UNHCR: Geneva conference on Syrian refugees ends with new challenges ahead
An international meeting in Geneva on the plight of Syrian refugees concluded on Wednesday with new offers of resettlement places and other forms of humanitarian admission places by States, but also highlighting the challenges over the next three years in narrowing the gap between the number of places countries are willing to offer for Syrian refugees and the number UNHCR believes is urgently required.
In his closing remarks High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi spoke of the conference having achieved “a clear recognition of the need for solidarity and responsibility-sharing for refugees”. But he also reminded delegates of the wider global displacement context and the immense challenges ahead, including finding a political settlement for Syria, and dealing with ongoing displacement and secondary flows from conflicts elsewhere.
“I am under no illusion that we are appealing for this at a very difficult time, and within a troubling context…,” he said. “The solidarity required is a global one. The collective effort of many states, and many actors within states, is essential.”
Overall, he said, progress was seen on Wednesday in six areas:
• Together, States pledged modest increases in the number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places, bringing the total to date to some 185,000. Several countries offered to significantly increase their global resettlement programmes further this year and in the coming years. In addition, the EU committed to resettle further refugees from Turkey.
• A number of States affirmed their commitment to family reunification, including willingness to ease procedures.
• Several Latin American and European countries announced new humanitarian visa programmes or the expansion of existing ones.
• Thirteen states confirmed scholarships and student visas for Syrian refugees.
• Speeding of admission processes for refugees through the removal or simplification of administrative barriers was mentioned by several States.
• Important financial commitments in support of UNHCR’s resettlement programmes came from two countries. Several existing resettlement countries offered to share expertise with new resettlement ones.
UNHCR estimates that at least 10 per cent of the 4.8 million refugees in countries neighbouring Syria will need resettling or other humanitarian help to safely move elsewhere before the end of 2018. This includes people considered acutely vulnerable, such as survivors of torture, refugees with serious medical conditions or women left alone with several children to care for and without family support.
Wednesday’s Conference also looked at measures intended to complement existing resettlement or humanitarian admission such as humanitarian visas, private sponsorship, family reunification, scholarships, medical evacuation and labour mobility programmes – including through the involvement of the private sector. These mechanisms complement existing resettlement programmes and help to ensure that quotas are still available for refugees in need from elsewhere in the world.
The conference, chaired by UNHCR, is one of several key events in 2016 to do with Syria’s refugees. It follows February’s London Conference on Syria, which focused on the financial dimensions of the humanitarian challenge posed by the more than 13.5 million people in need inside Syria and the 4.8 million refugees in the surrounding region along with the needs of communities in countries hosting them. And it comes in the run up to September’s summit on refugees to be held at the General Assembly meeting.
PHOTO: © UNHCR/A-L. Lechat [United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joins United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi at a high-level conference in Geneva calling for more options for Syrian refugees.]