The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has driven the fastest, largest displacement witnessed in decades, with some 14 million people forced from their homes since 24 February, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told the Security Council today. Although humanitarian organizations have scaled up their response, much more must be done — first is ending the senseless war, he said.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) focus is increasingly on helping displaced people in Ukraine, while trying to be present wherever there is forced displacement, he emphasized. Notwithstanding the European Union’s open, well-managed and shared response, UNHCR is maintaining a high level of preparedness for further population movements, both inside and outside Ukraine, given the likely protracted nature of the military situation.
“In the past 12 months alone, UNHCR has responded to 37 emergencies around the world. Yet, the other crises are failing to capture the same international attention, outrage, resources and action,” he emphasized. Detailing the situation of displaced persons across the globe, from Myanmar's Rohingya refugees to Afghan and Syrian refugees, and those displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, he voiced concern that crisis and protracted situations are not only fading from media attention, but are being failed by global inaction.
The confluence of climate change and conflict has created very protracted displacement, he underscored, urging greater international and support for inclusion and integration both in refugee contexts and situations of internal displacement. Responses to climate change must consider both its link to conflict, and the displacement it causes, he stressed, voicing hope that they will be in clear focus at the upcoming twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The international community, starting with Council members, must overcome divisions at the very least on humanitarian issues, he stressed. Voicing alarm at the major funding gap in 2022, he pointed out that food aid for refugees has been cut in many operations. He urged strengthening the capacity of the police, judiciary and local Government and overall rule of law in fragile countries. Humanitarians must be able to operate everywhere lives must be saved, he stressed.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members, united in their concern about the increase in refugees and protracted conflict, highlighted the ways in which they are supporting UNHCR and persons displaced from different parts of the world. Several delegates urged equal treatment for all seeking refuge, while others called for greater funding for UNHCR and unimpeded humanitarian access.
Ireland’s representative, on that point, stressed that there can be no impunity for those who target humanitarian actors or who seek to use starvation as a weapon of war. As carve-outs are an important principle for any sanctions regime, he said Ireland, together with the United States, has put forward a proposal to mainstream humanitarian carve-outs across all sanctions regimes.
Mexico’s representative, spotlighting refugees’ other critical needs, called on UNHCR to systematically include mental‑health services and psychosocial support in its regional and national responses. His country is the third largest receiver of new claims for refugee status, he said, noting that 72 per cent of these claims have received a positive response. He expressed hope that the Global Refugee Forum in 2023 will generate comprehensive solutions to guarantee the rights of all refugees and internally displaced people.
Kenya’s representative expressed grave concern about the worrying trend in recent years of people of African descent travelling to Europe via the Mediterranean, who suffer extreme human rights violations, with thousands losing their lives. They must be treated humanely and given opportunities to make a decent living, he stressed, calling for the international community’s renewed commitment to assist countries in tackling the root causes of displacement.
The representative of the Russian Federation pointed to the “irresponsible policies of Western States” as the cause of conflicts, poverty and economic inequality that have forced populations out of their countries of origin. The Ukrainian crisis has intensified because of the unwillingness of authorities encouraged by Western patrons to not implement the Minsk agreements, he said.
China’s representative, noting that 83 per cent of refugees are supported by developing countries, called on the international community to mobilize resources and strengthen cooperation to ensure refugees are protected. The Council must assume its primary responsibility of promoting political settlements and fostering a peaceful environment, through support for post-conflict rebuilding and creating favourable conditions for refugees to return, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, France, Brazil, Gabon, Albania, United Arab Emirates, India, Norway, United Kingdom and Ghana.