World has let down displaced, says refugee chief

The “unspeakable suffering” faced by refugees should be tackled head on by the international community, amid a sharp fall in available shelter spaces, the head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Monday.

Filippo Grandi told Member States in Geneva that 1.2 million refugees need resettling globally but fewer than 100,000 places are available � a drop of more than 40 per cent from 2016.

Highlighting the displacement crisis in Myanmar that has seen more than half-a-million people flee northern Rakhine state, Mr Grandi said that their lack of citizenship was a “key aspect” of their decades-long exclusion.

Daniel Johnson has more.

A week or so ago, Filippo Grandi was in Bangladesh, comforting women and children who’d fled from Myanmar, as soldiers continued their security operation after attacks on police posts in August.

Fast-forward seven days, and he was back in Geneva, telling a high-level meeting that the world has “let them down”.

Not only those from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the High Commissioner for Refugees said, but millions more driven from their homes, in Central America and countries neighbouring South Sudan:

“I met severely traumatised children, separated from their families, and men and women who had suffered appalling atrocities, some with severe physical injuriesWhen I am with them, I can’t help but feel that the world has let them down.”

Despite this “stain on our collective conscience”, the UN refugee chief said there was “hope” that Member States were beginning to do something about the global displacement crisis.

To date, 11 States from Costa Rica to Tanzania have applied a new “best-practice” model for helping displaced people, after agreeing to action in New York a year ago.

High Commissioner Grandi explained that this should lead to better support for host communities, more resettlement places and a greater focus on solving the root causes of conflict.

He welcomed the “concrete” changes this had brought for refugees, such as in Djibouti, where a new law meant that they had the right to work; and in Ethiopia, where an additional 20,000 displaced children had enrolled in primary school.

These are the kinds of policies that will be highlighted in the global compact on refugees that the refugee agency is putting together to present to the UN General Assembly in 2018.

Source: United Nations Radio