Published: 20 September 2016

High-level Plenary Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants

New York, 19 September 2016



Mr President,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have talked a lot in these last days about refugees, about migrants. These are not identities. They are situations. Situations where so many people find themselves in because of circumstances that are way beyond their control. Situations that people find themselves in trying to flee home because home is no longer safe. But home is not only unsafe today for people that live there, it is also unsafe for many others who are there to try to help and support. While working here in this podium, I got the devastating news that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers who were so proudly celebrating this morning to finally be getting into Aleppo, they got bombed, and 14 of them, again, lost their lives, bringing the number to 65 already. This is totally unacceptable.

Today, we ask world leaders to seize this opportunity presented by this Summit, to act together to stop the death and suffering of those who leave their homes in the very human pursuit of safety, dignity, and a future for their children. But maybe we also should call on everybody to start at the beginning, which is to stop the war, to stop the violence, to stop vulnerable situations that are pushing people outside of their homes.

States bear the primary responsibility for protecting the lives, the well-being and dignity of migrants, regardless of their status, regardless of their legal status. The National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world are ready to do their part to help, to support – but we must set our collective goals higher.

Today, far too many people are dying during their journeys; drowning in the seas, as we often see, collapsing in the desert, as we do not see, suffocating in car trunks or crowded trucks, as we always read in the media. Unaccompanied children are disappearing. Without access to reliable and credible information, people fall victim to human traffickers. They are preyed upon by gangs, held and abused in illegal camps. This is again unacceptable. It is a stain on our shared humanity, as is the indifference that too often greets their suffering.

We call on States to take all necessary steps to ensure that migrants can travel in safety and dignity, to protect themselves against accident, attack, exploitation and abuse, against having their families split.

We call on States to ensure that they have access to health care, legal advice, food and shelter whilst on the move. They also need access to information to help them make timely and informed decisions along their migration route.

Once they have reached their destination, we call on States to uphold the rights of all migrants under international and national law, and particularly to ensure that rights related to asylum and refugee protection are fully respected.

We ask also that their social integration be facilitated and that they be protected from discrimination, stigmatization and xenophobia.

We must work together to change the increasingly frightening narrative about migrants. Different points of view about migrants may be legitimate, but xenophobia and racism are not. Discrimination and violence cannot be tolerated and should be called out for what they are. On this we look to States for their leadership and commitment.

We finally pledge our support. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – through its 190 National Societies and 17 million community-based volunteers – is present at all points along migration routes, in countries of origin, transit and destination. We see the daily suffering and indignity that is a reality for too many people. We pledge to continue our work to protect and assist women, children and men who are forced out of their countries around the world, again, regardless of their legal status because, indeed, no human being is illegal.

Thank you.