Statement of Iceland in the General Assembly on migrants with emphasis on Syrian asylum seekers
The Permanent Mission of Iceland
to the United Nations
Ms. Ragnhildur Arnljótsdóttir
State Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office
Global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the
Mediterranean basin, with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum seekers [item 130]
20 November 2015
The Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations
800 Third Ave. 36th fl. - Tel 212-593-2700. - Fax 212-593-6269
First of all allow me to thank you for calling this meeting to ensure full global awareness of the tragedies being lived out among so many in the Mediterranean basin. How we deal with this grave situation will define not only our future, but also who we are as human beings.
In the past couple of weeks I have, with my Prime Minister, attended several meetings of heads of governments. Some were specifically convened on the migrants and refugee crisis, such as the Valetta summit, but all have ended up focusing on that topic. A recurring theme in all of them, has been a strong call for increased cooperation and alignment of efforts and capabilities. This is the time to close ranks, leave behind rivalries and make sure that we all focus on the potential in every human being.
The war in Syria so far has cost an estimated 250 thousand lives and has reduced a middle-income country, rich in heritage and culture, to rubble. The hazardous journeys, which millions of people are willing to embark on, testify to the horrors they are fleeing.
Children, the future of this region, are at the center of the maelstrom. And As Ms. Leila Zerrougui, SRSG for Children in Armed conflict underlined at the informal meeting yesterday, we are witnessing an entire generation of children denied education, with serious long-term consequences. We must ensure that this issue is on the list of essentials when addressing the needs of displaced persons.
And as Ms. Bangura, SRSG for “Sexual violence in Conflict” highlighted to the Security Council recently, women and girls find themselves under assault every day in crisis situations. All our measures to alleviate the suffering of refugees must also take account of this fact.
It has been stated by many that the only viable solution to this flow of misery is to bring peace to Syria. The meeting of the ISSG (International Syria Support Group) in Vienna last weekend gives some hope for progress. But meanwhile, as we sit here, the millions of displaced need to be helped and their suffering alleviated. Even if the ISSG succeeds in implementing its agenda, there will remain millions of people in want, for a considerable time.
We should resist any tendency to put the burden of the recent terrorist attacks on the shoulders of refugees. Certainly, the massive flow of migrants over recent months has provided opportunities for those who would seek to infiltrate our societies in order to carry out criminal acts. This we can and must counteract with effective security measures. As UNHCR High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, has stated, "It is not the refugee outflows that cause terrorism, it is terrorism, tyranny and war that create refugees. "
As a response to this major catastrophe, the Icelandic Government therefore decided this fall to make available an additional 16 million US dollars, half of which immediately this year.
While it is a legal and moral duty to provide aid and shelter to those legitimate refugees who have made the hazardous journey to knock on our doors, Iceland believes it important to save as many as possible from making such trips in the first place. This is why my government will concentrate contributions on international organizations working with refugees. The neighboring countries have truly shown exemplary humanity in dealing with the brunt of the influx – they deserve our support.
Of course, there will be many people who nevertheless need refuge. We are increasing the number of quota refugees we take through UNHCR with emphasis on helping those in camps originating from Syria and in high risk categories.
And finally, we will improve our procedures to make the whole asylum procedure quicker and therefore less burdensome for the migrants themselves.
Iceland will continue to work closely with UNHCR and other UN agencies to do its part in alleviating the suffering of those driven by conflict and terrorism from their homes.
Thank you Mr. President.