• UN calls for more ‘equitable’ responsibility-sharing for Syrian refugees

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    ADDRESSING a one-day, high-level conference in Geneva on Syrian refugees, senior United Nations officials stressed the needs to provide resettlement and other answers for their plight, urging third countries to share those responsibilities with Syria’s immediate neighbors.

    “We are here to address the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time…” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering at the UN in Geneva, attended by the representatives of 92 countries together with governmental and nongovernmental organizations. “This demands an exponential increase in global solidarity.”

    Some 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to flee across borders by five years of war, while another 6.6 million are internally displaced. While talks are under way to find lasting peace, the UN chief said more countries need to step up and provide solutions for Syrian refugees.

    “The best way to offer hope to Syrians is by ending the conflict,” Ban said. “But until such talks bear fruit, the Syrian people and the region still face a desperate situation. The world must step up, with concrete actions and pledges. All countries can do more.”

    The March 30 conference is one of several key events to do in 2016 with Syria’s refugees. It follows February’s London Conference on Syria at which donors pledged $12 billion to help those in need in Syria and in the surrounding region along with the needs of communities in host countries.

    “Now these pledges must be honored,” the Secretary General said.

    The conference, which was also attended by 10 inter-governmental organizations, nine UN agencies and 24 NGOs, comes in the run-up to the General Assembly’s summit meeting on refugees to be held in September.

    Resettlement to third countries and other pathways

    Conference host Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), emphasized that the responsibility for caring for refugees should not be left to Syria’s immediate neighbors alone, but should be more equitably shared.

    “The magnitude of this particular crisis shows us unmistakably that it cannot be business as usual, leaving the greatest burden to be carried by the countries closest to the conflict,” Grandi told the gathering, also attended by representatives from key refugee-hosting governments. “Offering alternative avenues for the admission of Syrian refugees must become part of the solution, together with investing in helping the countries in the region.”

    Among the solutions identified to end the refugees’ plight is resettlement to third countries.

    Grandi highlighted a program in which the UNHCR worked with Canada to screen, select and prepare more than 26,000 refugees to start a new life in just four months. UNIC 

    UNIC/BF

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