“There is nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable in the face of a crisis of this magnitude, both in its complexity and in its force. But we must not let fear take what is best in us. "
As if not to forget that the Syrian conflict has been bogged down for 5 years, dragging a whole population into the refugee crisis, Angelina Jolie Pitt returned to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon last Tuesday.
EUN Special Envoy for the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), she pleaded with an audience of top world leaders to come to the aid of millions of displaced human beings. We found it useful to translate his intervention, delivered on March 15, 2016, both for its didactic scope and for the elements that are updated there, allowing us all to better understand the refugee crisis which is protean in nature. The text of his speech was transcribed in the Times.
“Hello, I am happy to be back in Lebanon. I want to thank the Lebanese people for helping to save over a million Syrians. It is probably not easy for a country like Lebanon to take the equivalent of a quarter of its own population as refugees. That what can pass for a "simple" responsibility, make us more aware of the message that this sends about the values, the character, and the spirit of the Lebanese people.
You are creating an example to the world of generosity, humanity, resilience, and solidarity. From the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and from me too, shukran, Thank you! We should never forget that despite all of this focus on the refugee situation in Europe at the moment, the greatest pressure remains in the Middle East and North Africa for the past 5 years.
There are 4,8 million Syrian refugees in this region, and 6,5 million internally displaced people in Syria. On this day of 5e anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict, that's where I hoped to be: in Syria, helping the UNHCR to return these families that I knew, to return home.
It is tragic to see how far we are from this. Every Syrian refugee I was able to speak to during this visit, without exception, mentioned their desire to return home, when the war is over, and that everyone would be able to do so; not by being resigned, but with a lot of light in their eyes, dreaming of being reunited again, in this country they love so much.
I was able to see during this visit how desperate the struggle for survival is for these families. After 5 years of exile, all the money they could have set aside is exhausted. Many, who started out living in apartments, are now confined to shopping malls, or informal or makeshift settlements, sinking deeper into famine. The number of refugees in Lebanon living below the survival threshold, unable to afford the food and shelter they would need to even stay alive, has doubled in the past 2 years. In this country, it should be remembered, 79% of Syrian refugees are women and children.
We need to understand the fundamental realities driving this global refugee crisis. It is not only the product of the war in Syria, but of decades of open conflict or persecution: in Myanmar (Burma), Mali, Central African Republic, DRC, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan , Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. And I could go on ...
The number of refugees is higher than that known during the last World War. We are going through exceptionally difficult times internationally, the consequences of the refugee crisis seem to exceed our wills, capacities and even our courage to respond. In times of conventional war, displaced people move to more stable areas, or to neighboring countries as in a 'sanctuary', or are provided with a refuge camp, until it is possible to relocate. go back home. In exceptional circumstances, some are sent abroad to resettle, or to find asylum.
But, as is the case today, with 60 million displaced people, no Government in this world - regardless of their level of wealth or degree of will - can support the United Nations enough to take care of these people. people in a sustainable way. We cannot hope that this will solve the problem either.
We cannot manage the world through aid, in places and places of diplomacy and political solutions. Nor can it be discussed as if it were just a problem centered around tens of thousands of refugees in Europe. We cannot improve this reality with partial responses, by responding to certain parts of the crisis and not others, or by helping some refugees and not others. For example by excluding Afghan refugees, compared to other groups, or by distinguishing between refugees according to their religion. The result would be more chaos, greater injustices and insecurities, and finally, more conflict, and more refugees. You have to focus on the deep roots, and that takes a certain amount of courage and leadership. And, in my opinion, leadership in this situation is a lot more than protecting your borders or giving more help ... it's about making decisions to make sure we don't go. cause an even greater escape of refugees in the future. This is why, although all of these individual stories that I hear upset me and make me angry, now is not the time for emotions! On the contrary, it is the time for reason, calm and foresight.
I want to be clear, I understand that everyone has great fear vis-à-vis this situation and the refugees. We are worried about the impact on 'our' community, on foodstuffs, and security, if we were to accept refugees on 'our' territory. There is nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable in the face of a crisis of this magnitude, both in its complexity and in its force. But we must not let fear take what is best in us. We must not let this same fear block an effective response, and one that would be in our long-term interests.
My appeal today is for strong governments around this world. Analyzing the situation would help understand exactly what their community can do: how many refugees they can help, how, in which particular communities, and on what schedule. That they explain it to their fellow citizens, help them to manage their fears (not based on their emotions), but by evaluating what can and must be done, to share the responsibilities and finally succeed in dominating this situation.
It starts with having a solid asylum process, to be able to hear the needs of these desperate families; identify who among them are in the most tragic situations, and who do not have a genuine asylum claim or not. All these procedures have been supported by UNHCR with the various Governments for decades.
I appeal to all governments to uphold the United Nations Refugee Convention and human rights essential to human dignity. It is necessary and possible to protect people fleeing persecution and death, and at the same time the citizens of their country. We shouldn't have to choose between the two.
The reason why we have laws and constraints at the international level is to thwart this temptation to deviate from them in times of crisis and pressure. Recent history teaches us that as soon as we move away from basic laws and principles, we only create bigger problems for the future. "
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