Refugees: a comprehensive approach for an effective response [fr]
Briefing of the High-Commissioner for Refugees- Intervention by M. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council – 2 November 2017
Let me first congratulate you personally, Sir, and wish Italy every success in its presidency of the Security Council. I also thank you for your high praise of the French presidency and assure you of France’s full support. I also thank the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi, for his important briefing and pay tribute more broadly to him and his teams for their outstanding work and exemplary commitment. In the words of the President of the Republic, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is for France “the guardian of our lodestar”. It is a compass that must guide our action, and France will always be at its side so as to guarantee refugees the protection they need and that it is our moral, legal and political duty to provide.
The insecurity and massive violations of human rights that fuel conflicts, as well as the impunity that accompanies them, are the primary causes of displacement, which in turn destabilizes States. It is therefore up to the Security Council to remedy this situation in the context of its mandate as guardian of international peace and security.I also recall that the forced transfer of populations is likely to constitute a crime against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute.
The Security Council has the responsibility to prevent such crimes. As the High Commissioner said, there have never been more refugees in the world than in 2017 — more than 66 million people in total, more than 10 million of whom are stateless. I should like to address a number of situations he addressed that are of particular concern to us.
First, I would like to express our deep concern about the humanitarian situation of the refugees, mostly Rohingya, who have fled and continue to flee Burma. France has tirelessly condemned the attacks perpetrated since 25 August against the civilian population in Rakhine state. The ethnic cleansing has already forced more than 600,000 people — the majority of whom are women and children — to cross the border in the hope of surviving, without counting the internally displaced,whose numbers we do not know.
We have three specific priorities for resolving this crisis. They have been relayed and stressed to the Burmese authorities, notably at the Security Council’s Arria Formula meeting that France organized with the United Kingdom, with the participation of Mr. Kofi Annan, during its presidency last month. The High Commissioner spoke at that meeting. In the short term, the military operations of the Burmese army must stop, and safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian aid must be restored in order to allow the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees to their country. The key to a solution lies in compliance with those three requirements.
I wish to reaffirm France’s support for Bangladesh,which has opened its borders and welcomed hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. The international community must continue to support Bangladesh in its efforts. At the donors’ conference in Geneva on 23 October, France contributed almost €3 million. I would also like to stress the need for the dialogue between Burma and Bangladesh on the return of refugees to include UNHCR. That is a critical point on which I must insist, in support of the statement just made in that regard by Mr. Grandi.
Finally, the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees will ultimately depend on the effective consideration of the root causes of the crisis,and particularly the question of citizenship and equal rights for all persons belonging to the Rohingya community. France will remain fully engaged, together with the United Kingdom and its partners, in developing a strong and united Council response. It is time to translate our words into action, and we must do so urgently in response to the ethnic cleansing taking place before our very eyes.
In Africa, the situation in the Central African Republic is particularly worrisome, with the number of Central African refugees in neighbouring countries similar to the level we experienced at the height of the crisis in 2013. This situation is the consequence of the deterioration of the security situation that has been observed for several months in the east and north-west of the country, owing to the growing number of clashes between armed groups, whose sole purpose is to monopolize territories and resources and discredit the Central African authorities and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). This spiral must be interrupted and a positive dynamic revived, as the Secretary-General said during his recent visit to the Central African Republic. In that context, the forthcoming renewal of the MINUSCA mandate should allow us to increase the Mission’s human resources and refocus its action on the priorities of protecting civilians, supporting the political process and humanitarian access.
Finally, I would like to return to the humanitarian situation in Syria, which remains extremely worrying. More than 11 million Syrians have been uprooted by the conflict, while some 6.3 million are internally displaced and suffer limited access to humanitarian assistance. The plight of internally displaced persons in eastern Ghouta, Idlib governorate and around the berm is particularly tragic. In addition, 5 million refugees have taken refuge in Syria’s neighbouring countries. On behalf of France, I again thank Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey for hosting a large majority of those refugees.Hosting refugees is not only a moral duty, but also an obligation under our international commitments. In meeting these challenges, we have an imperative to provide legal and safe channels for those in need of protection, in particular by strengthening the fight against traffickers and smugglers. It is in that spirit that last month France established the first protection missions for the resettlement of refugees in Europe in the framework of the Central Mediterranean action plan adopted in August with our partners.
Hosting refugees is also important in terms of solidarity with countries neighbouring conflict zones, which are on the front lines of these large-scale displacements — whether they are the neighbouring States of Syria, the countries of the Lake Chad basin or the Horn of Africa, or more recently, Bangladesh. In order to support their efforts, France has decided to increase its financial aid to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration by €10 million in support of such States in the Middle East and Africa. This solidarity also requires the sharing of responsibilities. That is why France has made the commitment to resettle 10,000 refugees from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, the Niger and Chad by 2019.
As rightly pointed out by High Commissioner Grandi, only a comprehensive approach will deliver an effective and lasting response to the challenges posed by the increase in forced displacement. The Security Council has a particular responsibility to contribute to identifying and implementing this new approach. Mr. Grandi may rest assured of France’s steadfast commitment to that end at his side.