Paris, Beirut terror attacks must not be pretext for slamming shut doors to refugees: UN officials

NEW YORK, 20th November, 2015 (WAM) -- The United Nations General Assembly has discussed the global refugee crisis in the shadow of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, with top officials pleading that the door for genuine refuge not be slammed shut in the name of security.

"How are we to balance security needs and moral and legal obligations to protect refugees and others in need of protection?" Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson asked the informal meeting, which had been scheduled before last week’s attacks, to discuss ways to advance and finance a ‘Comprehensive Response to the Global Humanitarian and Refugee Crisis.’ "This balance must be found without giving in on our basic values and without closing the door to those who have already endured tremendous suffering," he said.

"Those who flee this violence should not be punished twice – first by war or oppressive forces which persecute them at home. And, second, by unjust, dangerous stigma which even shockingly associate the refugees with their attackers. The refugees, if any, understand better than anyone the barbaric cruelty of violent extremism."

General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft also addressed the security issue, which has seen calls after the attacks for limiting refugee access lest terrorist infiltrate among them.

"In no way do those attacks reduce the moral and legal obligations of the international community towards displaced people," he stressed. "On the contrary, they serve to underline even further why so many people are risking their lives to secure international protection and why we – the international community – must not fail them, for a second time."

Mr. Eliasson noted, "The recent terrorist attacks are urgent reminders of the need for migration and refugee flows to be managed properly and with respect for humanitarian and refugee law as well as for human rights. Our most effective response to these attacks is to stand even firmer in our humanistic and humanitarian resolve and ensure openness and protection to those in desperate need."

Turning to the meeting’s principal goal of dealing with the overall humanitarian and refugee crisis, Mr. Eliasson stressed the vital need for financing. "The gap between humanitarian needs and available funds has never been higher that it is today," he stressed.

He praised the continued resilience of host communities to refugees – from Kenya, Ethiopia to Pakistan, from Iraq and Iran to Bangladesh, from Greece, Italy, Germany and Sweden to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and beyond.

In her remarks, Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) recalled that on 9 November, she had opened a Resilience Development Forum, for the Syria crisis convened by UNDP and hosted by the Government of Jordan.

"let me reaffirm UNDP’s commitment to step up its efforts in support of durable solutions to host communities and countries which are bearing the greatest burden and to look at how the people within countries in the epicentre of a crisis, like the nineteen million Syrians still in Syria, can be supported," she said, stressing that the longer term answers lie in building peaceful and inclusive societies which offer people the opportunity and security they need for sustainable development.


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