Refugees: only through a concerted approach we will be able to improve the care of refugees
Briefing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 9 April 2019
I would like to begin by thanking High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi for his very enlightening and important briefing. Allow me to also pay sincere tribute to his work, as well as to the teams of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for their outstanding work in protecting refugees and defending their rights. UNHCR, as Mr. Grandi knows, can count on the strong support of France in the context of our exemplary partnership, just as it can count on France’s commitment to ensuring unconditional respect for the right of asylum in Europe and around the world.
As High Commissioner Grandi pointed out, 2019 is the year of a bleak record: 70 million people have been forced into exile and are refugees. Without going into a list of the countries concerned, I would like to echo what Mr. Grandi said and stress three priorities that we think must guide our action: first, the sharing of responsibilities; secondly, a response to the root causes of displacement and, thirdly, respect for the fundamental principles to guide and aid the return of refugees.
First, with regard to the sharing of responsibilities and the need for solidarity, the reception of refugees is an international obligation and a moral duty. It is the responsibility of States to protect on their territory foreign nationals who have fled their country as a result of persecution. We must also ensure safe and legal routes for those people, who too often risk their lives to go into exile. It is in that spirit that France has organized protection missions, together with UNHCR, in the Niger and Chad. Approximately 1,150 particularly vulnerable refugees have been resettled in France.
We must do everything we can to support countries that are at the forefront of large-scale displacements. It is only through a concerted approach that we will be able to improve the care of refugees and achieve better management of migration flows. We must also increase our efforts to combat traffickers and smugglers. That, too, is a priority.
It is in that spirit that the Global Compact on Refugees was developed and adopted. We must redouble our efforts to move into the implementation phase of the Compact. The Global Refugee Forum to be organized by UNHCR in December will be a major step towards providing a collective and effective response to the challenges of refugee protection and care. France will be present, alongside UNHCR, which is by far the international humanitarian organization that has received the most humanitarian assistance from France. We call on all States and relevant actors to participate and commit themselves to the implementation of the Compact.
Secondly, with regard to the response to the root causes of population displacement, as everybody knows, insecurity and mass human rights violations, which unfortunately characterize conflicts, are the main causes of displacement. It is important to prevent and suppress them.
It is also up to the Security Council to establish the conditions for a lasting settlement of crises.
In Syria, where over 6 million people are internally displaced and 5.7 million are refugees, only a credible political process can guarantee stability and prevent further refugee flows.
In Libya, the escalation of violence has already pushed 2,800 people out of conflict areas and aggravated the already precarious situation of migrants and refugees. We call on all Libyan leaders to remain engaged in the process led by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, as only a political solution will make it possible to stabilize the country in a sustainable manner and address the challenges related to migration. In that regard, I have a question for the High Commissioner, echoing what he already said concerning cooperation between UNHCR and the Libyan authorities to ensure the protection of migrants and refugees.
With regard to Palestinian refugees, of whom there are more than 5 million in the region, we call fora realistic, equitable, just and lasting solution within the framework of a future Israeli-Palestinian agreement, based on internationally agreed parameters. In the meantime, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) must continue to receive our full support in the context of the suspension of the American contribution. For its
part, France has doubled its contribution to UNRWA this year.
Finally, in Venezuela, which we will discuss again tomorrow, about 5,000 people are leaving the country every day, and there are now more than 3.4 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The origins of that crisis are political and institutional, and only new, free, transparent and credible presidential elections will bring it to an end.
Thirdly, with regard to respect for fundamental principles for the return of refugees, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure the voluntary nature of the return of refugees to their countries of origin, as Mr. Grandi said. States must ensure conditions for a safe and dignified return based on access to information about the place people are planning to return to.
As everyone knows, in Syria or Burma, just to take two examples, such conditions are not being met at all today. In Syria, France is extremely concerned about reports of arbitrary arrests by Syrian security services of refugees who are returning home. In Burma, there will be no possible return for Rohingya refugees without full freedom of movement and access to basic services.
To return to what Filippo Grandi said at the beginning of his important briefing, the attitude towards refugees is one of the defining characteristics of a time and of the compass that guides our contemporaries. In echoing what he said, I would like to reiterate France’s conviction that only a global, collective, responsible and supportive approach will make it possible to respond effectively and sustainably to the challenge posed by the increasing number of refugees. France is determined to continue to spare no effort to that end.