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Seventieth United Nations General Assembly/migration

Published on October 1, 2015
Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the United Nations General Assembly
New York, September 28, 2015

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We must therefore put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people but we must also, looking beyond the political transition that must be sought, the broad coalition that must be formed, the condition that must be laid down – a new government capable of uniting all those who have fought, but without the dictator – we must also give a thought to all the refugees. Until now, they have been in neighbouring countries but here also the international community closed its eyes: it was a long way away.

Today, those refugees can bear it no longer; they are beginning a long march. I recalled yesterday before this Assembly that 80% of the world’s refugees – refugees because of war, because of conflict, because of the climate, because of poverty – are in the South. Solidarity with the South is coming from the South. It is often the most deprived who welcome the poorest as guests. So there comes a time when refugees start to walk and are no longer stopped.

If we want to avoid what we have, alas, seen – tragedy, crossings at the risk of passengers’ lives –, if we want to avoid a situation in which people-smugglers and criminals exploit despair to enrich still further the coffers of terrorism, then we must take action.

Europe has taken in refugees not only from Syria but also from Iraq, Eritrea and Sudan. That was its duty because Europe is founded on values and principles. The right of asylum is part of that common core that unites all European countries and must continue to unite them. Otherwise it will not be the Europe we set out to build.

But while Europe must do its duty, the world must help the refugees. What have we learned in recent days and weeks? That the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees no longer has the resources, due to lack of funding, to provide the necessary support and assistance to the populations concerned. What have we learned? That the World Food Programme, too, no longer has the resources to ensure the provision of all refugees’ vital needs and food. What have we learned?
That in some neighbouring countries, refugees are unable to work.

This is where the cycle that we might have imagined was set in train. If we wish to reverse – if I can put it like that – these flows, if we wish to keep refugees as near as possible to their countries of origin, then we need to give more resources to the UNHCR, we need to help the neighbouring countries: Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as well as African countries. We need to assist transit countries, to aid countries that prevent migration. This is a grand plan that we must envisage on this occasion because tragedy is calling upon us to do so, to enable us to take action and avoid further tragedy.

France is doing what it can and will do what it must. Where the World Food Programme is concerned, France has decided to make an immediate increase of €100 million in its support for the United Nations agencies in Syria’s neighbouring countries. (…)./.

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