UN: UN official calls for greater integration efforts for refugees in urban areas

New York, US (PANA) - More than half of the world’s refugees live in urban areas, and often in fragile cities with high levels of inequality, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, has said stressing the importance of integration efforts that enable refugees to benefit from the opportunities cities offer so that they can ultimately have a dignified life.

At a high-level event on "Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants: Critical Challenges for Sustainable Urbanization" in New York late om Wednesday, Mr. Eliasson said that among the issues that must be addressed include the causes of forced displacement, the safety of migrants and refugees as they crossed international borders and support for host countries to integrate newcomers into their communities.

He said: "There is much for us to do, and every day, millions of refugee children are unable attend school. Every day, the dignity and well-being of millions of people is compromised due to lack of basic services and job opportunities."

He noted that while it is true that many refugees, especially in Africa and the Middle East, resided in camps, many more settled and worked in host communities, saying that, "just one-quarter of all refugees live in camps, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)".

"While most of the humanitarian assistance goes to refugees living in camps, the 'urban refugees', if you allow that expression, are largely overlooked," the UN deputy chief said.

"They often end up living in slums or informal settlements on the fringes of the cities, in overcrowded neighbourhoods and in areas prone to flooding, sanitation hazards and disease," Mr. Eliasson added.

He highlighted that in 2009, UNHCR changed its policy and practice towards refugees in cities and towns, and was now working closely with national authorities, municipalities and local communities and authorities to protect urban refugees, and respecting their refugee status.

In that vein, he said that the report of UN Secretary-General prepared for a summit on refugees and migrants being convened by the UN General Assembly on 19 September, drew attention to the important role of local authorities, which were at the forefront in providing refugees access to housing, education, health care and employment.

"We should bear in mind that refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) often are just a small proportion of those who are swelling the ranks of cities, while the speed of urbanization is getting faster."

He noted that it was also important to remember that, even if cities struggled to accommodate large flows of migrants, they also largely benefited from their presence and work, since in many countries in the world, immigrants often took up low-paying jobs and provided services in areas like domestic work, agricultural labour and home care.

"As migrants and refugees continue to arrive, and there are no signs that these flows will diminish any time soon, we must resolve to uphold and implement the principle of every human being’s equal value," Mr. Eliasson stressed.

He said that, the international community, on its part, must be concerned about political rhetoric that stigmatized refugees and migrants, and do everything possible to counter this false and negative narrative.

"We must dispel the myths about migrants and migration which tend to poison the public discourse.

"Let us build our policies on the realization of the value that migrants bring to our societies: economic and demographic growth, development, not least through remittances, and I want to add: the beauty of diversity in our nation states," Mr. Eliasson stated.

The high-level event was co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Italy, the New York Office of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization, in collaboration with United Cities and Local Governments, and the International Organization for Migration.

Others are the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN-Women, the International Labour Organization (ILO), Network 11 and the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
-0- PANA AA/MA 19May2016

19 may 2016 06:45:52

xhtml CSS