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Counter Xenophobic Reactions against Refugees, Migrants, Urges Deputy Secretary-General, at World Summit Special Session

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Special Session on Migrants and Humanitarian Action, in Istanbul today:

I am very pleased to be here to discuss humanitarian action and migration.  Humanitarian action has usually focused on refugees, rather than migrants.  Recent crises, however, have compelled us to take action on mixed movements of migrants and refugees.

Like migrants, many refugees settle for years in host countries and are in need of education, health care and jobs.  Countries should factor the needs of refugees — and their host communities — into their development planning.  And like refugees, migrants need access to food, shelter, as well as protection from violence, discrimination and exploitation, while their status is being determined.  Lacking such protection, thousands of migrants have died in transit in recent years.

To prevent migrants and refugees from resorting to dangerous journeys and smuggling networks, States must make a commitment to policies and practices that support the safe and orderly movement of all migrants.  This is, by the way, also one of the new Sustainable Development Goals.  We see the urgent need for this in scenes that shame us all on our television and computer screens practically every day.

This World Humanitarian Summit is an important step towards the high-level meeting to address large movements of refugees and migrants on 19 September.  I urge you to provide concrete and operational suggestions that will improve protection and support for refugees and migrants.

Finally, I call on all those with influence to counter xenophobic reactions to refugees and migrants at every opportunity.  The negative narrative must change.  Let us recognize that global migration is beneficial for countries both of destination and of origin — and for migrants themselves.

For information media. Not an official record.