GENEVA – Governments must strengthen cooperation and redouble efforts to find solutions to the millions of people uprooted by conflict and persecution around the world, UNHCR’s chief protection officer said today.
“The international protection crisis calls for urgent global collaboration and, most importantly, political will,” said Gillian Triggs, Deputy High Commissioner for Protection of the United Nations Refugee Agency, at the annual meeting of the UN Refugee Agency. UNHCR Executive Committee in Geneva.
“We have no shortage of laws and policies to protect the displaced [and] we have many policy statements – the challenge is to implement them in practice, ”she told the assembly.
At the end of last year, a record 82.4 million women, children and men were left out of their homes due to conflict, violence and rights violations – double the number of ‘a decade earlier – 48 million inside their own country, and 24.6 million abroad as refugees.
Additionally, Triggs said the armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar and Yemen remain unresolved and further displacement has occurred in Mozambique and Ethiopia. Millions more are displaced from Venezuela and South Sudan.
“We have no shortage of laws and policies to protect displaced people – the challenge is to implement them. “
The resulting protection crisis was “exacerbated by poverty, inequality, discrimination, poor governance and the effects of climate change,” she said, noting that the effects had been particularly damaging to women. women, children and the 12 million forcibly displaced persons with disabilities. .
Despite the almost universal acceptance of the refugee protection standards enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, Triggs noted that 195 countries closed their borders totally or partially for health reasons during the pandemic, and that 64 of them they made no exceptions for asylum seekers. Meanwhile, 39 countries have reportedly forcibly returned them to countries where they face violence and persecution.
As protection needs increased last year, she said some resource-rich countries were seeking to shift responsibility for asylum seekers by outsourcing their responsibilities to poor and developing countries which already host 90% of people. forcibly displaced around the world.
“Instead of a fair sharing of responsibilities, we see the responsibility shifting to those who have the least resources to bear it. This is morally, ethically and legally unacceptable and we urge all nations to respect their obligations, ”she said at the 72nd session of the Executive Committee, which runs until Friday.
In the midst of a record displacement, traditional avenues for finding solutions have diminished over the past year. Only a quarter of a million refugees have returned safely to their countries of origin in 2020. For those millions of people displaced in their countries of origin, return has also proved impossible where violence continues.
Another pillar, resettlement, hit its lowest level in 20 years last year – with just 23,000 people being resuscitated in third countries through UNHCR in 2020. capacity.
Amid the ongoing challenges, Triggs noted clear gains in ensuring the safety of millions of displaced people, including through the inclusion of refugees in host countries from Colombia to Lebanon, Tanzania and Turkey, who have brought them allowed access to health, housing, education and the right to work.
“Instead of a fair sharing of responsibilities, we see the responsibility shifting to those who have the least resources to bear it.”
“If a displaced person can work, they can make a significant contribution to their host communities, filling labor shortages, caring for the elderly, working in agriculture, health and construction, and to enrich all of our lives as we have seen in sport with the Olympic refugee team, and in art and culture, ”she said.
In addition, UNHCR’s efforts alongside its partners, including peace and development actors, the World Bank and the private sector have also helped support displaced populations and host countries.
While COVID restrictions have limited access to resettlement, Triggs said promising alternative solutions have emerged through “labor mobility, recognition of professional and other qualifications, education and community sponsorship ”.
UNHCR’s #IBelong campaign to end statelessness by 2024 has also made progress. This includes progress in national adherence to the two statelessness conventions and efforts to ensure that birth registration is available in hospitals and local communities. “But despite these advances in many countries,” Triggs said, “there is still a long way to go, especially as some have suspended vital and birth registrations during the pandemic, creating backlogs and instead increasing that reducing the risk of statelessness “.
Triggs also highlighted the gains from the Global Compact on Refugees and the subsequent Global Refugee Forum in December 2019, where more than 1,400 engagements led to policies and investments from public and private sources, which “ lasting value by providing practical avenues for solutions. “
“In the two years since the Global Refugee Forum, real progress has been made,” she said, concluding: “There is no doubt that we need to redouble our efforts to give a practical sense of the principle of equitable sharing of responsibilities at the heart of the Global Compact on Refugees. This is one of the key priorities of the United Nations Refugee Agency and one that embodies the international principle of solidarity.
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