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UN Summit: It's time to fix a string of failures in how the world treats refugees

September 19 2016 - Today’s UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants must be a turning point for the tens of millions of people forcibly on the move whose lives are degraded owing to a string of failures by the international community, the development agency Christian Aid has said.

At the start of two landmark summits in New York, Christian Aid is urging rich nations to increase their support for refugee resettlement and drastically reform the way refugee aid to poor countries who shoulder the responsibility is financed.

Fraser Murray, Senior Advocacy and Policy Advisor at Christian Aid, said: “Rich nations have presided over a string of failures in the way refugees and migrants are treated. Eighty-six per cent of refugees - driven out of their homes owing to conflict, violence and instability - are in poor countries struggling to live in inhumane conditions. At the same time, rich countries are erecting barbed wire in an attempt to turn a blind eye to people’s suffering, and letting poor countries bear the biggest burden.

“This Summit needs to be a turning point. It must bring hope to the tens of millions of people who are forced to live without hope for their futures because of a string of failures by the international community to fund, resettle, or even recognise the human dignity of people on the move. Sadly, the preparatory talks have been marred by procrastination and political squabbles, and have failed to include the voices of refugees themselves.”

“The Refugee Convention drafted seventy years ago marked a new way to give dignity to refugees. Political leaders today need to show the same courage and wisdom that their forebears showed seventy years ago.”

The UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants is expected to kick-start a two-year process for a new “Global Compact” for people on the move, to be finalised by September 2018. President Obama has called a pledging conference to ensure quicker action is taken to meet needs now.

Christian Aid is calling for urgent action to increase the places for refugee resettlement, as well as drastic reforms to the way refugee aid is currently financed.

Mr Murray continued: “Poor countries are currently bearing the burden of supporting refugees, while many rich nations have firmly shut their doors. This is an unacceptable imbalance in global responsibility-sharing. The Summit needs to agree a package of measures to allow refugees to move safely and legally, reunite families separated when fleeing, and create resettlement programmes for the long-term displaced.”

“It is a scandal that refugee agencies from the UN, down to a local level, lurch from year to year with a chronic shortage of funds. Nations occasionally announce generous pledges, like at the Syria Conference earlier this year, but many are never paid. This summit must agree a step change in finance for vulnerable refugees, not more giant cheques that bounce.”

Christian Aid is urging the UK government to attend the summit and pledge to host higher numbers of refugees by:

•        Resettling higher numbers of refugees, broadening the nationalities it resettles, and significantly accelerating the resettlement of the 20,000 Syrians the UK government has already agreed to accept in the UK;

•        Introducing a system of humanitarian visas to the UK, including via third countries;

•        Strengthening and implementing adequate measures for family reunification;

•        Acting on its responsibilities to relocate refugees already in the EU.

Christian Aid is currently working in Greece and Serbia through the ACT Alliance. Our partners are providing legal protection services to unaccompanied children, and families, on the Greek mainland, and housing support to some of the most vulnerable refugees awaiting relocation to other countries in Europe. Christian Aid and our partners continue to provide support to refugees and displaced people in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, South Sudan, and many other countries throughout the world.

For more information, or for interviews, please contact Amy Merone on the 24-hour press duty phone: 07850 242 950.

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. 

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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