securely seek jobs abroad instead of being at the mercy of criminal smugglers, and more people will have real choices about whether to move once we end conflict, sustain peace and increase opportunities at home,” he said.
UN officials estimate that there are 65.3 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and are on the move.
Syria’s five-year civil war has produced the most of any country, with 4.9 million, while Afghanistan and Somalia follow with 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.
Turkey houses the most refugees of any nation, with 2.5 million, followed by Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia and Jordan. The Middle East hosts 39 percent, Africa 29 percent, and Asia and the Pacific 14 percent, with the Americas and Europe absorbing 12 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said the New York Declaration sets the path toward an agreement to protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status; ensure that refugee and migrant children receive education within a few months of their arrival; prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence; and support countries that rescue, receive and host large numbers of refugees and migrants.